Of course, as it happened, I'd somehow chosen for my Most Bosom Friend one of the most unpopular girls in school. She was bullied, constantly and carelessly, even by people who weren't generally known to be bullies.* It put me into a rage I have never felt on my own behalf, though I'd had my share of bullying (though mostly in elementary school, not high school). HOW COULD THEY NOT SEE how perfect and amazing she was?! It so happens one of the things they needled her about most often was being a lesbian. Now, this was back in the day when NO one was out in high school, not even the extremely flaming kid who always sang Madonna at karaoke. You didn't admit it, you didn't discuss it, you wouldn't dare-- probably because kids got bullied so mercilessly for even SEEMING gay. I am always so amazed when I see and hear today's teens-- the bullying still happens, but, my, how far they've come. Anyway, back to the mid-nineties, NOBODY was out, certainly not Angie. It was all speculation and stereotyping on the part of her tormenters. So I, bursting with utterly naive loyalty, shouted** at them, "If she was, then I'D be dating her! So there!"
Let's skip ahead to Friend #2. I met him at the start of my second year of college, trying out for the marching band.*** A mutual friend had told me to seek him out because he'd be in my section and he was the "nicest boy [she had] ever met," so would certainly help me out. And he was indeed hopelessly nice, and he did indeed help me and everyone else waiting for tryouts. But eventually everyone else there wandered away and we kept talking, going beyond our mutual niceness into Completely Hitting It Off. I felt so comfortable with him that talking, for once, came easily, so easily things started slipping right out of my mouth without me thinking about them. I spotted a large electrical outlet on the wall, and "That electrical outlet is staring at us so mournfully" slipped out, but before I could think wait, maybe I should have said that in a way that actually makes sense, he peered at it, too, and said, "Yeah, I see what you mean."
"You DO?" I sounded utterly flabbergasted, which might have been what made him start giggling, and once he started I couldn't very well not start, so we sat there giggling hysterically over an electrical outlet. And that was when it snapped in my head, this same instant deep mental and emotional infatuation I'd felt when I'd met Angie, except this one was a BOY. So the mental/emotional jolt kicked my body into the mix, too. So instead of thinking "Please be my bosom friend!" I thought "I am so DONE FOR. This could very well be The One."
See, here's the annoying thing about attraction: you really can't choose it. It happens in whatever way your body is programmed to react. I've seen some people define mental-emotional attraction as "romantic" and physical attraction as "sexual," but "romantic" is a confusing term. By this definition I'm a "panromantic," because I fall madly in love with anyone and anything, but, like, so? It's just intensity of LOVING, is all, and I'm all for loving. But physical attraction? I only ever felt that toward guys, and even then, only toward a few particular guys who managed to attract me mentally and emotionally first. Turns out there's an actual word for this type of inclination, "demisexual." And because I'm only physically attracted to the opposite sex when I am, I'm "demiheterosexual." Well, on the spectrum of sexual preference I suppose I'll allow a little slide toward Karen Carpenter's Voice (just her voice) and probably Peggy Carter, because DANG, PEGGY CARTER, but... we return to my bold yet naive proclamation to the bullies back in high school: "if she was, I'D be dating her!"
Because she was, and I wasn't. There it was. I'm freaking straight. My body was infatuated with this GUY, just like society said it was SUPPOSED to be. And yet he wasn't, either. My two dearest, most beloved friends were both tentatively coming out of the closet, and there I was attracted to the wrong one.
I wasn't the greatest friend I could have been through their coming-out processes. I was too jealous and frustrated. Why was sexuality such a MIXED-UP THING? Why did society say I was the normal one when I was the one who DIDN'T FIT in this triangle?
While I pouted, as Angie tried to explain what she'd been going through to the back of my pouty head, a different awkward coming-out story was happening much more successfully across campus. Randy, my Friend #2, had tentatively come out to many of his closest friends, but the thought of telling one of them made him really nervous. I mean, this guy was obnoxiously male. He was politically conservative and freaking outspoken about it, a gun nut and an ROTC-er, exactly the stereotype of a homophobe, right? He was also a psychology major who was well in the habit of reading people, and he knew very well Randy was acting weird around him lately. "So, are you ever going to tell me what's bothering you?"
"Wha...? Nothing's bothering me," Randy mumbled in his obviously-lying voice.
"Should I tell you what's bothering you? Okay then. You're gay and you're afraid to tell me because you don't think I'll be okay with it."
"How did y-- who told--?"
"Nobody told me, it's just obvious." And to Randy's bewilderment, he continued on, completely unfazed. He was beyond okay with it, to be honest: he flat-out exploited the great resource that was a gay-best-friend-wingman. Randy had so many dreamy-eyed girls following him around, why not introduce them to someone who could appreciate their charms? Then came the day that, in the middle of planning a new D&D campaign, they ran into one such girl and decided to recruit her for the game and here we are almost seventeen years and two kids later....
So basically, it all worked out. Well, Angie and I had a bit of a blowup that worked itself out mainly through letters (because we'd always both been better at writing than talking) and left my heart utterly shattered for quite awhile but gradually that healed, and we're all happy sexually with people we're actually sexually compatible with and the genuine love of friendship is big enough to not be jealous and selfish anymore. I love them both thoroughly and unpossessively just the way they are.
