The Roots of Dismissal
I met my husband at 19. Started dating him at 20. Got engaged to him at 21. Married him at 22. In my mind, I was for all intents and purposes, locked into heterosexuality. He and I had met at a Southern Baptist Church of which I was a member and even worked for all throughout my teenage years and my first couple of years of college. I left the church about a year into our relationship (which is an entirely separate post I’m willing to write). Hence, the whole giving my permission to look at women as anything but potential disciples or good fits for some of my guy friends.
Because even when I was still on the inside of the church I didn’t really have any desire for female friends. Those that I did keep were mostly formed by proximity and their insistence. I preferred the company of men – a trait that often got me scolded by church elders or looked down upon by my peers. All of this was running through my head as I thought about aforementioned random chick from some random club in Dallas, TX.
Was I a lesbian who’d been convinced that those didn’t exist by a church that refused to acknowledge homosexuality as a possibility outside of sin? I honestly don’t even remember lesbians being talked about in the negative or positive growing up. Maybe if they had been this gay crisis would’ve happened earlier on in my life. In youth groups and college groups led by men the idea of talking about lesbians at all was considered taboo and more often dismissed offhand. Instead the church focused on brotherhood, masculinity, protecting and providing and definitely, definitely not acknowledging that some of the things the guys did were at least a little bit gay.
I was the teenage girl who passionately said to my friends, “You can’t live in sin and still claim to love God” in response to a question from my friend (who later came out) asking me if you could be gay and a Christian. Just the thought of that table talk makes my heart hurt. Makes me want to throttle the girl who back then hadn’t even thought to question the confines in which she was shackled so obediently.
When I realized I might be a little bit gay, I started doing clandestine research on the most holy of sources, Google. “How do you know if you’re attracted to women?” “Do I need to leave my husband if I’m attracted to other women?” The questions were all of a similar curious and heartbroken and confused nature. Then I stumbled upon the Kinsey scale (pictured below) – and started down the rabbit hole of fluid sexuality.
The idea of this clashed so deeply against my internalized homophobia (Watch Hannah Gadsby’s standup set if you want a truly amazing talk on what that means). As in most things the church was very black and white on this. You couldn’t be a little bit gay or a little bit straight. You were a sinner or not a sinner. The more conservative sects of the church deny the science of homosexuality being an innate trait instead of a chosen one. I haven’t seen any literature from the TSBC on fluid sexuality (they have other problems right now), but I’m guessing that they wouldn’t even dignify the idea with a response.
The dismissal of my desires and of my feelings that ran contrary to church doctrine wove itself into me throughout my childhood. The internalized homophobia of “wrong,” “gross,” “deviant,” “imagined,” was a part of that dismissal. In a space where acknowledging reality often led to arguments and even excommunication, I had learned to repress my truth and accept my place.
Redefining the Love of Right Now
As a part of the copious amounts of therapy I went through in my early twenties, I actively worked to see the world was not as rigidly confined as I had trained myself to believe. I started to state two truths that once couldn’t exist in harmony for me. “I’m attracted to women.” “I’m attracted to my husband.”; “I prefer the company of men as friends.” “My friendships do not detract from my attraction to my husband.” Then I would just sit with those truths and let them sit together until I saw them both as valid. In times when I panicked that I had married Zach simply because that was what was expected of me, I made lists that evaluated my feelings for him in the present. It didn’t matter how we came to be. The non-gendered things I love about him as a person still apply.
Kind to a fault. Intelligent. Loving. Endlessly curious. Attentive. Accepting. Willing to learn and grow. Willing to fill up the gas for me even though I’m perfectly capable of doing so. An incredible chef – you get the idea. I think my husband is the greatest person on the planet.
This internal freak out erupted in me not because my reality had changed. I still loved my husband. I found women more than aesthetically pleasing. The panic was quelled as I stopped assigning the negative value the church had associated with queerness to myself. I hadn’t changed. Our relationship had only changed in that I acknowledge that Zach is an incredible person. He’s my unicorn because I think he’s the only person I could willingly allow to tie me down for the rest of my life. I trust he’ll make all the commitment worth it. He trusts the same of me.
Be with Your Unicorn
We all have truths that define us. We have traits that make us who we are. I’m just asking you to consider that sexuality isn’t really one of those things. Sure, it shapes the way we see the world at any given time. But it’s allowed to change just as we are allowed to change. Choose your partner based on the things that don’t change. Let yourself be happy based on the unicorn magic of knowing no one else could understand you like they do.
It’s a process, but if you’re still dealing with the internalized messages about gender and sexuality and marriage of your childhood really take the time to assess them. Do they match with the reality you live in now? If not, how do they disagree? Are those old ideas holding you back from embracing your whole self out of fear or misplaced judgment? You are allowed to weigh these foundational beliefs about yourself and realize they do not change who you are as a person – only how you see yourself.
I hope my own story helps you to see that not every sexuality crisis ends in broken homes or lives or tears. Sometimes it’s just as easy as saying, “Yep that’s a thing” – and then talking with your husband one Saturday morning and realizing you have completely different taste in women. He laughed, I laughed and then we turned back to the television. I love life with my unicorn.