Thursday, July 21, 2016

On a plain between two rivers, my father built a house with a faulty foundation. Thomas Wolfe knows where I'm going with this. Maybe Heraclitus too.

I could tell you stories of how I got here, but the arriving is far more important.

My daughter came out to me at our kitchen table; the same table built for me from a discarded closet door that once hung in an historic house in an Idaho city I lived in for something close to a decade but never called home.

She likes girls too, she said.

I'd been in her situation before with my own mother, in her campus office where she practiced counseling university students prior to becoming certified. And she confronted me about my considerable affiliation with the campus gay and lesbian association with something like:

What do you need with those people?
And I replied, I'm one of those people, mom. I'm bisexual.

Later she said, As long as you don't act on it.

As if somehow knowing I'm a queer kid doesn't act on me. As if it doesn't still, even several heteronormative marriages later, even though I've finally found a man with whom I'm happy, even though I still identify as devout Mormon, even though I haven't dated a woman in over twenty years.

In the house my father built I sometimes dressed as a boy, cut my hair short, tried peeing through an empty toilet paper roll to know what it must feel like to hold my gender in my hand, squatted over some sort of discarded plastic container in order to catch my first menstrual blood. I needed to examine this defining thing that inescapably meant I was a woman. I cringed behind my secret fascination with my body's draining itself until my mother found the stash in my nightstand drawer, dried blood flaked in the circular pattern at the container's base. I can't remember what words she used exactly, but maybe sick, maybe weird. And how are those things not so different from how she's always said the word queer?

Around the time I started coming out I remember thinking that somehow I was making a big announcement. But then I told a gay kid at a summer ballet camp, Let's get one thing straight: I'm not. And he responded, Oh honey, that's not news. We all know.

Was it how I watched the other female dancers? Did I give myself away in demeanor? I mean, I had confusedly confessed to my best friend in seventh grade that I loved her. But I thought I'd talked my way back out of that a week later after the other kids stopped snickering the word lesbian behind my back. Lesbian was what the kids in my neighborhood called Mrs. Wick, my fourth grade teacher, who abandoned her infant son to the care of her husband in the summer after the school year ended and ran off to Seattle with her best friend, Miss Lean. I adored Miss Lean's feisty tomboyishness, loved when she'd visited our classroom, went on field trips with us, helped out in PE. That part of lesbian I could handle, but who could walk away from their own child?

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