I went to a protest last Friday where we, as gay people were asked to share our stories with people so that there may be better understanding. I am not sure where to start or what understanding I may help people have but here goes.
I came out on October 26, 1986. I was a PFC in the Army National Guard and busy learning my army job- 91 A- medic at Ft Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
What lead up to this event? Did it start in the womb? I don't know. I remember my mother once telling me she knew I was different from the day I was born. Maybe it started with the crush I had on Karen Rasmussen. She was our next door neighbor and I couldn't have been more than 6 because we moved when I was 6. That was a busy year come to think of it because along with desperately loving Karen I also proposed to Nanette Horman. We were in the same kindergarten class. I thought she hung the moon.
I was quite the tomboy. I don't remember really feeling as if I were different from the other girls. I was pretty oblivious of kid politics unless it involved my little brother. I was his champion and he was my conscience. Poor kid was always in trouble for listening to me... anyway, at age 10 my best friend was Tracy. We were tight and I was wrecked when she moved to L.A. later that year. I met up her with after I came out and found that she had also. It was a good reunion.
When I was 12, our family moved to Elko, NV. Actually we moved to Spring Creek which is actually 15-ish miles south of Elko. The only really social contacts I had were through church. I grew up mormon. At 12 I was entering the young woman's program. To this day, I am not sure what that is all about. Are the sexes separated so that in those awkward years, the young people will be among others of the same sex who are experiencing the same traumatic and wonderful things, thereby feeling somewhat normal and safe? I can't say that that was how it was for me. When we moved I pretty much became an outsider in the social way of things. When all the teenage girl things started to happen, I felt confused and for the first time, I felt different.
As I moved on from jr. high into highschool and my peers started to talk about boys, talk to boys and date boys... I just didn't know what to do with that. There were boys I was friends with. (Many of them, I have since found out, are gay.) There wasn't really dating. I didn't date a lot. It just didn't interest me. I was asked far more than I accepted. It was just weird.
While trying to figure life out, I had many intense friendships with girls my own age. Intense meaning, I loved them, I was always wanting to hug them and be around them. Sometimes I scared them away and it took years for me to figure out why.
One big milestone was when I was 15. I was at the church with my freind Dena. I don't remember why we were there, Dena was a nonmember and I know it wasn't Sunday because i distinctly remember both of us wearing pants. We were sitting in the foyer on the floor and she was talking and I remember thinking to myself about how much I loved her. I then followed that thought with, "maybe I'm gay"... That caught my inner attention because I had never thought that before, I really wasn't even sure I knew what it meant, so I dismissed it. I never really thought about it again until my senior year in high school.
Monica... some people say that you never get over your first true love, for me it was her. I was a senior and she was a freshman. We met through my brother at a basketball game. She was absolutely enchanting. I was obsessed. The second semester of my senior year must have been hell for my folks. I had no idea how things appeared outside of my own little lavender cloud of denial. I just knew I had found the most wonderful friend ever. There wasn't anything physical about our relationship. It was just another intense friendship for me. As I stated before, I had no clue about being gay, that is until around April of that year when Monica went cold and evasive. After spending hours begging for her to talk to me she told me what people (her friends, her mom and random people at school) were saying. That we were dykes. I am sure the look on my face was comical because I really didn't know what that meant. When I figured it out I went to Monica and said that they were silly, we couldn't be dykes.
I didn't have any reasons to explain why we weren't other than the fear that people were saying we were. This was a really weird time for me looking back. There was a lot of tension between me and my mother. My dad was the bishop at this time and rarely home. I was a good kid. I didn't party- ever. No drinking or smoking. It didn't interest me so much. I spent most of my evenings over at Monica's, listening to music, watching t.v. and just hanging out. Sometimes, we held hands but that was it and that was just a show of affection. I was so totally clueless.
I graduated and went away to college. My roommate was Beth. I think she had more of a clue than I did. Also at this time I met a woman named Camille. She was the first lesbian I ever met that I know of. I didn't know it when I met her. She was fascinating and incredibly intense and I remember at one point she said she had something to show me. I asked her what and she looked into my eyes and then looked away and said, mostly to herself, "Not yet, you aren't ready". I really respect her for that. Because I have a feeling she was gonna help me out of the closet then and she was right, I wasn't ready.
During my freshman year I dated guys a little. I was proposed to 3 times. What was that about? It doesn't matter, I felt swept off my feet by Joseph Richard Costello in April of 1985. Between the time of my accepting his proposal and when we married, 1st of August the same year, I knew I was making a huge mistake but I had been caught up in a horrible momentum trap of my own making. The fact that in that short amount of time I started to see what a real asshole he was and I was completely at a loss as to what the hell I was doing didn't help. I just knew that I was doing what young women do in our church. I was doing what was right. It didn't matter that I still loved Monica (and she was pissed). It didn't matter that I don't think I ever loved Joey (hell I barely knew him). What I liked about him was his musicianship. I have had a lot of time to think about this and I know that his musical abilities were what attracted me. He played bass and classical guitar and he was really good. Worth marrying, no. Everyone could see it. I knew it but was pig headed and stubborn and was sure I could make it work.
Looking back, I really have Joey to thank for my coming out. If I hadn't married him, if he hadn't told me how stupid I was day after day and forced me to have sex with him, I may still be there, trying to do what is right according to the mormon church.
I left Joey after 8 months and the divorce went through in July. July 15, 1986. I joined the Army National Guard and the rest is history.
I remember my coming out as a liberation. I remember wanting to sing from the rooftops!
It took 2 more years before I came out to my family. I trusted my little sister with the news. That couldn't have been easy for her. I know it wrecked my dad.
The consequences since then have been well, enlightening. I was excommunicated. 4 years later I tried to do what was expected of me and was re baptised. I was then dis fellowshipped. Anyone who says that being gay is a choice is ignorant. Who in their right mind would willingly choose to be vilified and hated by society? Who would choose that? It isn't like gay people are accepted everywhere like VISA.
Since that time I was in a relationship with Toni. We were together for 14 years. I never wanted to marry Toni. I don't consider myself the marrying kind. Monogamy is hard for me. I think state sanctioned monogamy would be torture but I do understand that that is my opinion and it isn't shared by all people, gay or straight. There are many of my gay peers who want to be married. I think they should have that right- whatever it is called. Domestic partnership, civil union, marriage, eternal bondage... whatever it is called, the right should be for all people. Toni and I were together for 14 years. I wouldn't have legally married her if I were able BUT the right to do so should have been there and available.
I am not sure why people are so afraid. Two consenting adults want to pledge to be each others one and only, to have and to hold, in sickness and health, until death parts them. How is that scary and why should it be anyone's business except the two people involved? What would be wrong with two committed, consenting adults to have 1.) Health Benefits for their partners and families. 2.)Visitation Rights when a partner is hospitalized 3.)Immigration Rights for lesbian and gay partners of foreign nationals 4.)Social Security and pension survivor benefits AND 5.)Respect for our relationships.
This is my story in a nutshell. I hope that somewhere out there it may help to provide a better understanding to someone who may need it.
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