The next year at camp I fell in love and fell hard but wouldn’t act on it. I’m sure there are people who think we did but we didn’t. I didn’t come out even to myself until camp was over and I decided that if I was gay then to hell with what the church said because I sure didn’t feel that I was evil or bad. I took the next step out that if the church was wrong and I wasn’t bad then I better leave the church because nothing had really changed except that I could look in the mirror and acknowledge what and who I was and stop hiding from myself. It’s still one of the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
We were dragged to church several times a week our entire lives as kids. We were even born in the church hospital. We were dedicated when we were babies. Presbyterians don’t baptize even when they call it that. It’s a dedication that involves the parent’s agreeing to raise the child in the church. It doesn’t obligate the child to anything. I refused to get baptized when we had to join the church in 7th grade. My best friend did but I flat out refused to get up in front of the church and do it. I wasn’t exactly sure why but I knew I didn’t want it. My mom should have known then that something was up. I don’t remember Dad saying anything and he was an Elder in the church. All I knew was they couldn’t make me and I didn’t do it.
Sometimes I wonder how my siblings and I ever escaped the brainwashing and came out of the closet but all three of us did. My brother just became an Episcopalian instead of a Presbyterian but we all left. Interesting because at the time it was the largest Presbyterian Church in the US. Most of our friends were there even the one’s I had gone to school with also went to my church so when I left I knew I was leaving everything behind. My family, my choirs, my childhood friends, most of my role models, everything except Girl Scouts was getting dumped. I had to make a totally new life with only my brother at that point in it from the past. It was hard. It was extremely hard but it was the right thing to do for me to be a whole person.
Now it isn’t as hard unless you live in the Bible Belt or in a very conservative place but then? In 1979 it was only 10 years after Stonewall. I wasn’t out enough to take on Gay Pride but I was out. I came out to my brother after all my friends informed me that he was gay.
We were supposed to be buying him dress shoes that day and instead I got in the car and as we were leaving the house I flat out asked him if he was gay. His response was to ask me if I was. My reply ,what do you think? We never got him shoes that day because he decided I was going to meet his friends at the Grand Opening of Different Light bookstore. It turned out his friends had been telling him the same thing mine had. We had a great time and got the Broadway 5 minutes before closing so we could say we had looked and not lie to my mom.
It was gut wrenching to leave everything I had known but when a friend dropped Z’s first book in my lap. I was more ready for something else. Z’s book was still a yellow bound paper book, not even massed produced and I remember sitting on the floor reading about cursing with my eyes bugging out. I wasn’t that ready yet. It took a while longer and to be out of control psychically with no shields to agree to go to her HP and wound up sitting circle my first night there. And being told to go read, “Positive Magic”. I was headed up to camp in a week. A Catholic camp I’d never worked at before. I read that book in secret all that summer and for the first time a lot of the stuff my grandmother had said made sense. I had come home. So becoming a pagan was a lot easier than the wrench that coming out of the gay closet was. I had a lot less to lose by then.
I have to say Coming Out as a pagan was 2000% easier than Coming Out as gay, partly because the work had already been done and partly because the religion change wasn’t as big as internal deal with coming out as a lesbian.
I came out as a lesbian to myself and my friends in Sept of 1979 and it would have been earlier but for some events that threw me firmly back in the closet along the way. Part of this was that until the 1970’s no one talked about women being gay among anyone I knew, it was always about men so I didn’t know there was even an option. I just knew I liked girls and I had absolutely no interest in boys other than friends to climb trees with and throw dirt clods at.
My first crush was my first grade Sunday School teacher who sealed the deal when she found out my favourite story was “Greyfriar’s Bobby”. Disney had just made it into a movie and she knew one of the stars, Donald Crisp. She got him to autograph the record album and gave it to me. I still have it. That album sent me clear over the moon and the funny thing is I can’t even remember her name anymore.
When “Here Comes the Brides” were on TV I had a crush on one of the brides played by Bridget Hanley. My mom thought it was on Bobby Sherman so I ended up with a Bobby Sherman record that Christmas. I guess I had already learned to keep exactly who I was looking at a secret.
