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A Big Gay Choice

California just overturned Prop 8 based on finding fact in the immutability of sexual orientation. I know this is true because I've tried NOT being gay.

Liz Armstrong

Chances are if you’re reading VICE, you’re not swimming in gold nuggets in the in-ground safe of your mansion that's protected by an invisible laser security matrix. So the option of getting a million dollars to make one major change in your life… maybe you’d consider it, right? So OK heteros, here’s your big question: If someone gave you a million dollars to become gay, starting right now and lasting for the rest of your life, like really truly gay, no more yin and yang business, strictly totally sincere homoerotic encounters until the day you expel the last bit of saliva vapor from your final breath, could you do it?

No, you couldn’t. You’d be miserable. That’s because being gay is not a choice, for once and for all, and it’s stupidly exhausting to even try to discuss it from an intellectual point of view, or quasi-intellectual, as people who maintain this theory are braindead. Somehow, though, this discussion’s been raging in minute detail in California for the last four years, ever since the state supported Proposition 8 and made it illegal for queers to marry each other. And just yesterday, in a refreshing spark of legal clear-headedness, it’s been overturned and deemed unconstitutional.

This is the second time Prop 8’s been regarded as piece of trash legislature, only to be hauled back in court, black-eyed, bandaged up, propped on crutches, croaking nonsense as blood spewed out of its mouth. And yesterday Judge Reinhardt beat it down again, presenting all kinds of turns of striking prose in a 133-page document including what is now accepted as FACT about same-sex marriage. As the watchdogs at Prop 8 Trial Tracker noted, “These findings of fact are highly significant, because while appellate courts can overturn a lower court’s decision based on its findings of law, they usually defer to those courts’ findings of fact.”

Here is one such fact: Sexual orientation is immutable. This is the first time the court has deemed this as indisputable, that being gay or being straight or anywhere in between (though let’s leave that last one alone for now, because it really confuses legal square types) isn’t some kind of identity option for people.

And I know this because for the majority of the first 29 years of my life I tried NOT to be gay, and it was continuously confusing. Even though I drew pictures of naked ladies since I was a child, masturbated to the heaving bosoms of women on the romance novels in the grocery stores, was separated from playing with other little girls when I was a kid because I was too pervy, got crushes on lady teachers and my teen girlfriends, and was made fun of throughout junior high and high school for liking girls, I couldn’t admit to myself that I was gay. There was no gay community around me, as I grew up in the suburbs, and while “lesbian” was a fine label for someone else, it just was not for me. Loads of people around me knew it, too, including family members. I was a classic and real-life literal case of But I’m a Cheerleader.

So I’d get into long-term relationships with men and treat them poorly, and stop having sex with them after a year, and lock myself in a room like once every six months and freak out in a panic that I was GAY. Then I’d go on the internet, find some girl to hook up with, and it wouldn’t work out because she was either way too butch or else straight. Or once in a while I’d hit on a hot lesbian and she’d shoot me down quite cruelly because I had no game, no self-confidence, had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Don't even get me started on the bisexuals, who in my experience are largely narcissists and performers (I know because I was one of them). So then feeling optionless with the ladies, I’d defeatedly resign myself to a heterosexual relationship.

There’s no way of knowing or projecting how this might’ve been different for me or any of the closeted homos past and present if gay marriage was just a whatever kind of thing. I know I start to venture on thin ice if I try talking about taking refuge in “social norms,” because for one, I work at VICE, which is decidedly anti-social, and two, I’ve never given a shit about what’s supposed to be acceptable. I can, however, say that I believe having very few healthy public same-sex couples as role models can damage the community’s ability to form them.

Says Judge Reinhardt in his ruling, “Proposition 8 serves no purpose and has no effect other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

Proposition 8 is different from the campaigns to legalize marriage in that it already was legal, and then some bigots got their way. It’s less simply demoralizing than flat-out bullying. It sets a precedent for what is and isn't acceptable. As Judge Reinhardt noted in his ruling yesterday, support strategists for Proposition 8 claimed, in their own words, that “there were limits to the degree of tolerance Californians would afford the gay community.” It is so wild when someone will outright admit to bigotry, and then getting legal support for it spells out exactly why there is so much violence, suicide, and emotional turmoil found in the homosexual experience.

So knowing this, it’s no wonder a whole bunch of us get confused and try to pretend we’re not gay. And then it trickles down into whomever we’re having a relationship with. Me, I was a very bad, miserable girlfriend, the kind who breaks your heart and gives you dudes nightmares for years. It was pretty painful for everyone involved, until I finally met a girl I clicked with. That’s when the light started to come on.

