Catching Gay

It’s not so much that I grew up homophobic, homo-oblivious is more like it.

I never thought much about homosexuality until my semester abroad in ’84.

I was living in London with 25 classmates, but I mostly kept to myself–visiting museums & parks, and going to plays.

For spring break, I paired up with a close friend to travel to the continent, but his plans shifted at the last minute, and I reluctantly joined a small group of fellow 20-year-old women who I barely knew, but who welcomed me anyway.

Theirs was a 15-day, 7-country, self-guided tour that was spent mostly inebriated for which I was well prepared having come of age at the Jersey Shore.

At night, two of our companions frequently offered to share a bed or sleep on the floor, thereby helping us save money by needing only one room.

I often dozed off to the sound of one of those young women giggling, and I never thought much about it until the last week of our semester in London when the non-giggling woman from the floor hit on me.

“Oh, wow,” I thought, as I pushed her hands away from my legs, wishing I’d shaved. (Suddenly the bed sharing and floor giggling woman made sense.)

It’s not that she was totally off base. I had been the one to wrap my arms around her because she was hurting herself, and the truth is, had I been gay, she might have been my type, as I continue to find gay women with a strong masculine presence intriguing. That said, the only girl crush I ever had was on a very girly woman–who had hair as black as night and wore a perfume that made me swoon–but alas, we were both happily hetero and “exploring” wasn’t an option I even considered.

Rock Hudson died of AIDS when I was in London. Johnny Mathis and Elton John were later outed. Homosexuality stepped in a little closer.

Fast-forward to life in Vermont where same-sex marriages were upheld by law and one by one our friends & neighbors–teachers, doctors, business owners, ministers–openly expressed their same-sex preferences, lifelong or newly claimed.

Curiously, I found that I could tolerate the sex scene in the haunting and strikingly sensual Brokeback Mountain, but I had no such tolerance for women with other women.

I felt ashamed of this distaste, so obviously a construct, that one winter week home with the flu I watched several seasons of the L Word, and just like that, I was cured.

I did worry for some time that I might catch gay or that my husband might catch it, even while we clearly enjoyed our multi-decade hetero-sexual relationship.

My older son laughed at this fear, understanding it, while my younger son frequently chided me for “binary thinking,” saying that gender and sexual attraction occurred on a continuum for everyone.

Lately, I find myself less concerned about catching gay, because I realize that my husband and I are already in an exclusive relationship, no matter where we might find ourselves on the culturally expanding continuum of attraction now or in the future.

Somewhere during my gay awakening, a friend asked if I’d create the playlist for her and her female partner’s wedding reception; while another invited my family to his wedding.

“Who is getting married?” my sons asked, pointing toward a man and a woman; which is when I realized that I never mentioned that this was a same-sex wedding, and to my surprise, they never flinched as I pointed toward two men.

Being homo-oblivious is not the same as degrading others for their differences, but it is equally born of privilege, and as such requires awakening and response-ability to the plight of others.

WIth gratitude to all my awakeners–my sons, my friends, my community, Hollywood, policy, lawmakers, love.



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