Why am I telling you this? Mostly, to explain that I'm straight. Unless you count demisexuality as some kind of Queer orientation which technically it is sort of as a variation of asexuality but come on it's NOT THE SAME THING. It means I can get happily married to one person of the opposite sex, that is the FRIGGIN AMERICAN DREAM. But that's what I mean. I am totally sexually acceptable by society.
Usually when people say that, it's in a gay-panic way, "But I'M not like THEM." Well, I AM saying I'm not like them. I don't have to face what they face. I'm free of the judgments and curses thrown at them by people who see them as disgusting deviants, lesser humans who've forfeited their right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am pointing out to you that I AM NOT A VICTIM OF HOMOPHOBIA, so you understand fully where I'm coming from when I support LGBTetc causes. THEIR causes. Not mine. I have no ulterior motive.**** When I speak up about depression or public libraries, I've got those motives, those "Don't hurt ME!" motives in doing it. This I am doing for THEM.
I don't know-- sometimes some members of oppressed groups are offended by people outside the group taking up their cause, but I feel like, if real change is going to happen, you need people who AREN'T among the oppressed to say, "No seriously, this IS wrong." It's going to take men, for example, to stand up to the other men who perpetuate rape culture-- to say "Actually dude, no, that's not funny, that's gross." Because why would they take women seriously for saying that, when it's obviously women they don't respect? In order to bridge us vs. them thinking, you need somebody in the middle, to say "sure I'm one of YOU, but I stand with THEM."
I get overwhelmed by the world's injustices to the point that most social-media stand-taking turns me off. I avoid posting the "thoughts and prayers are with so-and-so" junk because it honestly sounds more like "look how caring I am" than "I care and this is important to me." And when guns are involved, that just makes so much more of a mess of awkwardness. But this past weekend when there was a massive massacre at a gay club, I caught something genuine in the posts from my, er, QUILTBAG friends-- a genuine fear, utter shakenness. Definitely not the impersonal righteous rage that usually accompanies such tragedies.
And I saw, particularly, these two dearest, most beautiful friends I've been talking about, post about their horror. These two people whose social media feeds are usually filled with beauty and humor. How can anyone see these two, see the extraordinary love and beauty they put into the world, and write them off as evil because of the way their bodies feel attraction? They aren't rapists. They don't hurt anyone with their orientation. They're just people whose bodies work a little differently from yours and it so happens that these two are flat-out gifts to humankind, so OPEN YOUR EYES AND SEE THE BIG PICTURE FOR ONCE.
So yes, that's why I'm an unapologetic***** Ally in LGBWhateverCollectionOfInitials Rights issues. It's a little personally stronger for me than other issues in which I can merely be an Ally because I have these two huge luminous people in my life. But the same point goes across the board, you know. The People are People and You Can't Judge Them By One Aspect of Their Personality Unless That Aspect Is Actively Hurting Others point. Like, take a look at the perpetrator of said gay club massacre. He was an awful person because he chose to freaking KILL a whole bunch of people. But some people look at his name and say "HE'S GOT AN ARAB NAME! IT'S THOSE HORRID MUSLIMS AGAIN! EVERYONE KNOWS HE DID IT BECAUSE HIS RELIGION SAYS HOMOSEXUALITY IS EVIL, SO LET'S STOP MUSLIMS!" Dude, supposed CHRISTIANS persecute and sometimes kill people based on their sexuality. THAT happens far more often in this country, THAT happens all the time. But, you know, I'M a Christian, and most of my closest friends and relations are Christian, so obviously CHRISTIANS aren't horrid viruses that need to be stopped. :P Again, judge a person by what they DO, not who they ARE. Any time I can reinforce THAT social lesson, I jump on the Ally Train as well, but I can't put quite the same knowledgeable FORCE behind it that I can Gay-for-Short Rights, because the only Muslims I know are library patrons I know only by general decent behavior and reading habits. I still fight for their rights. But I admit to more of a bias toward fighting for the people I actually do know and love personally. Make sense?
Makes TOO much sense. It's still personal, still tinged with a bit of selfishness in that way. But maybe if we all acted like people who are different from us COULD, possibly, be one of our dearest friends in the right circumstances, we'll stop and think before making sweeping judgments about Their Sort. Maybe if we remember the beautiful people we know who are nonetheless hated for who they are, we'll remember the countless beautiful people we may NOT know among the faceless Others out there.
Maybe we'll stop and think and choose LOVE, and I'm not talking about sex. REAL LOVE.
*If you have skipped this link, go back and click and read it now. It is heartbreaking and courageous and beautiful and most importantly, in her own words, in her own story, not just mine from the outside.
**okay, maybe not SHOUTED, but me being angry and forthright at ALL is so odd that it sort of feels like shouting to me.
***Which, if you're curious, I did not end up making. That year there were just an AWFUL lot of clarinets trying out. More amusing perhaps was when I tried out my senior year and instead of the competition being tight, I just flat-out flubbed the audition, and as Randy was the section leader that year and therefore one of the people evaluating me, he was quite embarrassed and literally couldn't talk to me for the rest of the day.
****Unless it's to ease my guilty conscience over what a crappy friend I was at the time of their comings-out. I suppose that could be part of it.+
+Technically, we observed years later, Randy hadn't actually ever directly come out to me. Like Jason, I just figured it out myself, because it was obvious. I just wasn't HAPPY about it then.
*****As unapologetic as I get, anyway.