I don’t exactly remember when I first knew someone who had come out as non-heterosexual. I suppose there could’ve been someone I knew in middle school, but in racking my memory, I can’t really recall anyone. That’s not to say there weren’t. In fact, I’m sure there probably were, but this was middle school and the height of puberty for me. Suffice it to say my memory of that time is less than clear.
I definitely knew people in high school though. I’d say likely as far back as freshman year, but certainly after that. Naturally the high school had a gay-straight alliance group, which I was aware of, but mostly ignored out of pure indifference. All things considered, I’d call it a pretty tolerant high school. Yes kids that age will be kids, and there were totally unfounded rumors to be had about a handful of openly gay teachers, but really, no one cared. Homophobia? I just can’t recall anything like that existing. Certainly none that I witnessed first hand.
Before I continue let me just say that I certainly never had any negative or homophobic views towards any gay or otherwise non-heterosexual people I knew personally, or otherwise. Honestly, my opinion then (and now) was that their existence affects me exactly not at all. A unicorn farting in sound proof room on the bottom of the ocean would affect me more than knowing some kid who was gay in high school. I just did not care. I was simply aware of their existence and went on with my life.
I did have what I considered even then to be strange feelings and opinions about the gay students I knew, and groups like the gay straight alliance. I remember it pretty clearly. I just could not understand how they knew they were gay at such a “young” age (we’re talking like 15-17 here). I thought you had to be way older to realize that stuff. I thought maybe some of them were saying they were gay to be special, or get attention. I felt horrible about these thoughts at the time because they totally did not jive with my attitude towards gays. I mean, I knew they didn’t choose to be gay, but somehow, they just knew they were gay? How did they know? How could they possibly know? Because I felt bad about these thoughts (was I harboring some repressed homophobia?), and truthfully just didn’t understand them, I kept them tightly under wraps hoping that eventually I’d figure it out.
Well high school has long since ended, and I never did end up figuring out those thoughts. But now, what’s this? Asexuality pops its funny little head into my life. Now those thoughts start to make a bit more sense? Ironically, if I hadn’t kept them under wraps and had talked about them, preferably with one of the students who was gay, or even the gay straight alliance, I might’ve come to learn things about myself at a much earlier age. All they would’ve had to ask me was “well, how do you know you’re straight?” That sound you’re hearing is the sound of the cabin depressurizing at 30K feet. They knew they were gay. They didn’t need to wait until they were older. Just like my friends who knew they were straight. They didn’t need to wait until they were older either. I was waiting. I’ve been waiting ever since.
I’m definitely relieved at having realized all this. Those questions and feelings I had weren’t repressed homophobia, they were accurately reflecting my experience. An experience that seemed to fall horrendously short of the experiences of heteronormative friends. An experience that left me feeling grossly inferior and defective. If only I had put one and one together. The ridiculous tragedy of it all was that I knew the term “asexual” at the time. I heard it from my dad of all people. He mentioned that he thought this kid I knew was asexual. I didn’t know what it meant (or what my dad thought it meant), but I knew that kid, so the term was basically defined for me by the his characteristics (which certainly could’ve been interpreted as asexual). Funnily enough (and mostly irrelevant), that same kid actually came out as gay a year or two ago.
I think the takeaway here is that for each of us, our experience, to us, is normal. Even if I knew exactly what asexual meant at the time, and someone told me outright, “dude, this is you!”, I wouldn’t have accepted it. I couldn’t be. I was normal (at least, I wanted to be), and “normal” was heterosexual. I am genuinely laughing out loud at how silly that train of thought seems. Oh well, that’s what I thought. In a way, it’s still what I think. It’s what gives me pause when thinking about asexuality now. To me my experience is normal (I’ve never known anything else) and society says “normal” is heterosexual, therefore…this experience is heterosexuality? I guess it worked for me because for the most part, I can and have ostensibly passed as straight. As long as you don’t start digging around anyway. It’s getting a hell of a lot harder though the older I get. A 26 year old “done nothing sexual, experienced nothing romantic” virgin? I’m starting to run out of excuses, even to myself. As I saw on another blog, “I’m heterosexual but not very good at it.”
Now though, I care a lot less, so grab your shovels and dig away, people!