Perhaps I should have known when I first identified with my community – in seventh grade. My lesbian french teacher became pregnant with her first child. As a child of San Francisco, I thought nothing of it. A few weeks after Mme G’s announcement, I overheard my mother speculating with a friend’s mother about the origin of the second set of 22 autosomal and 1 sex chromosomes required for conception. They laughed, declaring “certainly not the natural way!” I was incensed. I asked my mother why the mechanism of pregnancy mattered. She confidently proclaimed, “you’ll understand when you get older.”
In ninth grade Biology I was introduced to the mechanism of in-vitro fertilization, and the existence of a possible mechanism satisfied my scientific curiosity. For years I puzzled about why “unnatural” pregnancies could be considered problematic. Family decisions were, as far as I was concerned, none of my business and if beautiful children with loving parents resulted from test tubes then more power to them.Prior to my mother’s laughter about mechanism, it had never occurred to me that gay and lesbian people, or their families, were different in any way from straight ones. I was blessed by fantastic lesbian and gay teachers whose courage to be out and proud in the ’80’s and ’90’s now astounds me. In my naiveté I overlooked their courage.
Having missed the self-identification boat at twelve, maybe my lesbianism should have been inescapable in my first year at Wellesley. At four o’clock in the morning, on National Coming Out Day, I found myself still awake, high on symbols of equality and chalk dust from decorating the campus, and oblivious. I continued to swear I was straight. I even had a boyfriend. He looked amazing in a dress.
I finally figured out what was going on below my neck when I was twenty. I first saw her coiling climbing ropes in the middle of the lawn at summer camp in Santa Cruz. We were both in management – she for ropes and climbing, I for horseback riding. We spent all summer looking at each other. We spent one night in her truck together. It was freezing. We somehow managed to cover ourselves with a two-by-four-foot Mexican blanket – our bodies never touched.
I drove back to Massachusetts with my parents at the end of that summer. It was torturous. I stopped at her house in Nevada on the way. It was the only deviation we made off of I-80 until we’d made it through Pennsylvania. She and I went to bed at 5am. She asked if she could hold me. I didn’t sleep – never before had it been so important not to disrupt spooning. In the morning I left, convinced I would never see her again.
A week later, the pages of my travel diary filled with letters to her I would never send, I got a phone call. I answered it even though it was 11pm in New York and I didn’t recognize the number. She was on the other end of the line and drunk. “All summer I really wanted to kiss you. I guess it won’t happen now butIwantedtotellyouI’llhangupnow.” She blurted out. “Shit.” I responded. She stayed on the line. “Shit. Me too.” There was a long silence.
The next time I was in California, we met up on Davenport Beach. It’s the sort of place you don’t find by accident. We held hands and talked for four hours. I needed to catch a flight back to Massachusetts. We still hadn’t kissed. “Well, we’d better get this over with,” we agreed. She was so tall, and thin, and beautiful, and soft, and, and, and, and,… Her lips were warm and tasted like the ocean. We were wrapped in the Mexican blanket. She felt like home.
That was four years ago. Every morning I kiss her lips and I am home.