Sunday, December 28, 2008


I thought I'd share how I became a lesbian. Unlike most coming out stories, mine begins not with a hot girl, but with a number. HQ1426. I came out because of that number. A Library of Congress Classification Number. I read a book. At age 12. In 1970. An anthology. Sisterhood Is Powerful.

I have often wondered if there are any other lesbians who came out because of reading a book. Because of reading that book. And if you are one of them, I would love to hear from you.

At the time I read the book, I hadn't had any significant romantic inclinations toward girls or boys, but I did read a lot, about politics, history, and then, feminism. And it seemed pretty darn clear to me, after reading that book, and a few others, that lesbianism was the ultimate expression of feminism, and feminism resonated with me, therefore, I should be a lesbian. Logical.

This always puts me in a slightly awkward position when there are discussions about whether or not queerness is genetically determined, like race (though we could have a discussion on the social construct of race), or an after birth choice, like religion. I have often heard the phrase "I didn't choose to be gay, I was born gay." Which I think is true for the majority of LGBT, but I am not so sure I can say so with such certainty. I may be genetically queer (yes, my ring finger is just a smidgen longer than my index finger), but I did make a serious and conscious choice to identify as a lesbian when I was 12, before I had had any conscious interest in sex with, or strong affectional attractions to, anybody.

It is also true that my subsequent experiences of sex with women have been absolutely consistent with a genetic determination of my sexual orientation as a lesbian. I adore sex with women, I have zero interest in sex with men. So perhaps I was just prescient about my sexual orientation at age 12. Perhaps just dumb luck that I have never had any cause or desire to consider "going straight" after 38 years of being a self-identified lesbian, and I have never had to wrestle with whether or not I made a "lifestyle" choice based on lust or the love of a particular woman who did or didn't let me down.

The fact that I came out at an early age because of a book, because of an intellectual choice made as a young person (my reading list in the summer of 1970 included: The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich, The Arms of Krupp, the complete works of Rudyard Kipling, the annotated Robert Burns, The Once and Future King, The Odyssey, etc, you get the picture) has made me less conflicted about some of the issues that affect other lesbians. My choice as a lesbian was never made based on men, on a desire or dislike for them, or on positive or negative sexual experiences with them. Men are personally irrelevant to me vis a vis sex. But as a lesbian feminist, I did make some decisions about sex, the nature of the dynamics of sexual relationships with women, once I became sexually active, that I now find I must reconsider.

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