I want so badly to let my hair grow out, so I can give myself dreadlocks. I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. When my hair reaches a certain length, I find myself just wanting to rip it out by the roots or to shave my head down soft like a baby’s bottom and slick, too. Today was the day when I couldn’t take it anymore, so I got out the clippers and gave myself a wide Mohawk with a DA in the back. It’s weird and different from my usual self-inflicted trim. Before I went crazy about my hair, I made myself a delicious Spring Break breakfast, which I intend to do every day before I go to school to work on grading.
Note: Now for a bit more of a serious subject. This is not complete, but is just a seed for a longer, more well-developed essay.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about spirituality and sexuality, as I usually do. These two areas are important to me and intrinsically part and parcel of one another for me. In my life, they cannot be separated, nor can the soul and the body. I’m not going to get all theoretical in this post, but I do want to mention a couple of things I’ve been thinking about. I’ve heard many GLBT folks say that they knew who they were from a very young, but they just couldn’t tell anyone, they didn’t have words for it, or they were shamed into not talking about it. I’m not sure I fall into any of these categories, at least not until much later in my adolescence.
I’m not saying I couldn’t tell something wasn’t the same in me as it was in everyone else. I knew that pretty much from the get-go. But then again, I didn’t know it, too. I knew how I felt, but I didn’t know it was gay. I knew who I loved, but I didn’t have a framework for recognizing same-sex desire then, I don’t think. Looking back, I can name it for what it is. I can see how much in love I was with some of my friends. I can name my fifth and sixth grade English teacher as one of my first teacher-crushes. (Since then I’ve fallen in and out of love with too many teachers/professors to think about! Ha!) I can call my love, my desire what it is. Now. Could I then? I don’t think so, but I could feel it.
When I was in grade school, I knew I loved some of my friends. I knew I loved them much more or much differently than they loved me. I would share my toys, and I am pretty selfish. I would color pictures for them. I would take cookies for lunch with the sole intention of sharing them. I got jealous when they would spend time with other friends. I was heartbroken when I wasn’t invited to their slumber parties. I was devastated when one particular friend got a boyfriend and stopped playing with me on recess. I was crushed when I got in trouble for kissing another friend in kindergarten Sunday School. (Of course, the very next year, I got in trouble for kissing a boy at school. Maybe my problem wasn’t lesbianism, it was showing the kissing kind of affection!) Every adult message was telling me that the way I felt about my girl friends was wrong. Did I understand then? No. I knew my parents encouraged me to choose my own clothes, toys, books, and activities when I was at home, and I didn’t quite understand why I had to wear dresses to school sometimes when I preferred my jeans and t-shirts and tromping around in the woods. I suppose it was to make me seem more normal in the grand scheme of things, but then what’s up with this school picture? I was a butch little kid.
By the time I got to middle school, I was determined to be “normal,” even though I had a crew cut and relied on my FARTS University t-shirt, which I wore under most everything, to get me through the days. I think maybe why I like teaching middle school so much is because I felt so lost through most of it. I had one particular friend who was, for all intents and purposes, my “girlfriend.” I loved her, and I would keep on loving her through high school when we both had boyfriends, even becoming quite jealous when she got married and moved halfway around the world.
I “went with” one boy all through middle school and into my freshman year. He was incredibly abusive and manipulative, leaving huge physical and emotional scars on my body. But I stayed with him because I had the intrinsic desire to be like what I thought everyone else was like, to be like what I thought I should. Everyone else had opposite sex significant others. Everyone else was making out in their family friends’ basement. Right, right? Eventually, during one of these “let’s play hide-n-seek so we can go lock our naked selves in your basement bedroom and make out” make out session, he forced me into having sex with him when I was just 13-years old, and I became one of many girls he date raped, or just straight up raped. The killing part of this was that he was two-years younger than I was. So much for being normal.
Looking back, I know now that my classmates weren’t all dating people of the opposite sex. I know that many of them were doing the same thing I was, putting on airs to make it through Blackford County Schools. Many of them didn’t date at all! There wasn’t room for people like us in that place at that time, so we played the game. It wasn’t that there wasn’t language for who we are. There was: fags, faggots, sissies, butches, dykes, unnatural, sinners, queers, homos, queerbates, gaywads, ACDC, swing both ways, and all sorts of other language that served to normalize us. Apparently, The Crying Game and Boy George made no impact on the small minds of Blackford residents. It wasn’t that we couldn’t talk about it, but we certainly couldn’t fathom our sexualities as positive, healthy expressions of love. And, of course, why would anyone bring on that ridicule by naming who they are?
I won’t say that growing up was particularly difficult for me, like I am sure it was with many of my friends and like it is for many kids now. I felt a sense of security in myself and my identity as a jock, artist, and nerd. I just threw myself into one of my acceptable identities, and I always have been confident in who I am. Perhaps, too, some of the security I felt in playing a part in the “Blackford County Play” was because I couldn’t feel free to say who I was, and by not naming it, I could pretend that wasn’t who I was. Besides I had a really for real romantic relationship with a boy, a young man, a beautiful soul of a man. He was a really for real high school sweetheart, who is a subject for a way different essay than this one. So I had a thick, thick closet door to keep me safe. In the same way the closet door kept me safe, it also stifled me until I finally came out. Slowly. Inch by inch.
And as I came out, I quickly learned that the most spiritual people in my life would have the strongest opinion about who
I was becoming I was revealing to them. And, it even more quickly became evident that who I was revealing did not jive with who they thought I was, or should be. Never in my life have I had more Scripture thrust at me like a serrated and rusty knife than from the years of 21 to 23. I look back, and I think that Jesus must have been embarrassed. I know I was ashamed for the people who were beating me with a book I had previously loved, pouring so many teenaged years into studying it and getting to know my God. The God who had been my God through all of it and who still remains my first love.