For me personally “when I knew,” relates to when I first realized that I was different in some intrinsic way from my peers. It was not the discovery that I liked other boys in any sexual way. That was years to come and a slow evolution that occurred in my mid-teens. Looking back the sexual urges and same-sex attractions bubbling up by age 14 were soon so overwhelming however that I may have forgotten what really sparked the whole trip of being different and that was not a hard-on.
Why was I so attracted to cooking and gardening and dreaded the softball we had to play before every 4-H meeting starting at age ten? Why did I go out of my way to avoid helping my dad repair farm machinery and instead preferred hanging with a couple of my favorite aunts in their kitchens? Why did I insist on being Sister “who ever” and dressing in the most crude nun drag when we played school? Why that last one did not get me hauled off to the parish priest for counseling I’ll never know.
As I have written for this group on several occasions perhaps the most provocative thing I ever heard Harry Hay say was that “the only thing we have in common with straight people is what we do in bed”. I do think though that he was not just trying to be provocative and stir up a flagging conversation but that he really believed this. Not to put words in his mouth but I think he knew that we were different in very intrinsic ways from straight men right out of the womb. We really do start our queer journey looking out a different window on the world than our comparable peers.
Let me relate again a story Hay often told about being corrected by lesbians that he did not throw a ball like a girl, as he was so admonished by the boys, but rather that he threw a softball like a sissy. If he ever did again throw a softball beyond his teen years in any setting, and this is highly unlikely, it would be as a Radical Fairie. I am totally unaware of any Radical Fairie softball teams anywhere but am willing to stand corrected.
For most of us, though I do acknowledge exceptions, I imagine that actually acting on physical attraction to members of the same sex started any where from very early to late teens. I wager to say though that there was for the vast majority of us a slowly awakening realization of difference before we ever acted on any such feelings of difference in a physically sexual manner. In other words this would have occurred earlier than stirrings in our nether regions. Coming to grips with these differences was often a source for many of significant stress.
Why one may ask is it that you may feel such a strong urge to give your sister’s Barbie dolls a new hair-do and why is that behavior not looked upon as the true gift to humanity that it is? Much of adult society including for sure our parents see our gender non-conforming behaviors very early and pressure us to suppress or at least not re-enforce these behaviors. This repression occurs in often not very subtle ways. We quickly get the message to leave Barbie’s hair alone or tend to it in the privacy of our own rooms. I heard Harry Hay say on more than one occasion that straight fathers could smell a difference in their gay sons.
All olfactory theories and Barbie facetiousness aside we as queer folk can bring a myriad of ways of looking at the world that are not only profoundly different but also beneficial to the human condition as a whole.
I do strongly feel that the greatest disservice we can do to our Queer brothers and sisters and the world at large, other than staying in the closet, is to deny the actualization of our differences from the hetero-normative zeitgeist. Running around saying that we are no different from straight people except for what we do in bed is to negate our evolutionary potential as leaders and supporters of the human tribe in ways that help guarantee the survival and prospering of the entire human race.
I obviously fall squarely in the camp that believes there is a genetic and epigenetic basis to homosexuality and that this occurs and results in a definitive survival benefit to the human race as a whole. This argument was recently presented in a lengthy piece in January-February 2018 edition of The Gay and Lesbian Review. Link to that piece here: http://www.glreview.org/article/evolutionary-origins-of-homosexuality/
Looking around this room and listening to the stories being told as I do every time I attend Story Telling my belief that we bring the golden threads to the human tapestry is constantly re-enforced.