I remember telling my mom at age 9, the same year I first started pulling psychic shit that I was going to be the first Presbyterian nun because I wasn’t going to get married and I wanted to be a minister. I had a limited understanding at that point of nuns. I thought they were just Catholic ministers who happened to be women. My mom saw a lot wrong with this. I remember her even bringing up grandchildren and I told her then I wasn’t going to have them. The other thing she found wrong with it was the nun thing. I had a Great Great Aunt Annie who was the black sheep of the family for becoming a nun back in Canada and even moved to Quebec to do it from Toronto. Even when I was little the convent was still sending handmade lace every time they needed money. She had to be in her 90’s at that point because her only brother left had died at 92 not that long before I was born. I wish I knew what her nun name was. Anyway, I was already headed into no man’s land on two counts at that point.
I even wrote it in my plans when we had to write what we wanted to do when we were grown up. We had to write a sealed letter and give it to our parent’s to hold. I found it when we cleaned out the house when mom sold it. Pretty amusing. I was sort of right.
I did everything I could to avoid dating in high school. I even had one guy following me home at one point. I knew I didn’t want to date him and I wasn’t experienced enough to tell him go away. I think he finally got the hint at Christmas when he made me a lovely necklace from a tumbled white sapphire and I didn’t get him anything. The funny thing was he married a good high school friend and our 10 year reunion he hit on me again! With her standing there! I had short hair and a tuxedo on.
I got to college and joined a sorority that no longer exists and managed most of the time to get out of having a date for our events. I did end up going on two blind dates with the same guy. Both times backed into it by a pledge sister and couldn’t get out of it. Really nice but a geekier geek than even I was and I expect a very closeted gay guy. It was 1973, there weren’t many out people then. Several years later when I volunteered as a monitor for the AIDS quilt I found his square. I hadn’t known he was dead and I never knew he had come out. I hope he was happy. I finally went on a date with a guy from choir to see what the fuss was about. He kissed me, I kissed him back. Not terribly thrilling and he was a little pissed that I had kissed back? What the hell were you supposed to do be a wet fish on a wall? Anyway that was the last time I dated a guy. Thank heavens!
So I started to work at kids camps and started to have severe summer crushes. Some of the them probably never knew and one did and was horrified. It wasn’t until I got to Pines that the penny finally dropped. The first year I was there I was invited to a road party. You couldn’t drink in camp so on your night out you went up to the road to “watch the moon”. It was a road party for the dykes in camp and they had invited me. I didn’t figure this out until I was back in camp and realized an assumption had been made. Ooops! After that I didn’t get invited to too many road parties except by the horse and water women who were straight.
I was really starting to wonder about who and what I was by then but I was still struggling with all the Sunday School crap and indoctrination at that point so I couldn’t be gay. I really struggled with it a lot. I only knew one other person who was gay and that was Jim, one of the member’s of Mom’s Church Choir and later mine and I loved him dearly. He always challenged me to do knew and better art work and to stop using patterns when I made things. But always behind his back it was “poor Jim, he’s one of those unhappy homosexuals.” But he never seemed unhappy to me and he had the best sharp sense of humour of any one I knew growing up. So I was confused.
And then there was HG the second year of camp. She went around telling kids they were going to grow up to be gay. Not cool! She kissed me in front of the whole Dining Hall and I was horrified and went running to the Camp Director whose answer was less than helpful and she couldn’t see anything wrong with it. It shocked me right back to the back of the closet.
And then I took a group of kids backpacking that had just come back from a trip with HG. The entire trip was horror stories about HG’s behaviour some of which was abusive liked tossing the smallest kid into the stream on her head because she’d said, “O how gay!” Because of the Camp Director’s response to the first incident I went to talk to C the camp cook who was the source of all wisdom as far as I was concerned. She called the Council and HG ended up getting fired after they talked to me and the kids. Even though C and the Council person were gay I was the one blamed for HG getting fired and there were some people who never forgave me for that. But it was right and the proper thing to do at the time and I’d do it again to protect a child.