I knew I was gay when I was nine years old. Though I didn’t have the word for it yet, I had thoughts of kissing my best friend in third grade. I had sensations pulsating throughout my prepubescent body whenever I was near her. And I had feelings that I longed to express but didn’t quite know how.
The terms gay, lesbian or homosexuality weren’t even on my radar. But the feelings, sensations and thoughts never went away. In fact, they grew stronger. By the time I was a teenager, I learned through the eyes of society that those feelings, sensations and thoughts were wrong. I also learned that there was a word to describe them. That word was “gay.”
At first I distanced myself from the word. I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t want to be an outcast. Gay? Not me! That’s not my identity. Of course, by the time I graduated from college and moved to Boston, MA, that changed over time. I came out, met other gay individuals and met my first girlfriend. Suddenly, the word “gay” was appealing. Sure. I’m gay. Yep … that’s me.
The truth is, I’ve never been the “ra, ra, I’m gay” type of individual. I’ve gone to pride parades for the experience of it but you wouldn’t see me marching in the procession. Maybe it’s because I never glued myself to the word “gay” itself. Yes, it gave me a sense of understanding in regards to those feelings, sensations and thoughts I often had. But I never attached my identity to it. I never thought it was the be-all-end-all of “me.”
Words are funny. We can wrap our entire human identity into something as simple as a word. Why is that? Some words even have multiple meanings, which one is right? For example, do I tie myself to the word “gay” because I am attracted to the same sex or because I am innocently happy? So many of us in the LGBT community take being gay so seriously that it overshadows everything else. In defining my sexuality, I can nod my head and say, “yes, I am gay.” But in defining who I am in totality, a simple three-letter word is too limiting. How can three little letters define anyone? They can’t. Word can never truly describe who we really are.
Once the letters drop away, what’s left to identify with?