Ready for Gay
Originally published 2-6-09
Some of us are born gay, some of us achieve gayness and some of us have gayness thrust upon us. With apologies to Shakespeare, this is how I summarize my philosophy on being gay. When I get those Gay 101 questions: Why do you think you are gay? When did you know you were gay? How do you know you are gay? This philosophy is the basis for my answers.
My partner Kira and I constantly debate “nurture versus nature,” especially since now we have a baby boy who at 18 months already shows a propensity toward toy trucks, cars and motorcycles while he eschews dolls and anything pink or girly.
At five years old my parents took my brother to a psychologist because he wanted to play with feminine things. Approximately 15 years later he came out as gay, to nobody’s real surprise. No amount of Little League or fishing trips could change this, much to my father’s chagrin. And Boy Scouts — with its nude campfire escapades — if anything, hastened his jump to the other side.
So one might say he was born gay. And I would agree. But then, as Kira argues, birth order and other external influences may have made him gay.
My story was totally different. I came out as gay in my late 20s, after years of denial, a telling crush on Olivia Newton-John, four engagements to the same guy, a failed marriage and several hetero affairs. Outsiders would say that exposure to my gay brother may have predisposed me. I would say I was born gay but just wasn’t ready to accept it yet.
My belief is that we can be born “that way,” or we may have a tendency to be gay that we either ignore or embrace; and the latter leaning can be encouraged or suppressed depending on our support system or lack thereof.
Even with lots of gayness around us — such as me having a gay brother — doesn’t mean a person will recognize the trait in herself or others, at least not right away. I recall an incident during my college years when I worked as an aerobics instructor. I met a gorgeous gym bunny and her boyfriend who asked me to join them for drinks after our workout. They both took me aside to tell me how much they really liked me. Not until years later did I realize they were propositioning me for a threesome. My mind couldn’t wrap itself around the idea at the time. I wasn’t ready for it.
The same ego defense applies to parents and those close to us. They may respond with a sympathetic we-knew-it-all-along-but hoped-it would-pass “Oh Honey,” as my partner’s parents did when she came out, or like my parents, they may not see gay until they are ready.
When I finally decided to come out, I did what any sensitive budding young lesbian with conservative parents already heart-broken by the news that their son is gay would do — I went on a gay TV show.
One night my parents were channel surfing and landed on Gays on Film. There I was, sitting across from my new girlfriend, a beautiful long-legged blond in tight stirrup pants and pumps (it was the early 90s after all). I lit up a cigarette as part of a spoof on “Basic Instinct.” She coyly teased me about “no smoking in the studio,” and I flirted back and immodestly uncrossed my legs in my mini-dress (again, the 90s) in homage to the famous Sharon Stone crotch shot.
Within minutes my parents were on the phone with my brother. “Did you know that your sister was on TV?” my mother asked. My brother played it cool. “Well, yes. Why?” Mom was completely flustered. “Did you know she was on television SMOKING? It was like she was promoting smoking!”
That’s all that my parents saw. They weren’t ready. They somehow missed the giant film reel set piece with a “G” in the middle spelling out the “Gays on Film” logo and the shameless sexual innuendo between me and my hot girl lover.
Unbelievably, this went on for years. Then one day my mom asked me why I had broken off my engagement, again. We were standing at the kitchen sink. She was washing, I was drying. “Do you think you could have homosexual tendencies?” she asked. “Me? Of course not, Mom.” This time, I wasn’t ready. She got the answer she wanted, we finished the dishes and didn’t bring it up again for another couple of years.
Things have changed now. My parents now welcome me and my partner and our son into their home with open arms. They understand who she is to me, and they know that we are raising their grandson together. We celebrate holidays together, and they include Kira as part of the family when we visit. In their hearts and just between us, they totally and completely accept us and our relationship.
But then again, things have not changed. Even after 15 years of having an openly gay daughter, Mom and Dad are still not ready. They introduce Kira to others as my “friend” who “helps with the baby.” I know I should say something. I should step up and proudly say, “This is my partner Kira. We are raising our son together.” But even as a forty-something outspoken gay columnist, former gay TV producer, gay community organizer and activist and out and proud gay mom, I realize, sometimes, I’m still not quite ready.