By the time I was in the ninth grade I accepted the fact I was a homosexual. I wasn’t out or proud. I was scared. I had done my time with self-loathing and trying to talk myself into being normal. My knowledge of the homosexual world revolved around what I’d picked up from TV, church, family and friends. Homosexuals were sinners, gross deviants who were to be laughed at and avoided. Although I didn’t feel that described me, I came to terms with it. After all, I thought boys were cute.
Toward the end of my freshman year of high school, I was given a glimmer of hope that maybe I wasn’t such a terrible person. I had a teacher who decided to stray from the normal health-class curriculum by sharing her story of homosexuals. She started the lesson off by referring to the community as gay. A student quickly asked if she meant homosexuals. She answered yes, but said they preferred to be called “gay” because their lives were about whom they love and not necessarily about with whom they have sex, a pretty ballsy move for a Southern teacher in 1990. She went on to describe gay people as normal. This was a first for me. I remember living next to a gay couple when I was in elementary school. Plenty of words were used to describe them, but normal wasn’t one of them.