NPR’s THIS I BELIEVE Essay
I recognized a distinctive difference when I was 11 or 12 in the early 1960s. Something was not right. I did not know what to do about my difference, but I was certain I could never let anyone know. So I masqueraded through life as best I could. I dated boys just enough to get by in high school and then went to college. It was then that all my suspicions were confirmed. After my first relationship with another woman, I knew I was gay. What now???
I thought my parents would disown me if they ever found out. I tried as hard as I could to appear normal. I fortunately met a nice young man who I married. I loved him but later realized it was only in a platonic way. We had a child and remained married for over 16 years – or more accurately – until I was exhausted from trying to be someone I was not. The marriage had deteriorated anyway, perhaps as a result of my failing masked identity.
After a lifetime of guilt from living a lie, I am sickened now when someone claims that my sexual orientation was my “choice.” The first time I heard such a statement, I thought it was either a joke or pure ignorance. I always want to ask such people if heterosexuality was their choice. If “yes,” then they are admitting to having homosexual thoughts. If “no,” then they should understand that my sexuality was not a choice for me either.
Although our sexuality is defined by the gender of the person we love or with whom we share physical intimacy, experiencing life with another woman – including and beyond physical intimacy – is natural for me. If I fail to do what is natural for me, then I am deceiving my creation and happiness is only an illusion. Apparently, some people think that phrase from the Declaration of Independence – “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – doesn’t apply to me. I believe I have the same right to pursue happiness as everyone else in this country. I also believe that does not make me special, just equal!
And my parents? Even though it took a while to receive their total acceptance, I know they were doing the best they could at the time and they certainly never disowned me. In looking back, I have been very proud of and blessed by all of my family’s eventual support.
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