I had my first crush when I was five. His name was Jimmy H. and he lived in the house behind us. He was two years older, wiser, and so very handsome – it was destiny that we marry and have many babies that had his dark good looks. We were BFFs and practically inseparable – watching Batman on TV, than acting it out. I of course, was either Batgirl or Catwoman depending, on the episode that day.
I had my first kiss in first grade. While Jimmy H. was still my BFF, there was another boy who lived down the street from me named Doug. He wore a leather jacket, rode a brand new Huffy bike, and was always getting into trouble. He was a Bad Boy, and I was head over heels in love. We played freeze tag. He choose to unfreeze me by kissing my cheek. I was a goner, and thus began my infatuation with bad boys.
I had my first ‘boyfriend’ in 4th or 5th grade. Another Jimmy, Jimmy K. I remember walking the halls all through our recesses at the local Christian School, talking about anything and everything. I still have the necklace his mom made for him to give to me for Christmas that year – it still makes me smile. I cried when he moved away.
My first actual boyfriend came into my life at a sports retreat just before my 15th birthday. His name – unsurprisingly at this point – was Jimmy. Jimmy M. I had my first real kiss that same weekend, and we dated for 2 years. I went on to have other boyfriends, of course, but that’s how it all started.
But there’s some things missing in there, too. I had my first girl crush when I was 10. Her name was Laura, and I didn’t really think about it, because we’d been total BFFs for some time, and it seemed natural and right to want to grow up and share a house and be together forever. I didn’t delve any deeper to see if it meant more than BFF, because I didn’t care. I just knew we’d be together forever. I cried when she moved away.
After that, there was a steady stream of female friends, and looking back now, I can pinpoint the exact time I realized that my girl crushes likely meant I was bisexual. It wasn’t anyone I knew personally, but instead it was Suzanne from the Bangles and one key moment of the Walk Like An Egyptian video. There’s a close up of her eyes, and she looks from side to side on beat, and I’ve never forgotten that image ever. I wanted to stare at her, into those eyes, forever. It was 1986, I was 16 years old, and I never told a soul.
It’s not surprising that I’d choose to keep such a discovery under wraps, considering my background in Christian schools, attending church three times a week, and living in such a conservative town. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever come right out and told my mom that I dig girls, too, (…hi mom! *L*) Though I think she’s figured it out over the years.
So why bring it up now? I ran into an article from the NYTimes today, that discusses kids coming out – as early as Middle School, to their peers, their parents, their classes, their whole school. While there is still a LONG way to go, these students and their families are putting it all on the line to help put a stop to gay-bashing by simply being themselves, and being unafraid to do so. As the article points out, and using my own experience, no one thought twice to ask me if I was SURE I liked Jimmy K in grade school, or if it was just a phase. No one pushed me to identify my feelings, and make sure I liked him, because that is the acceptable norm. So why do we do that to our gay/lesbian/bisexual students of the same age group?
Middle School is a time where kids are discovering their identity, in all ways, including their sexuality. Whether they choose to come out or not at that age, it’s unsurprising that many can pinpoint their first discoveries of sexual orientation at that time, or even a bit earlier. Schools across the country are forming Gay Straight Alliance clubs, where they can meet together – no matter the orientation, and support each other. They understand what should be obvious – you don’t have to have sexual interaction in order to identify your attraction, and expecting our kids to identify strictly as straight because it’s easier isn’t fair to them, or us.
But in some areas, it’s getting better, and that’s where we need to keep our focus. It’s not automatically assumed that being gay leads to a life of loneliness and heartbreak any longer. Schools that would never allow their students to say “That’s so black!” are finally cracking down on the students that say “that’s so gay!” as well. We’re taking steps toward acceptance, and I find that encouraging! We’ve a long way to go, but movement in the right direction should be applauded.
So if your pre-teen/teenager has the balls to come to you and tell you they’re gay/lesbian/bisexual – don’t ask them if it’s a phase, don’t ask them if they’re sure, or how they could possibly know if they’re not sexually active (because that’s just silly, people!). Accept them with open arms, realize that they are STILL your kid, they’re still the amazing individual you’ve been raising all these years. Support them. It will go a LONG way to ensuring their happiness, which is what we ultimately want for our kids anyway, right?
Right! Make me proud, ya’ll!