My earliest memory…something I remember without reading from a journal…of being attracted to another woman was in 1996 or early 1997. This was just months before I would finally let myself believe that I was gay. I was at Barnes& Noble browsing the books and this person came up and asked if I was finding everything okay. Without looking up right away I answered that I was. By the time I finished answering I looked up and saw who was speaking to me. To just say that I got butterflies in my stomach would be an understatement. I had a whole, freaking migration of monarch butterflies in there! Then I realized it was a woman speaking to me!
WHOA! Wait just a minute, here! What the…was going on here?!
Up to that point, I had never had such a strong physical reaction to seeing another woman. (As it turned out, she was a golfing buddy to my first partner.)
As I mentioned previously, this was not the first time I had reason to question my sexual orientation. It goes back to at least high school days. Apparently my best friend and I would have words about the fact that I was attracted to other girls. I have no idea what I would say, but she did tell me later that this happened on more than one occasion. This is one of the instances of ‘filing’ away that information for another day. I suppose since my comments did not meet approval, I figured I shouldn’t share them again.
I never really dated boys in high school. I did have a crush on a couple of them but the most that happened was one buying me a mum for homecoming and me getting him a garter. (This is a Texas tradition that you can read more about here and see pictures here.) We didn’t even go to the homecoming dance.
In my senior year, I did have a “relationship” with John. I put that into quotation marks because I’m not sure exactly what to call it. We were best friends and we did kiss and make out; but we never went on a traditional date. I would go to his apartment…yes, he was nine years older (oops)… or we would go for a drive. We would talk on the phone for hours. Besides kissing and making out from time to time, that was the extent of anything sexual between us. We never declared ourselves to be boyfriend/girlfriend. When I left for college, it became very ‘on again, off again.’ We just couldn’t let go of each other completely. I still believe to this day that if we had gotten married, we would have stayed married until the end because we got along so well. Other than those two, there were no other boyfriends. (A note about John. He died in January of 1997. I truly believe it was his death that finally freed me to finally accept that I was attracted to women.)
It wasn’t until about my junior or senior year of college that anything more happened with men. I still did not have a boyfriend, or date guys; but I did have experiences with guys…multiple guys. I ‘messed around’ a lot with mostly married men. I did everything but have intercourse with these men in one-night stands. After all, I was a good Catholic girl…I couldn’t have intercourse, that would be a sin! For the record, I do recognize that being with married men is also a sin, but in my mind at the time it was less of a sin. Doesn’t make sense to me either!
For many years after coming out, I joked that I was simply “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I viewed these men as being safe because there could be no long-term commitment. Now, after spending hours reading old journals and processing it all, I realize that it was an attempt to be more like my college roommates…who were all attracted to men. I didn’t know it, but I think I was trying to make myself ‘straight.’ I was doing my own version of reparative therapy.
One affair lasted several months and went on during the first year of my graduate studies. At some point after this ended, I must have been questioning myself again as I tried to talk to one of my undergraduate professors about being gay. She did not take too kindly to my assumption that she was gay and would not have any kind of conversation with me related to homosexuality. While this bothered me, I just mentally shrugged it off and once again ‘filed’ away the idea that I might be gay.
Near the end of my graduate school career, I had to write what was called an ‘Annotated Autobiography.’ At the end of the writing, I addressed sexual orientation in the family. I commented that both my sister and I had questioned our orientation ‘but I had not to the extent that my sister had.’ Again, I had ‘filed’ this away and dismissed any notion that I might be gay.
What amazes me about all the times I would ‘file’ away any thought of being gay is how I didn’t seem bothered by my questioning. I know it is easy to repress memories as part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but I guess I feel I should have been more bothered by not being able to get answers to my questions. I suppose it was just my mind protecting me until I was truly ready for the answer.
Throughout all of this, I was still very active in the church. I attended on a regular basis and was somewhat involved at the Catholic Newman Center on campus. As I finished graduate school, I became involved in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and was a sponsor for a friend of mine to complete the sacraments to become a full Catholic. Even after I moved 1.5 hours away, I continued to drive to San Angelo every other week to be with her during the meetings. In the fall of 1996, I got involved in a local RCIA in hopes of continuing to help those that wanted to become Catholic. Shortly after signing up, I found it difficult to get myself to church on Sundays. Nothing had happened at church…no upsetting homilies, no run-ins with staff…nothing. I just could not get myself to attend. Soon, I was no longer involved. I couldn’t understand what was happening.
Within a year, I would come to understand what was going on inside of me.