I realized I wasn’t straight in high school. In religion class.

I first became conscious of my same-sex attraction at age 16, sitting in high school religion class.

“The gays” weren’t on most people’s radars back then. They were people you snickered about, made AIDS jokes about. But our fervent and orthodox religion teacher took note of groups like ACT UP and Queer Nation and shared articles about them from Time and Newsweek. This was around 1992, when the “politically incorrect” movement was gaining momentum and “family values” were a presidential campaign issue. Looking back, he was a good teacher. Not one of those “Church of Nice” types. Most of us rolled our eyes at his “out there” spiels but he got his message across. Even if we rejected it.

Anyways. I don’t remember what exactly he said that particular day. But it triggered a spark of recognition / slap in the face that I was not straight. Like, BAM! “Dude, that’s you he’s talking about!” You, who fantasizes about the guys on the football team. You, who stare at the shirtless muscular guy in the Bowflex infomercials. You, who have no attraction to girls, or sports. You, who wanted to be an interior decorator when you were 10.

I never experienced despair or asked “why me?” Maybe that’s because I’d always been the dork, the nerd, the kid who threw like a girl, the kid who got bullied and teased and called names. I was used to being different. So I┬ákept my dirty little secret to myself for the next two years. Never went to prom, or on a date.

I wanted to be normal. I wanted to find a girl, get married, buy a house, and have kids. I kept that hope alive for several years.

(To be continued)