Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Little Girls
my sister in blue on the left, me on the right in pink

This is a first person story I have needed to tell for some time. It’s a story of two little girls: me and my younger sister. 

We were two little girls who grew up in the South in the 1960s and 70s; two little girls raised by the same family, playing with the same toys, sharing the same friends, attending the same schools, worshipping at the same churches, and growing into two remarkably different women. This story is written to share my personal experience and is for you, regardless of whether you think that sexual orientation is influenced by nature or nurture. 

Boy-Crazy from Birth

family vacation at Watoga State Park in WV
I can’t remember the first time I was aware that I am heterosexual. I remember being crazy about boys from the very beginning. Boys were such a mystery and so fascinating to me. When I was around a boy I liked (and I think I liked all of them), my heart would race and my sense of reason would fly out the window. I remember wishing that my Barbie doll had a Ken so she could be happy. I remember putting my scratchy crinoline slip on my head and pretending to be a bride with a big veil.

My first crush was on a boy named “Chris” who was from England just like Davey Jones, and when I was around him I could not think straight. When I was not around him, I thought about him constantly. Chris had a younger brother my sister’s age and their play together was so different, not awkward the way I felt. When I look back on it, my interactions with boys were different than my sister’s because the way we each felt about boys was different from the beginning. My sister amazed me by the way she could be so cool headed and rational about boys when I was absolutely inept.

Our Favorite Christmas Present

in Gretna, LA, sister on the left,
me on the right, playing teacher
Christmas of 1967, we were living in Gretna, LA, a suburb of New Orleans. Santa Clause brought the most amazing doll/action figure play sets of Jane and Josie West. I got the Jane doll because I was older. The dolls came with everything a cowgirl would need for riding or making a home on the range. So we both dug in and loved them. When you removed the gear and plastic leather clothing, the dolls were dressed in denim and boots, not naked and busty like that Barbie. And they could be whoever they wanted to be, outdoorsy or homie, glamorous or athletic, or both. And that was exactly what these two little girls needed because we were both outdoorsy and homie, glamorous and athletic, just like the West girls.

Coming Out, 1981

sisters in cowboy hats,
just like Jane and Josie West
years before
So I got to be the first family member to whom my sister announced her special secret. I remember she phrased it carefully, as a question not a statement: “What if I told you that I was gay?”
My response was kind of neutral. I said “Well that would be all right. Are you gay?” 

I remember that what I was really thinking is that I wouldn’t be able to be her maid of honor or Aunt Viqui to her kids. Looking back on my response, what a narcissistic princess I am, thinking about how someone else’s situation would impact me before I thought about the reality of how hard life must be for my sister and how hard it must have been to share the secret out loud with me. I don’t remember if I hugged her, but I hope I did. I do remember laughing and feeling happy to have another secret to share with my sister. After we laughed together that day, I felt good, like we had survived yet another family drama and come out on the other side together and stronger.
sister, brother, and me,
posing on a family vacation
beside the Big Boy

I Was Born This Way

So there’s a piece of my personal story. How I grew up to be a flaming heterosexual, despite growing up in a house where the same environment produced different outcomes. I never made a conscious choice to be straight. I was boy-crazy from birth. My sister was different from me from birth, too.

I was born this way.