What It Means to Me to be Gay
Guest Post from Marj
A close friend recently came out to me. We share similar backgrounds in the fact that we both came from heterosexual marriages and we both have children. Several of our conversations have centered around sexuality and what it means (to us as individuals) to be gay.
I also have many straight friends and in some cases, I am the only gay person they know and we too have conversations around this very topic. I have spent many hours commiserating about “what being gay means to me…” I understand one person’s idea of what it means to be gay may look very different to another, so I am going to attempt to share what it means to me. Particularly, for those women who came out later in life.
Figuring out I was gay was most obviously manifested in sex and sexual desire. I believe that sex and sexual attraction are tangible and can be quantified, and this manifested in ways that I had never reacted to with men. I had desire, and I had lust, but my whole life I thought I was broken and not capable of that storybook love, you know the kind…..of which fairytales, and songs were written.
Truth is I thought that people who said they felt that way were delusional. I thought they were projecting…listening to stories about how love should be, and pretending that they felt that way too. Secretly, I thought they were all liars. Many people can convince themselves of things that are not so because those imaginary realities are better than the real one, and I went right along pretending like everyone else.
So when I met “her” almost a decade ago, the attraction and desire I felt was so genuine. I found myself feeling like every schmaltzy love song ever written was written for me. I realized something inside myself had changed, a switch had gone off. Although, at the time I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling, I intuitively knew there were big changes coming my way and unbeknownst to me, this was the tip of the iceberg. Figuring out I was gay was like coming home… as if something had always been slightly off with me my whole life. Looking back, I feel so foolish for not recognizing what had been tugging at me my whole life.
I felt I had everything a suburban wife could want: two gorgeous children, a beautiful home, a caring and successful husband, and yet there was this ever-present nagging feeling. The knowledge that I was somehow removed from everything in my world; in fact, my friends would joke with me that I was self-absorbed and could get lost in things. I would get absorbed by a project or problem, but when it was solved I was back to distance from Earth, and I thought that was the superior place to be. I thought that people who were “in love” were really just weak and silly, and I would never allow myself to be one of those people.
As it turned out, when I was able to see myself clearly, I could see how sad I had been. I could see how I had never allowed myself to feel the closeness that I was in fact capable. I had made sure to position myself with people who could never hurt me emotionally. Sure, they could hurt me, but I did not have that deep vulnerability. In exchange, I didn’t get to be loved because I didn’t allow anyone know the real me. Not the idea of the gay me, but instead that raw internal me that is the essence of my soul. I was so busy convincing myself, and everyone else that I was something I wasn’t…this prevented me from the most important relationship in my life, the one I have with myself.
At the same time, I was finding that I liked being loved. Even more, I liked loving someone in a way that I had never done before. I had many friends that I loved dearly, in fact, I loved my husband dearly, but it’s just not the same. I denied myself the opportunity to flirt, to be infatuated, and to fall in love, much like denying my brain oxygen my whole life. You can bet that when I finally had the chance to breathe, I felt an overwhelming surge of joy go through me.
It was like watching the Wizard of Oz; my entire life had been in black and white, and it never occurred to me that there was such a thing as color, until I wound up in Oz.
I now realized that living with my then husband had not only denied me the opportunity to pursue love, but it had also done the same to him. He had been with a wife who loved him but would never want him. A woman who was nice to him, but who would never plan a vacation with him, because spending alone time with her own husband filled her with anxiety. I liked him, but he would never get to come home to a wife who wanted to rip his clothes off. A wife who would never swoon when he walked in a room or whose heart would quicken at the sound of his voice.
In my marriage, he tried so hard to be the perfect husband, so that I would want him. I loved him, but I never could force my heart to skip a beat. I liked his company, but the lack of it never impacted my soul. It isn’t about not having someone to really love, because I could be single. It was about the idea that I would never have that opportunity, and neither would he. As much as I did not have many complaints in our marriage, I could not live like that, living this lie was slowly killing my soul.
For me being gay is not just about who I sleep with, it was about how I see myself, where I fit in the world, and who I actually am.
It is about understanding that I am a little different from most people, and celebrating that difference… and being ok, more than ok, at peace with that difference. It’s about identifying with a unique group of people, sort of in the same way I feel a connection to the people I go to school with, or people who share the same unique religion, or for those who share the love of the same sports team even though they might live across the country from each other. There is something so special about finding out precious and unique things about yourself, and something about discovering others who share that with you.
To answer their questions, being gay really doesn’t have much to do with who I sleep with. Sure, it affects whom I am attracted to and who I will be able to love fully, but it’s really about the ability to love myself. Who I am in the universe, who I am in the world, and who I am in my own eyes, and what I see is a beautiful thing. I do not think it’s better than being straight, because that would be silly, one is not better than the other. The only thing that is better for me is being aware and accepting myself, and I have no reason to think that would be any less wonderful for those folks who are straight. This pull of my sexuality doesn’t have much to do with sex (though I won’t deny it’s an incredible benefit) and everything to do with honesty.