In honor of this month, I’d like to share a story. It’s one I tell often, because it was the first time I remember realizing that I was different from other kids.
Not because I was LGBTQ+. Although I was. But because I knew people in that community, and I didn’t think it was weird or strange or even that they were different.
You see, I grew up in what I would now call an eclectic crowd of amazing people.
My mother was an artist, attractive and caring for all. My father was a young, handsome philosophy professor. And they were swinky.
Now, stinky is something I applied looking back. Not something that was explained to me.
All I knew is that my parents had a tight-knit group of friends of all colors and types. And pretty much every weekend and often during the week, they spent time together.
As as an only child of a young couple without much money for babysitters, I also spent time with them. At least until I passed out for the night.
I knew people who wore leather. A woman who had a boyfriend and a girlfriend. A man who dressed up in women’s clothing (and let me help with the makeup, sometimes!).
And I never really thought they were different. They just WERE.
And to be clear, I also didn’t think that they were to be emulated, really. My parents stressed independence and being your unique self, so I didn’t see anyone as someone to be, just as someone to accept for who they were, because I also expected to be accepted, however I was.
Anyway, one evening, when I was 11, a school friend (and daughter of one of my father’s colleagues from the college) and I were walking to my home. She was eating with us that evening. I’m guessing her parents were having a night to themselves.
As we walked, I said, “John and Sam will also be over tonight.”
John and Same were friends of my parents.
She said, “Are they…funny?”
“Funny?” I asked. “You mean gay? Yeah.”
“I don’t think I know any gay people.”
“How do you not know gay people? They’re EVERYWHERE!”
I was shocked. Like, it had never occurred to me that someone didn’t know any gay people, and the apprehension in her voice was obvious.
She wasn’t scared, exactly.
But she wasn’t sure if maybe she should be.
Because, apparently (as I learned), gay was something scary, and not normal.
I think hat’s what really broke the dam for me.
I started noticing people at school using the word “gay” as a slur shortly after that, and connecting it to people I knew, and feeling awful for them.
It didn’t even occur to me that my first forays into kissing girls also made me some shade of gay. Or that the next 8 years of preferring women to men was gay.
It was just part of me, just as my friends’ preferences were part of them.
And John, one of the couple I mentioned? He’s still in my life. My oldest friend. He met my mother when she was pregnant with me, and has known me my whole life.
We’ve kept in tough through moves and loves and loss.
And he’s still queer as a $3 bill. And happy and comfortable in it.
And that’s my story.
About how I realized that LGBTQ+ Awareness was not universal. And needed.