|Journey: A British Teenager|
British Teenager - May 2002
I was born in Britain in the mid-1980s. I remember saying when I was about five that I preferred my father to my mother. I did, in fact, spend more time with my mother than my father, but I find it hard to see that as anything to do with my same gender attraction (sga). My relationship with him was probably below average, but I was certainly never aware of any great emotional void in my life in need of filling.
On the other hand, I did have problems relating to my peers. I could already read fairly well when I started school so, despite being younger than most of the people in the lowest class, I was put into a class with people a couple of years older than me. Most of my classmates respected me, but they regarded me as something of a curiosity. While I was grateful for the school's adaptability, I don't think it helped my social development. A few months after I started, the teachers had an educational psychologist see me because I seemed to be socialising so badly. I can't remember what she said, but it didn't seem relevant at the time; I just wasn't particularly interested in other people. I would later be diagnosed with mild Asperger's Syndrome - that is, very borderline autism - which explains things a little.
At the age of around eleven or twelve, my isolation first became a source of unhappiness to me. It seems to be at about that age inter-child relationships stop being based within the community of everyone who knows each other and begin to take place more within distinct social circles - or at least, that's what it felt like to me - and I wasn't in anyone's social circle. I had a vague sense of being less masculine than the other boys, but more than that I was, irrational though it sounds, frightened of socialising with them. I did want to be closer to them, however, and for several years I was very focused on one particular boy in my class, making fumbling, inexperienced attempts to be his friend. Often I would sit and imagine impossible situations that might facilitate this. He liked me, but he didn't understand me, and I never had the courage to try to see him outside school.
When we ended up in different classes I got over it with surprisingly little difficulty; it was almost as if my interest in him had developed to a different stage, and I needed a fresh start. I soon became fixated with another male teenager - we were teenagers by this stage - although by this stage I'd got my social skills more in order and had people I could describe as my friends, but I still felt I wanted something more from this one person. I did consider the possibility that I was in love with him, but rejected it for several reasons. Firstly, I certainly hadn't chosen sga, and I had a vague, incorrect assumption that I hadn't really thought about that sga was usually chosen. Secondly, I didn't want to engage in same gender behavior (sgb) with him; although, again, I wrongly assumed then (as most people seem to) that sgb among men consisted entirely of a certain practice I have always found and still do find repellent.
In other words, I can see now that neither of those reasons meant very much. Most importantly, however, I knew at the time that I couldn't be gay because I was beginning to develop sexual attraction to girls. There were several girls I found very attractive from a physical point of view and that I enjoyed looking at. Looking at it in retrospect, I can see that this was purely physical; I would happily have gone to bed with one of them, but I could never have shared my life with her. It was, nevertheless, opposite gender attraction (oga).
I spent the next few years rather confused, but looking back, I can see that there were some trends in my experiences. My romantic sga remained constant and my erotic oga shifted into almost exclusive sga. Bit by bit and, strangely, without much conscious choice being involved, I developed same gender identity (sgi). There wasn't actually much conscious choice in my acceptance of this; the only moment I remember was when, just about to start my ???? (GCSEs) and with my future much on my mind, I looked at myself in the mirror in a rather clichéd mannerand said to myself, "I'm going to have to accept it. I'm gay." The day after that I changed my mind again, but I still remember it as a pivotal moment. After that, I pretty much had constant, if weak, sgi. I've been agnostic and politically liberal since I was old enough to hold my own opinions, so it wasn't all that hard for me to to accept it, if not to value it.
I adopted what I consider a classic Side A position: sg* should be tolerated whether pathological or not because people with sga don't have a choice about any of it. Unable to contemplate the possibility that the loss of my oga might have been because of a failure to take an interest in the opposite sex, I told myself I was born gay and wrote off my oga as the product of the imagination of someone desperate to conform to heterosexist norms.
When I actually started reading about homosexuality, I had to question this. There were people who made good arguments that attraction were the result of upbringing or peer relationships. Even worse, there were people who claimed to have chosen sga. And worst of all, there were these strange creatures calling themselves "ex-gays" who claimed to have been able to develop oga where they had had none before. And I had, I was forced to admit, had oga. If more people heard about these people then they might expect me to change as well! I think it was while I was reading some ex-gay stories from the Internet that something finally clicked in my mind. This man was talking about how he'd experienced rejection from "the homosexual community" when he announced that he was giving up his sgi. His friends wouldn't speak to him, people thought he was a freak, etc. Thinking about things carefully, that seemed an awful lot like people's stories of what had happened when they announced their sgi. And thinking about things even more carefully, my own experiences did rather suggest that attractions could be rather more complex, or maybe even more fluid, than I'd made myself believe.
Why was it I'd assumed that I'd been born gay and that all ex-gays were self-deluding (or people who had been bisexual all along and lying about it)? Because, in essence, however much I thought I'd accepted my sga/sgi, I'd never really accepted sg* as truly equal to og*. I'd been believing all the time that homosexuality was really a defect and that there was no good Side A argument except "we can't help it". Paradoxically, only the strongest biological determinism could provide personal freedom. But really, I began to reason, if nothing's wrong with sg*, why does it matter if it's inherent, learnt or chosen, or whether it's changeable or not? Doesn't respect for the freedom of individuals to choose their own lifestyle lead naturally to respect for ex-gays? Doesn't a desire for the well-being of gaya and lesbians, often an marginalised minority, require a desire for the well-being of people with sincere Side B views, often a marginalised minority?
That's more or less where I am now at the age of seventeen, and what attracted me to Bridges Cross the Divide.. I don't really know entirely the reasons for my sga. I find it hard to separate it from my peer relationships. Although most people seem to consider Bem's theory of Exotic Becomes Erotic as "interesting but wrong", I can see quite a bit of myself in it. I was aware of some degree of gender-related difference between my self and other boys, but what I really felt most strongly was sheer loneliness; my experiences were rather more pathological than what Bem would probably consider as generic sga development. On the other hand, the time my sga really developed was the same time I developed my social skills, so perhaps there was no relation between my loneliness and sga at all. Or maybe it's just that my early experiences were more important to my development. But, whatever the reason is for my sga, I don't consider it as relevant to whether I should consider sga as pathological, which I don't. I've come to consider myself as "gay", but I'm not "out" yet to more than a handful of people, more because this would make a resurgence of oga rather embarrassing than because of social disapproval. I'm perfectly content with sgi, but I hope I'd be equally content with ogi if my feelings change. The best thing for me to do at the moment is probably, as people here suggest, for me not to commit myself strongly to any particular idea of where I'm going to be in ten years time. That's something I just can't know.