My Sexuality, Early Dating Years, Etc.

When I was growing up, I only knew of two possibilities when it came to with whom I would spend my life: I’d either marry a girl or I’d remain single. From about first grade through my senior year, I had a “crush” on a girl in my class. She was smart; I was smart. I thought we’d make a perfect pair. And it didn’t hurt that she was pretty. To a six-year-old, this all made sense. It was what was expected of me. I also thought I’d be a wealthy lawyer, but I ended up changing my mind about that too.

Then came seventh grade. Within the first week of that school year, and it may have been the first day, some of the guys in class started picking on me. I was constantly bullied and called gay slurs. Some of the girls even talked behind my back. But that same year, we got a new boy in our class. He was blond, blue-eyed, and beautiful. The new guy made them stop. When he was around, he protected me from the bullies. Without realizing it, I had my first boy crush from that day forward. I basically worshipped this kid. He was my hero. He was a genuinely good guy.

As I’ve said before, I never contemplated being gay until college although I had fantasized about a number of guys once I’d had my sexual awakening. However, that new kid in seventh grade was the person who almost always fueled my sexual fantasies. Thinking back on it, he probably fueled my whole sexual awakening. I was utterly delusional, though. I had no awareness I was gay. I never, or rarely ever, fantasized about girls. It was always guys, and always the guys who were nice to me. Being kind was and still is a sure way to my heart.

The ironic thing was the new guy and the girl I’d had a crush on eventually became a couple and have been married for nearly 25 years. He’s put on a few pounds but not much, and he’s still just as handsome. They have beautiful children too. The girl hasn’t changed one bit. She still looks like she did all through school. She had a twin sister who went to college with me, and I ended up going out on a few dates with her. She too still looks the same as she did in school. All the other people I went to school with are basically unrecognizable to me when I see them on Facebook. 

Probably the strangest thing in my dating life occurred in my junior year of high school. I knew a girl who had been my best friend since I was five. Even though we lived in different towns much of our school years, we stayed pen pals. I’ll get back to her in a minute. In high school, I worked for a short time at a Subway restaurant. I ended up asking one of my coworkers to go to the homecoming dance. We were an odd pair; she was beautiful and quite popular, and I was the nerdy fag. Some of her friends had nasty things to say about us going to the dance together. My coworker basically told them to fuck off; she thought I was nice. 

That same fall, my earlier-mentioned best friend was dating an older guy who was one of the most handsome guys I’ve ever laid eyes on; he was fucking gorgeous and so sexy. He also had big muscles and a big dick, which I heard about from my best friend. (I knew the dick size of everyone she dated.) He took my best friend to the homecoming dance. Little did my best friend and I know that a few months later, my date and her date would hook up, and my date got pregnant. They literally ended up having a shotgun wedding; her father, with a gun pointed at the guy, forced them to get married. They had several kids and lived somewhat happily for a little while, but eventually got divorced. Then he had a logging accident which left him paralyzed. He eventually died from his injuries. These days, she’s remarried to a much older man and is a successful real estate agent. I’m still friends with her on Facebook; she used to send me housing listings she thought I should look into. I’m pretty sure she used Facebook to get her real estate business up and running. Her oldest two sons, who are now in college, look so much like their father.

By the way, that best friend of mine growing up always considered herself a Republican. These days, she is the biggest Trump supporter I know, and we rarely speak to each other. When we do talk, it’s through Facebook, and it’s only to argue politics. I keep her muted so I don’t have to read about whatever stupid conspiracy theory she currently believes. It’s really disgusting how much she supports Trump. Last Christmas, she wrapped all her children’s presents in Trump wrapping paper. I was appalled to know such a thing even existed. 

I shouldn’t be surprised, though, by her support of Trump. Their morals are about the same. In high school, she had sex with any guy who would look her way. (I don’t say that to slut shame; I’d have done the same thing if I’d been out and had the opportunity.) And yes, that included me, not one of my prouder moments. It was also one of my most traumatic sexual encounters, but that’s a story for a different post. Let’s just say, she could be very manipulative. For instance, she purposely got pregnant by her first husband before they married and were both in high school so he’d have to marry her and not go off to college. I believe she’s now on her fourth husband. She’s been a bit silent on Facebook lately. She’s a nurse at the largest hospital in Montgomery. I wonder if she sees Trump differently because of his disastrous handling of the pandemic. I suspect not.