This was in 2006, and this light was bright and mentally healing and sexy and passionate, totally unlike the blackness I felt whenever I did it with dudes. And then just as I was starting to make the leap in deciding to exclusively date women, I met a guy who swayed me for a couple days. I put the pause on my coming-out process to see what would happen, and it turned out to be just one hot weekend in Miami, and that was about it. After that, I thought there was no way in hell I was ever, ever going to date a human with a non-detachable penis again. No way, gross, fuck that, I am gay. Hooray!

And then five years later, which was last summer, that guy and I bumped into each other in a disgusting warehouse at a noise festival. I don’t even remember how we originally connected, just that it was like something in me switched on and went “YOU.” And that’s how it happened a second time, even though he is a hairy man with neither breasts nor vagina, and I’d already come out to my whole family and all my friends and am publicly known as queer and all’s I’d even hung out with for the past five years was lesbians anyway. What the hell was going on here? Why was I emotionally attracted to this … male? It was scary.

My energetic self—this “soul” thing I talk about all the time—felt so drawn to him, though my body wasn’t responding in suit when I lured him deep into the ghetto, away from people who might see us, to kiss me. Phew, I thought, dodged that one. If I’m not horny after a very passionate kiss under a full moon in a gnarly, romantic situation, then I’m still a lesbian. Don’t gotta rethink anything all over again. Cool.

Then some days passed and every time I thought about him an elastic pang reverberated throughout my body.

Oh no.

I lived in NYC at the time and was about to move across the country in a week, after finally getting over a bad relationship, losing my job, getting robbed, and acquiring bed bugs, so my mind was cracked pretty wide open and the usual mental boundaries were not in place. I visited him where he was living on the East Coast, and had a steamy time with no technical heterosexual intercourse, though honestly, I wanted to. It’d been years since I was near a real-life man penis, and I was curious. Plus, there was what chicks who like guys call a real connection, and in a twist in usual plot, it wasn't just the chick being crazy. It was an actual, mutual, possibly-love thing that we both acknowledged.

I moved away feeling more confused than ever, and had many, many long conversations with myself about what is love, really? Does it have to include sex? What is the nature of a good relationship? Is it not one where you feel safe and appreciated and understood and inspired, one where you want to extend those things to your partner too? Can you have all that with one person and then just fuck someone else of a different gender, the one you are really attracted to and don’t have to make concessions for in your mind? Like, if everyone consents to this agreement, couldn’t this freewheeling, polyamorous, polysexual lifestyle possibly be the modern salve to all the pain of why people cheat, lie, break up, and become romantically stunted?

This guy and I had stayed in touch for months and we became very close, but hadn’t seen each other since the summer--and never once even had sex. For me, being around him and talking to him felt deeply spiritual, and that is something, despite my pride (gay and otherwise), I could not ignore. But what was I supposed do with it? Because I wasn’t really sure I could be physical with him, despite these things we call “feelings.” I started practicing making out a little with a couple of my guy friends, like to train myself, and I concluded that the male-female agenda is quite boring and silly, almost funny. Still, was I even gay anymore? Could I make myself not be, because wouldn't it just be easier that way? Women were so difficult—mostly because hey, guess what, bitches are crazy (all of us!)—and did I really want to go through it ever again? The world was all topsy-turvy. I felt like a fraud no matter how I sliced it.

After months of hanging out in the middle zone, kind of possessed with crazy thoughts about maybe being able to reprogram myself back to faked heterosexuality, I decided to see him. We met for a week in the desert, far away from the influences of our everyday independent lives. 

Within about 36 hours it was pretty clear that my door had been open to him because my door was just open, period—we’d come across each other at times of major transition in both our lives, and as open-minded people we decided to see what lie beyond the threshold. And here’s the fullest report anyone's gonna get: It is positively brutal trying to have sex with a gender you just are not attracted to, and it's excruciating for the person on the other end too. We both agreed that anything erotic is just seriously mentally damaging for both of us, and that was kind of that.

So it’s nice that the state of California now knows certain facts, facts that we all know inside ourselves even if they seem fuzzy sometimes. With facts like this legally recognized, hopefully it’ll spark an atmosphere of acceptance, so that no one else has to misunderstand or reproach themselves for who they are for well into their adult years, or go on weird missions to test or reprogram it. Because even without Prop 8, there’s enough self-judging going on as there is.

@lizzyarmstrong


Want more gay proof? Here's Jamie Lee Curtis Taete giving up everything homo for a month in Playing it Straight.