(I meant to post this during pride month, but true to form I’m running a bit late)…
“What if I wasn’t born this way at all? What if I married Abby not just because I’m gay but because I’m SMART? What if I DID choose my sexuality and my marriage and they are simply the truest, wisest, most beautiful, most faithful, most divine decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life?”
I have been dating women for over two years now, but never, until typing the title of this article, have I identified myself as a “lesbian.” For almost twenty years, I lived my life as an extremely conservative Christian. When I fell in love with a woman for the first time, the narrative most people around me, including Jon, adopted was that I’d always been gay and due to my upbringing or perhaps the stance of the church, I had simply repressed who I “really was.” I accepted this narrative, though it didn’t quite ring true for me, because it gave Jon a reason to support me (“she can’t help it”) and it gave me a socially acceptable justification for my actions (“I was born this way.”) It was easy to defend my decisions if they were the result of something I couldn’t help because otherwise—if I’d chosen this, if I’d dared to follow my own heart out of my marriage and into the arms of a woman—well, then, I was just a selfish bitch. So, for me, rather than being a statement of freedom and self-identity, the term “lesbian” seemed a cop-out—an easy way out of judgment. The term also carried feelings of shame and moral failure for me, not because of my Christianity, but because I saw the possibility that I might never be able to sexually connect with a man as a sign of spiritual regression. I hated the idea that I couldn’t love someone in that way based solely on their gender. But a recent conversation on this subject brought the words of Elizabeth Gilbert to mind:
“One thing I know about physical intimacy is that there are certain natural laws which govern the sexual experience of two people, and that these laws cannot be budged any more than gravity can be negotiated with. To feel physically comfortable with someone else’s body is not a decision you can make. It has very little to do with how two people think or act or talk or even look. The mysterious magnet is either there, buried somewhere deep behind the sternum, or it is not. When it isn’t there, you can no more force it to exist than a surgeon can force a patient’s body to accept a kidney from the wrong donor. My friend Annie says it all comes down to one simple question: ‘Do you want your belly pressed against this person’s belly forever—or not?’”
If this is true (and I believe wholeheartedly that it is) then the reality is that just as I have preferences regarding age and intelligence and interests, I have preferences regarding gender. I don’t want my belly pressed against a man’s forever. I have sexual longings and desires that simply don’t include men. What if this is not a failure at all? What if it IS a choice? What if it’s me imagining the truest, most beautiful life for myself? What if it’s me finally, finally listening to that still, small voice that has been silenced far too long?
I made a life with a man. I made a beautiful, wonderful life with an amazing man. And now I am entering the second half of my life. The half of my life where I have chosen to honor the deepest, truest part of myself and follow the internal leading I spent years ignoring. The half of my life where I have chosen to imagine the most beautiful, most fulfilling life I can and seek it with every bit of my physical and emotional energy. And when I ask that deepest, truest part of me what I want for the second half of my life, the answer is clear:
I want to spend it with a woman.
“And what if I demand freedom not because I was ‘born this way’ and ‘can’t help it’ but because I can do whatever I choose to do with my love and my body from year to year, moment to moment–because I’m a grown woman who does not need any excuse to live however I want to live and love whomever I want to love?”