“I wouldn’t be LGBT, if I had a choice, is internalized self-hate. It’s like saying I wouldn’t be a woman, or a man, or “white,” or a person of color, if I had a choice. It’s the desire to flee something we are.” Robert Minor, Gay and Healthy in a Sick SocietyThis quote hit me right between the eyes. I used to say "If I had a choice, I wouldn't be gay." I used to say, "If I have kids, I hope they aren't gay", or "Why would anyone choose this life?"
Of course, I was referring to all that we have to deal with in society...but that wasn't all. Deep down, I think I still didn't really want to be who I was. I think I had the thought that I was trying to make the best of it since I couldn't change it. And above all else, I wanted others to love me and I wasn't sure that could happen if they thought this was a choice or, heaven forbid, something I was happy about.
Times have changed for me. I don't wish a straight life on all children. I want there to always be different types of people in our society. What I wish for instead is for our society to finally come to terms with differences and to embrace those who stand outside the norm.
I also am finding out more and more that I really love who I am. All of it. The gay parts of me, too. However, the gay parts are not separate parts that can be lopped off like limbs. The gay parts are more like...(if I'm going to continue the "parts of the body" analogy)...the nervous system. I can't survive without a nervous system. I also can't survive without this part of me that informs everything I do. I'm not saying it is all of who I am, because that is certainly not true. I'm more than "the gay", but I can't take the gay out of me without slowly killing myself.
I know this for a fact because I tried. I tried for many years to sublimate all my differences. To stamp out anything that read "gay" and to become a different person. I walled off my sexuality and in doing so, lost my creativity as well. I stuffed down everything that was outside of gender norms, but I didn't realize that I lost many fine things about myself. Things I used to value and cherish now became hated and worthless. As Peterson says, "I went to war against my body and my sexuality." That's certainly how it looked for me as well.
One of the first blog posts I ever wrote after coming out of some of my ex-gay fog and life was about how, as a gay person, I was absolutely no different than anyone else. And it's true - in many of the big "life" things I am no different than anyone else. I want my family to love me for me, not for who they expect or desire me to be. Most people want that. I want to be treated well. I want to be loved and accepted. I want others to feel that way, too. But part of what I was really saying was that I also didn't want to be different. I didn't want to be perceived as different. I used to get nervous when I'd see an ultra-butch lesbian, or a very femmy gay guy. "What will others think of me if I hang around someone like that? They'll think we're too different and they won't accept us."
For some people that may be true. For others, thankfully, it is not. However, somehow over time, and I think in working through a lot of my ex-gay past, I've come to realize that I'm OK being different, that the world will not end if I'm not accepted by all who pass my way.
I am different. I am not just living your average, everyday life. I've had to confront many beliefs I've cherished and ideas that I'd grown up with to see how they fit into my life now. I've had to grieve many things that no one should have to grieve, including the loss of family and friends. I've had to dig deep and see where my strengths are and learn how to develop them. I've had to face a lot of fear and challenge myself to go beyond what I think I can do. I've learned how to speak out when I'd really rather just be at home reading a book.
So yeah, I'm different. Because I'm gay and because I'm also just me. I'm a lesbian. I have weird toes and short arms (although probably those things have nothing to do with being a lesbian). I'm proud of who I am. I think, while I have some regrets about my life, I don't regret this larger journey I've been on and I no longer mourn the fact that I'm different. Instead, I celebrate it.
Edit: I was suddenly reminded of a line from a song by one of my favorite groups: "I don't know who else to be / more and more I'm secretly just me" from the song "Goodbye (this is not goodbye)" by Over The Rhine. It seems to fit.