I know there were at least a half dozen guys I had crushes on in high school, yet I never would have called them crushes back then. It wasn’t until I took psychology in my senior year in college that my mindset about being heterosexual would change. Back then, I thought my crushes were a form of admiration, a desire to be like them. Also by then, I had discovered the internet and gay porn, but I still couldn’t admit to myself I was gay. I thought maybe I was bisexual, but definitely not gay. My world view changed in that psychology class. My professor asked us to submit questions anonymously on any topic related to psychology. He’d spend the last few minutes of each class answering some of the questions. One day, someone (not me) submitted a question asking if there was a way to tell if you were heterosexual or homosexual. This was the late 1990s in Alabama. It was a legitimate question. I could not have been the only person clueless about their sexuality. Someone else had asked the question after all. The professor told the class to consider whether we fantasized or dreamed predominantly about people of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both equally. That could be an indication you were either heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Thinking back on it, he was progressive for Alabama at that time. Hell, he’d be considered progressive for Alabama today. It was then I realized girls were never a part of my fantasies or dreams. It finally began to dawn on me I was probably gay. I was horrified at the prospect.

When you are raised with no alternative to being heteronormative, it can be difficult coming to terms with a sexuality that doesn’t meet that ideal. Anything else is out of the question. Let’s not forget, I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s when AIDS was a scary thing. My mother had me believing all gay men had AIDS. It’s amazing I ever came out at all, but I’d always been more liberal-minded than those around me when I was growing up. Nowadays, I’m considered somewhat conservative in Vermont. Who knew?

I’ve known a lot of men over the years who have been confused about their sexuality. Some even married women. Some got divorced later in life and have since come out; others remained married. I dated one girl in college and when that ended, I never dated another woman. I was still trying to figure out my sexuality, and once I did, I knew I’d never marry a woman. I’ve always believed if I did get married, she’d be miserable, and I’d be miserable. I know that is not the case for everyone, but it’s how I feel about myself. We all make choices in our lives, and for some, those choices work out for the better; for others, it does not. Part of my philosophy on marrying a woman probably comes from the lawyer I used to work for in college. She never married. She once told me she didn’t get married because of a lack of opportunity; she’d been proposed to on numerous occasions. Each time a man proposed to her she considered whether she could see herself getting a divorce. Every time, the answer was yes, so she remained single. She died alone a few years ago from a heart attack.

I’m not crazy about the thought of dying alone. But I’ve decided, if it happens, it happens. Sometimes, I feel I’ve wasted my best years being in the closet. That is why I advocate for people to love their children no matter what and to encourage them to feel comfortable no matter their sexuality. Maybe if things had been different, maybe if my parents and family had been more understanding, maybe if homosexuality had been more acceptable back then… But that is something I will never know. I am happy it is easier today for kids to come out and at a young age. However, I do know that is not the case for everyone: gay people in the South still have a difficult time; Mormon kids may have it the worst. I pray for the day when all expressions of sexuality are accepted, when we can live in a more equal and welcoming world.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

6 responses to “My Sexuality, Early Dating Years, Etc.

  • Bailoir Smith

    Very brave and honest accesment of your upbringing and surely wouldn’t go astray in ascript for say a mini series guaranteed! ✈️

  • mcpersonalspace54

    As I read your post, I thought a lot about my life growing up. There are a lot of similarities. It is not easy being different.

    • Joe

      No, it’s not. At least young LGBTQ+ individuals today have some role models to look too. I can’t remember any except guest character here and there but nothing substantial.

  • mcpersonalspace54

    When I was growing up, I thought I was the only one who had these feelings. I had no models. I grew up in a small town and it was not easy. I think if I was a teenager now, my life would still not be easy, but I would be more courageous to simply allow myself to be me. Thanks for the post as you got me to think back on my adolescent years.

    • Joe

      I’m right there with you. I not only grew up in a small town, but I lived ten miles outside of town. It was a difficult experience for many of our generation.

  • Beau

    Like you, I went to high school in a small high school in the Deep South, albeit in the late 1970’s. The irony is that some of my classmates were also closeted and I can see their photos with their partners on Facebook nowadays. They also hid in fear and isolation. The sad part is that, had we known and been in a safer environment, then we might have supported each other Don’t regret that time. Your journey was to survive in a hostile environment until you could find a time and place to bloom. You survived and I hope that you are now in a better place.

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