I didn’t realize I was gay until I was 24 years old. Pretty much everyone else around me had long since figured it out. Surprise or no, there were a lot of people who no longer wanted anything to do with me. I was still heavily involved in church at the time. I knew that was bound to happen. The death threat from a guy who used to be my friend WAS a bit of a shock, but I got over it. With time, some of them have, too. They’re at least polite when we run into one another these days.
One of the things I’ve never talked much about before is how my views changed when I came out…and changed yet again when my struggle was over. When I had the epiphany that my weak-in-the-knees feeling around a certain woman I knew was love–and it felt natural and normal to be in love with another woman–I had to question everything I’d ever believed. I’d never been interested in men before and it didn’t hit me until then that it was likely because I wasn’t wired that way. Everything I’d been raised with, everything I’d believed was good and right, suddenly looked different. My faith came into question, because it was (at that point, at least) inexorably tied to the idea that homosexuality was an impardonable sin that would damn me to an eternity in hell. I had to question what I believed because I also believed, because of all of those other things, that being gay was a conscious choice one made, as simple as flipping a switch.
If it wasn’t as simple as choosing then all the other things that preceded it in my belief had to be only partially true, and that’s putting it nicely.
I began to think more liberally. In my personal life, my politics, everything–I became very liberal for a time. But as part of any process of sudden self-realization will reveal, I was questioning what I believed, and that phase was part of it. My liberal days didn’t last long. I had to think for myself. In questioning what I’d always believed I challenged myself in ways that few people ever do. One of the things that I realized is that the only way we’ll ever know what we believe and be able to accurately describe it is by questioning our beliefs ourselves…long before someone or something else does.
One thing I have talked about is my desire for acceptance. It’s something I always wanted but never found as a kid. As an adult, I look like the sort of person who doesn’t care what those I know think about me, but the fact is that I do. I care very much. When I find that one of the people in my life has a poor opinion of me, I want to know how I can fix it. That mindset, that fear of rejection, led in part to my liberal leaning for a time after I came out. I rediscovered what I really believed after being involved in many conversations with my new gay friends that left me feeling as though I’d betrayed myself in some of the things I’d said.
The moment I disagreed with those new friends, they turned their backs on me. The same group that was ecstatic at my coming out–the ones who celebrated it as though it were a rebirth and admonished me never to let go of my identity regardless of what anyone told me–sent me the unmistakable message that it was not acceptable to the gay community at large to ever question liberal gay politics. In so doing I became a pariah again.
I refuse to give up my position just to be part of the “in crowd.” It took time for me to be able to really understand what it means to stand your ground, and it’s rarely pretty. I will not break because I cannot; it’s not in my nature. As much as I may wish to belong, I can live with standing on the outside as long as I never, ever compromise my principles.
Any person, gay or straight, who expects me to do otherwise can scream it at my back as I walk away.