I’m lucky — coming out was easier than coming to terms with my sexuality. My parents are amazeballs, I didn’t lose any friends, and it never affected my job. The only person bothered was my one serious ex-boyfriend – we’ll call him Matthias. We dated through two years of high school and one year after, kind of. I say “kind of” because on the day my parents and I drove Matthias to college, my dad discovered gay sex online on my boyfriend’s new computer, beginning a tempestuous year-long breakup where I came to terms with the fact that I was his beard and he, in fact, was mine. I walked away knowing he was gay but not knowing who or what I was. A full decade later, Matthias reached out and we attempted to be friends. I came out – and learned several disappointing, but not terribly surprising things.
He blamed it on our breakup. Let me make that clear. Matthias BLAMED my SEXUALITY on our BREAKUP. I have a gift for remembering the things that send me into a rage, so I am quoting him almost verbatim when I tell you that he said he “could see how something as traumatic as our breakup could make [me] choose to be a lesbian.”
He referred to my sexuality as a choice. Let me repeat that: he told me that I chose to be a lesbian. This reaction struck me as wrong on approximately 17 different levels, beginning with the fact that he’s gay and knew better. We came from a small Virginia town where Southern Baptist was the religion of choice. His conservative grandparents actively tried to “talk him out of” being gay, so I blamed it on his upbringing, his environment, internalized homophobia – I went digging for excuses because I was high on the nostalgia of reconnecting with someone who once meant so much to me.
It somehow became about him. At first, it seemed like he was just sharing how hard it was for him to feel comfortable in his own skin, something with which I strongly empathized. Soon, however, it circled back around to how much easier it was for “girls who choose to be lesbians” because there wasn’t such a stigma attached. I had no idea either of those things were true! (Newsflash: they’re not.)
He acted kind of insulted. As we continued talking, Matthias got a bit upset. Our former sex life was the culprit, as it happened – we lost our virginity to each other and had to sneak around to motels and open fields to fornicate. What about all the orgasms I had? Hadn’t I been attracted to him? Was he bad at sex? (I faked them, I had not, and yes, he was.)
Strangely inappropriate comments about my then-fiancée ensued. She’s my wife now and I brag about her to everyone, so of course I did the same with Matthias. I showed off her photos, talked about how smart and sweet and beautiful she is, and – oh, but wait. Instead of discussing her successes or what drew us together in the first place, Matthias wanted to compliment her breasts and her ass – which are stellar, don’t get me wrong, but… what?
There were hints at getting back together. WTF? To be fair, I don’t think Matthias wanted to get back together romantically. It was more that he invited himself up to New England to live with us and play houseboy. I am not exaggerating. No need to embellish the madness. Full disclosure: he still DMs my mom and dad sometimes, saying it’s a shame he never got to be their son-in-law.
He offered us sperm. This occurred after I finally answered his rather invasive questions about our plans for a family. I demurred for several reasons, beginning with his recent bipolar diagnosis and ending with his caveman forehead, which hadn’t bothered me when I was young and pretending to be in love.
I realized that sometimes desperation looks like love. I dated Matthias because he wanted to date me. He was nice and funny and he didn’t make fun of my weight, trombone-playing, or good grades. We were both chubby outcasts. We clung to each other and for a brief period of time, I believed he was beautiful – because he kept me safe. People didn’t ask questions and I didn’t think thoughts. I believed I truly was in love with him… but now I think maybe I wasn’t.
I don’t know how other guys react when their exes come out, but Matthias’s reaction underscored the way so many people view female sexuality in general and lesbianism in particular. The idea that it’s a choice or it has to occur because of a bad breakup, a traumatic event, or a sex god boyfriend… that’s just ludicrous to me. But at least it allowed me to walk away, dusting nostalgia off my heels.
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