‘Fessing up, part 3
I attended a Methodist university that had rules calling for expulsion for, among other things, being an “unrepentant homosexual.” At the time I enrolled (back in the mid-1980s), I was still struggling with my sexual identity—I was trying to convince myself that I was bi, or if not, then maybe I could live my life as asexual.
Being in the closet was a survival necessity in my day-to-day life back then. Almost everyone that I knew, whether through school, church, or just in the community, thought that being gay was inherently wrong. The state-approved high school health class text had a whole chapter on abnormal sexuality, and it described kinky straight sex, homosexuality, pedophilia, and necrophilia as simply different stages of the same psychological disease, for goodness sake!
I’d seen high school classmates kicked out of school, then sent out of town by their shamed family after rumors circulated that they had been caught having gay sex, as well.
Whether one of the colleges I was applying to had harsher anti-gay rules than another didn’t seem like a significant issue.
So, yes, I have to confess that I applied to a university fully aware that not only were my religious beliefs not very closely aligned with theirs, but several things I believed were actually violations of their rules and code of conduct.
But that’s only the beginning of the story…
The reasons I applied to the university had nothing to do with the religious orientation of the school. Being a small, private university, class sizes were very small. Instead of being part of the faceless crowd to my professors, and only hoping that the teaching assistants would remember my name, I had real relationships with a lot of my profs.
A teacher I admired at the local community college knew two professors at the university in question, and highly recommended them. I had a couple of friends who were already attending the university, and they seemed to like the school.
Also, I’d been living among and working with evangelical fundamentalists (most of them Baptists, but Free Methodists and Southern Baptists had quite a lot in common) for years, so I was used to “passing” in that environment. It didn’t seem, to me, that it would be all that different than my life had been up to that point.
I can’t emphasize enough, however, that I was closeted internally as much as externally. I was well aware that my desires and gut reactions to people were not heterosexual, but I didn’t want to be that way. So I was actively and consciously denying it, as well as unconsciously ignoring some aspects of it.
The funny thing is, I never ran afoul of those particular policies. Part of the reason was that I had a really good distraction. I met a lot of people while studying there, and one of them was a young woman, Julie, who became friends with myself and several of my sci fi geek friends that I’d known before coming to the school. And one day another young woman took me aside and told me that Julie was trying to figure out what was wrong: why hadn’t I asked her on a date? And many other people were wondering the same thing. We were obviously such close friends, that the next step seemed natural.
I was shocked, then scared. At that point, I was starting to give up hope that I was bisexual, and getting more and more resigned to the notion that I’d probably live my life single, because I still didn’t see how I could have a successful and happy relationship with another guy. If I didn’t tell her why I couldn’t return her feelings, things were almost certainly going to get awkward in our social circle. But if I did tell her, her reactions could range from mild disgust to complete rejection. And if she reported me to the correct authorities, she could get me kicked out of school, and left owing money for the unfinished semester’s fees without any credits I could transfer elsewhere to show for it.
Not to mention that I was living on campus at the time, and because of my mom’s re-marriage and move to another state, I didn’t really have another place to live.
But after a while, it became clear that I had to tell her the truth. Fortunately, she didn’t run screaming in horror or any of that. Unfortunately, what she did do was convince me that I just hadn’t given bisexuality a good enough try. And the next thing I knew, I had a girlfriend, who eventually turned into my wife. And that eventually led to a whole mess of problems.
I am happy to report that, twenty-two years since divorcing, Julie and I are good friends. Several years ago when she met a man who is an absolute perfect match for her, she asked me to be her Maid of Honor. When Michael and I were planning our elopement on the first day that Marriage Equality was active in Washington, Julie was one of the people we asked to participate in the ceremony (and we were disappointed when she wasn’t able to).
People make foolish choices all the time. Sometimes it’s because we don’t know any better. Sometimes it’s because we didn’t learn an important lesson earlier. Sometimes it’s because we have been misled or misinformed. And sometimes it’s because of the options we can see, it appears to be the least of a bunch of bad choices.
In hindsight we may see that there were several choices other than the ones we considered at the time. But making mistakes is part of the learning process. The best we can do, sometimes, is to try to do better next time.