The Last Lesbian to the Party: Part 2
In my last blog I explained how lack of queer visibility, compulsory heterosexuality, and parental hopes all contributed to me coming out as a lesbian at the ripe middle age of 38 years old. While these items related to my upbringing in the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s, many of these points are still relevant to how we parent children today. Read on for three more factors that contributed to the long and winding road that was finding my true self.
Reason #4: Perfectionism
I wish I knew what caused perfectionism or how I became one, but as early as I can remember I wanted to do everything the best way possible. I wanted to be the best child, the best student, the best dancer, the best writer and artist. If there was an award, I wanted to win it. If there was recognition, I wanted it to be of me.
Perfectionism is all about living up to the ideal scenarios in life. I also learned that perfectionism meant lying (even to myself) if it meant that I would be celebrated. It’s honestly such a complicated and pervasive personality trait that I had to include Perfect in my memoir title and have already started writing my second book specifically about the impact of perfectionism in my life. If there was one thing in my life that really wasn’t “perfect” it would be my identity as a queer person, and I would go to great lengths to deny that existence as long as possible thanks to…
Reason #5: Internalized Homophobia
This one was a hard one for me to admit and is still a hard one to talk about. When we think about homophobia, we think of it as fear or hatred for the LGBTQ+ community. Really, what I felt is better described as heterosexism or a heterosexual bias.
As I grew older, I met more and more queer people in my life who I loved and cared for dearly. And even still, I’m ashamed to admit, I held this internal ranking that gay was okay but hetero was bettero.
To quote my book, “I wanted to be as close to gay as possible, without actually being gay. I wanted the light I felt from the gay community, without the darkness from society that came from being a member of the gay community.”
I used to believe that there was a difference between heterosexual love and same-sex love. There isn’t. I used to think that one was more natural than the other. They’re both natural. I used to pretend that one was optimal and one was the next runner-up. The truth is that the one that matches your attraction is the optimal one.
I wish my perfectionist self would have realized that.
Reason #6: Lack of Sex Positivity
Let’s round this out with another nod to societal conditioning, and this time we’re talking about perceptions of sex and a woman’s role. I remember in my younger years hearing that sex was a “wifely duty.” I remember religious people talking about how women “submit” to their husbands. Both terms seemed like a real buzzkill to something that was apparently so sacred and loving. On tv, wives would joke about having a headache or their period to avoid sex. And because I had little to no interest in sex for most of my young adult life, these messages resonated with me. They spoke to the fact that women had sex because they had to, not always because they wanted to, and that the pleasure of it all resided primarily with the man.
I saw that I fit in with that role. Trust me, in hindsight, my fixation on that perception seems a bit silly. There were plenty of people on tv and in movies going crazy for sex. I saw women trying to be overly sexy, presumably to have sex. I remember men and women talking about how much they love, craved, or were even addicted to sex. I also knew that I didn’t feel like any of those people did, so I just assumed I was amongst the varietal of women who could find some occasional joy or arousal from sex but generally wasn’t in the mood for it. That seemed normal.
This entire reason could have its own separate blog discussion. I discussed more of my sexual history and perceptions in this other blog I wrote. But overall, I am able to see in hindsight that I was able to assume my heterosexuality for so long because I found a place for myself in the company of other seemingly-heterosexual women who felt the same. And until I met my current friend group, who so boldly and bravely shared things they LOVED about sex with their husbands, I was able to continue the story in my mind that sexual pleasure was primarily meant for men.
Today, I am glad to realize that I am not broken. The labels given to me by medical professionals of “low libido” due to “too much stress” were not, in fact, correct. And while there are asexual and demi-sexual individuals who do feel a lack of interest in sex with the exception of certain circumstances, I now know that I do not fit in those labels either.
Discussing sex in a frank and honest way is an important part of sexual and developmental health. I hope we can continue to move away from the idea that not talking about sex will somehow keep us safer, healthier, or better protected.
Better Late Than Never
I’m grateful that I came out in this lifetime. While it was the hardest thing I ever had to do, I know it would have been even hard to try and live as someone I wasn’t. It wouldn’t have been healthy for me and it would not have served to benefit my former spouse or my children in the long run.
If there’s one thing I wish could change in our society, it’s that we stop denying that queer people and queer kids exist in our communities. I wish we could shift the conversation away from “Should gay content be discussed in our schools?” to “What is the best way we can recognize our queer community?”
And then maybe more kids will be able to find themselves in the fabric of our society, instead of wondering why they never seem to fit the narrative.
And more parents who may be navigating new territory with gender and sexual orientation will have both the language and community support to care for their child in the healthiest way possible.
And maybe books like mine won’t be needed 20 years from now.