What feels “normal”?
I was thinking about it the other night, when doing the dishes, and I can’t really remember not knowing someone who is not straight. I can remember not having a word for it, or not completely understanding why we never got to meet the person they were dating, but for as long as there have been “not blood family” people that interacted with my family, there were always men who didn’t have girlfriends or wives, and occasionally women who didn’t have boyfriends or husbands in my life. I’m 43 years old. I’m not a kid.
So when people would say things about men being bad to little boys, I’d have extreme doubts they knew what they were talking about. Because J was one of my favorite babysitters. He was an awesome cook, he would listen to the reasons for building cushion and tinker-toy forts the way we built them (you have to use the tinker-toys so you can make a tent roof out of sheets), and realize that yes; I’m a girl, but I still don’t believe he’d do bad things to little boys. And when I finally got around to asking mom why he didn’t have a girlfriend or wife, because he’d be an awesome daddy, and she explained he didn’t date in town and why, my first reaction was: Oh, okay. And then I was sad. Because it was stupid. I was so excited many years later to know he DID get married and he and his husband had a daughter they adopted. And I was even more sad to know that he passed away later, and I’d never gotten to hug him again. I think I first met J when I was 5.
There are others, obviously, that have been in and out of my life. Students and co-workers of my dad’s, my own teachers, students I went to school with (and occasionally had crushes on). But non-straight people have been people who were normal (and yet very quiet and careful) for more or less all of my life that I’ve been aware of other people. And to me, literally the only different things about them were: they loved someone who was the same gender as them (mostly, I don’t remember many people as a kid who said they were asexual, although I wonder about a few and if they just didn’t have a word for it then), and they were almost always scared to talk about it except with very trusted close friends and family. And I always accepted what they wanted, because it’s their life, but it still made me sad.
A lot of those friends and family are scared now, and I believe they have every reason to be. And I keep trying to figure out why there are still people in the world who judge people who are LGBTQ+ as evil, or sinning, or anything negative, and I wonder if it isn’t because they’ve never known that they know people who are. I grew up in a town of under 9,000 people, you see. Yes, I had the advantage of that town being home to a four-year university of about that size enrollment, but still. It was in Texas. There were more than 100 churches of various faiths (but mostly protestant type Christian – some evangelical) there. And I still was aware. On the other hand, I have also been aware that my habit of taking people at face-value can be rare. I’ve been accused of being overly optimistic by those who are more jaded. At the same time, I’ve been accused of being pessimistic when I’ve tried to be careful – because of being jaded myself by people’s reactions.
So I still get trapped in a circular headspace of how? How do you decide that just because that woman on TV loves another woman, she’s a sinner and horrible; when you know nothing else about her? Why assume that a man who loves men is broken in some way, when you know nothing else about him? If they have done something else – robbed a store, thrown a burning match into a school, stolen their neighbors identity to buy a car – then fine! They are obviously not nice. But just about who they love or want to have sex with?
Bi-sexual people are not immediately kinkier than anyone else just for being attracted to two genders. I myself, for a very long time, have noticed women more than other women seem to. Yes, quite a few women look at other women or will objectively note that one or another is pretty. But I really sometimes wonder – am I actually attracted to them? There have been feelings for individual women that have been really close to what I’d call a “crush”, based on crushes I’ve had on men. I still can’t decide if that makes me bi-sexual. And frankly, writing this paragraph scares me because I am putting it out in public, and my face is on my blog. But beyond being supportive in my votes and my charitable contributions, perhaps I ought to just also be more open about myself.
Because I would be very willing to bet that the straight cis people who keep othering those in the LGBTQ+ community know more people in that community, trust more people in that community, go to church with and shop with more people in that community, than they think they do.