COMMENTARY: I knew I wasn’t straight when …

I read an article this week that asked the question: “When did you know you weren’t straight?”

For as long as I can remember – that’s how long I knew I wasn’t straight. Now – if you were to ask me when did I finally admit it and start living openly as a lesbian? Well now – that would be the age of 50 – ten years ago.

Life in my home and in my hometown wasn’t designed for gays and lesbians. It was designed for white, straight, Republican, Christian folk who lived by the Bible and didn’t wander far from the fold of their family. You worked at one of the local businesses, you married your high school sweetheart, you had children, you went to the same church your family has always gone to, and that was what your life was. That’s what your family before you did; this is what you were expected to do.

My home wasn’t a place where feelings could be discussed. It was a place of secrets and schedules and lists. I knew my parents loved me, but I also knew what was expected of me, and I knew where my place was in the family. We all have our place – we all play a certain role in our families.

I was the only girl and that meant I was taught how to cook, how to iron, how to sew, how to clean. Really all I wanted to learn was how to throw a curveball, and how to throw a football so it was a spiral. Mother grew tired of the tomboy image and insisted I take piano lessons and learn of the finer things in life – like brewing tea and making the perfect cup of coffee. These would come in handy, I was told, when my husband came home from work and needed that perfect cup of coffee with his evening meal. Even at the age of 10, all I could think was: why can’t he just make his own coffee?

It wasn’t something I believed I could do anything about – these feelings I had for women. I mean – where was I going to go? Who was I going to talk to? Who was going to help me deal with how I was feeling? Everyone in this little town knew everyone and my family was everywhere – they lived all around me and were always in each other’s business. I felt trapped and did what a whole lot of other gays and lesbians from the 1950s and 1960s did – I ignored who I really was and pretended to be who I was expected to be. It didn’t work, just as I knew it wouldn’t…

Here we are some 60 years later and I look back sometimes and I wonder what my life had been had I had the courage of my convictions. I don’t wonder very long though, for my life now is certainly lived with the courage of my convictions. I can’t change anything that is already done, and hearts and minds that are closed can only be opened when people are willing to listen with open hearts and minds.

The little 5-year-old Barbie Sue just wanted to wear her cowboy boots and run in the mud… The 60-year-old Barbie Sue was shopping today, with her partner for a pair of cowboy boots to help support her ankles! There was never a doubt in my mind about who I was – ever. It wasn’t about not knowing – it was about having love and support on the journey.

When did you know? Leave your comments below!

Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in Pennsylvania and moved to California in the early 1980s, where she met her partner Susan. They've been together some 30 years and share the love of Susan's four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her blog, Barb's Gift of Gab," can be found HERE.

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