My First Encounter with Homosexualtiy
I grew up in Southern California, specifically Orange County. And, no, those are not real housewives on the television. I don't recall any of my classmates as being gay. I also didn't see pregnant teenagers on campus either. I was in my mid-to-late twenties when I met my first gay person. I wasn't naive; I knew what homosexual was, I just hadn't encountered it personally before then. At least that I was aware of.
I worked with a woman a few years younger than I was. We became friends and started hanging out. She didn't date and I thought that her self-esteem was preventing that. She was overweight and I know how that affects my self-esteem. She was an attractive person otherwise. She moved in with another woman whom I could tell was gay. No big deal.
As time went on I started noticing my friend acting strangely. She became very awkward around me and was unsure how to touch me. It became apparent to me that she had feelings other than friendship towards me. I liked men. It wasn't a secret. But somehow she had developed feelings for me that I couldn't return. I started drifting away from her, but I do that when I'm uncomfortable. It was clear to me that she was figuring things out for herself and I couldn't be what she needed me to be for her at that time.
Eventually I moved to the other side of the country and we lost touch completely (even with social media!). I did hear from a mutual friend a few years later that she had come out, for which I was glad.
After moving across country (for a man), I married and started a family. My first child was a girl. Awesome! I had things my mother had saved of mine that I could now impart on my own daughter. Crocheted sweaters, hats and booties; blankets; and my Barbie doll clothes (some handmade by my grandmother). As she grew, her blonde hair grew longer and thicker. I became very adept at braiding it. And picking out cute outfits for her.
Five years later I gave birth to another girl. Since I hadn't expected to have another child, I hadn't saved any of my first daughter's things, so I started at that point. She was wearing cute dresses. There were corduroy jumpers with turtlenecks in the winter and floral prints in the summer. I saved the cutest and the cedar chest filled up.
Fast forward five years and getting the younger one into a dress became a chore. And getting her to sit still while I did her hair was a struggle. While her big sister was playing dress up with her friends, the younger one was outside playing with the family of boys down the street. As time moved forward, she started wearing only jeans/shorts and T-shirts. Not girls, but boys clothes. She said the girls clothes didn't feel comfortable. The shorts were too short and she liked her shirts bigger.
Unfortunately for her, puberty made her change departments at the store. Then came her first homecoming dance. We shopped and shopped and finally found a dress that she could live with. A year later she was asked to the military ball and borrowed a gown from a friend. She looked beautiful. High school had turned her girly. She was doing things with her hair and wearing makeup. Dresses still weren't a staple of her wardrobe but she did wear one to prom and another to graduation.
Oh the things they learn in college!
After high school, my daughter moved out of state to attend college. The separation was hard for both of us as the last four years had just been the two of us. When she returned the following summer she announced she was bisexual. Okay. I knew there was experimentation on college campuses, so I wasn't really concerned or bothered or upset. She was out in the world on her own trying to find her way. I listened and accepted.
She left again and after one semester announced that she was totally gay. Okay. If she's happy, that's all that matters to me. I still wasn't convinced that this was permanent, but it's her life and it wasn't like she was experimenting with drugs or alcohol.
When she came back home again, she was dating women exclusively. She was hanging out with a group of like-minded individuals. I met them. They were fun. Just happy and having a good time. That's all I ever wanted for my children - to be happy.
When the local gay bar in town closed down, the shows they had moved to other locations. One was a bar that a friend of mine worked at. She invited me and a couple of mutual friends to join her one night for the drag show. I accepted. I was thinking I would see something like the movie "The Birdcage." Nope. It was more of a burlesque show. No big deal. We were having a great time.
After a couple of drinks I needed to visit the restroom. On my way out, as I was working my way through the crowd, I was greeted by the nicest people on the planet. I got back to the table and suddenly understood why homosexuals are called gay: because they're happy and gay and just want to spread love and sunshine wherever they go! I felt safe and loved and cared for. By people I had never met before. It was truly an eye-opening experience!
My daughter is a lesbian. She has a terrific girlfriend and they are so happy. Which makes me happy. She's still a hard worker. She's still caring and loving. And she knows that I will accept her no matter what. I know that she is surrounded by loving, caring people who only want her to be happy too. And now when I hear the term "gay" I smile and am glad I have an open mind and an open heart.