My mother’s question seemed totally random, completely unexpected. We had just gotten into the car and begun to drive home from the airport. I was in the middle bench of our family’s minivan. My mother was in the front passenger seat, while my father was driving. Silence. And, then, barely out of the parking lot, she turned around, faced me and asked, “Are you gay?”
It was September, 2000. I was returning from an internship in Botswana and preparing to begin a graduate course in the United Kingdom later that month. I had come out to myself a few months earlier, though I had known for some time that I was attracted to other men. I knew from my mother that what I felt was totally unacceptable – an abomination, no less.
While growing up, I actively tried to deny to myself and others that I was gay. It was a relief when in college I fell for a female classmate whom I found sexually attractive. The softness of her svelte body, the fullness of her lips and the fragrance of her Pleasures perfume were irresistible. Maybe I was or could be saved after all, I thought.
But why did I still, from time to time, find other men attractive? The more I think about human sexuality, the more I am swayed toward Kinsey’s belief that bisexuality is much more common than we tend to think it is, and toward Gore Vidal’s view that homosexual is an adjective, not a noun. At the time, though, I believed that sexual orientation was like racial identity in Detroit, where I grew up: you were either black or white. There was no in-between.
And then I met M., a handsome fellow classmate in graduate school. He invited me to a dinner party at his place. At some point that evening, I wandered alone into the kitchen, where M. found me. Before I knew it, we hugged and he licked my ear. The scent of his Kouros cologne, the touch of his cashmere sweater and the seductive contact intoxicated me. I wanted more.
Was I gay? After a brief, tense moment, I answered,“Yes.”