Realizing I’m not straight at the dawn of my 40s has been a confusing and frustrating process without a clear line of origin. For the past four years, I’ve been retracing my life’s steps, trying to find loose dots in memory I somehow forgot to connect. I’d like to believe that my queerness has been in front of me my whole life, but it was a cheeky hider.
Without evidence of my queerness in adolescence or early adulthood, I’ve had to accept that my story isn’t a simple straight line. Most “later-in-life” gay discovery stories available online don’t describe how I got here. I didn’t secretly crush on a girl in middle school or suppress a drunken encounter in college. I always considered myself a straight person whom love had eluded until that story no longer made sense. When I finally got the courage to ask, it felt as if I heard God breathe a sigh of relief, replying, “Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for you to ask this question?”
To find our origin stories, we usually look back for historical threads that show up in our present-day lives. But for the first time in my life, I can’t rely on retrospection for an explanation; I have to rely on something more akin to faith. My queerness requires an embrace of the speculative – believing in things not yet seen and finding understanding in what’s possible. I can try to make meaning of little moments my memory now tells me were queer foreshadowing. Still, there’s no way to verify the accuracy of those stories I tell myself.
Where reliance on memory falls short, speculation offers an opportunity for a new point of view. Instead of seeking validation from the past, what if I lived as if my queer origin story were starting right now? How would I ensure I fully experienced it? For starters, I would try to live viscerally and feel everything on a sensory level. I would lock memories fully in my body and cultivate a childlike sense of wonder about what’s to come. I would allow myself to imagine fantastical futures and enjoy the gift of surprise that queerness offers my life.
Now that I’ve written it, I can see the path before me. Enjoying a speculative queer future means making peace with the regret I feel over the queer awakening I missed in adolescence and embracing the story demanding to be written today.
This post is part of my January “300 for 30 Challenge.” I’ve challenged myself to publish a 300-word (ish) creative nonfiction essay every day for 30 days. This exercise is part of the development of my writing practice. These are not meant to be “complete” and you’ll probably see me pick some of these back up to create longer pieces later. Thanks for reading!