That was all fine and good in theory, and I made some half-hearted attempts to carry it out, but I was very good at making excuses. The women that I knew didn't pick up the phone. I didn't have anything to complain about. I had sisters to talk to. I didn't have time to get out of the house with all of those children to take care of, and I didn't have a driver's license, and I didn't know any people, and I'm totally socially inept. Those kind of excuses. My husband told me “If you really wanted to do this, you would get it done. The reason you have no friends is that you work on it for about ten minutes a month.” I really resented that, crossed my arms, pouted, and insisted that he didn't understand how hard this was for me, and how hard I was trying, and how it wasn't my fault.
Then, in the early part of this year, God decided to weigh in on the controversy. Due to an absolutely inconceivable set of blunders and miscommunications involving incompetence on a level that is normally impossible to people other than myself, my long-distance got cut off. The long-distance drought lasted for months, during which I whined to my husband about how lonely and isolated this was making me. He said, “You never tried to call those people when you had long-distance. Now you want to load six children into the car and drive ten minutes into town to use a payphone?” I girded my loins, grit my teeth, engaged my advanced emergency Stoic willpower, and decided to wait it out. I still had e-mail. I could still send people letters....you know, theoretically, if I wanted to. Then my phone line went down. Now I was stranded, without internet, without e-mail, without a driver's license, without a telephone, without, in short, any possible way of contacting the outside world.
Finally, after years of excuses, I hit my breaking point. I realized that I actually literally could not survive without significant contact with other human beings. Human beings outside of my family who would actually talk back – not just people who received my various missives into the darkness in the form of articles published in the Catholic press. When, after a couple of weeks, the phone finally came back on-line, I called people. I called one of my closest friends (admittedly, the wife of one of my male best-friends – but only because he went and married an old acquaintance of ours), and she said, “Did somebody die or something?” “No.” “Oh. I figured that something terrible must have happened, because you never call.”
Having made the leap into the unknown, I also followed up a second lead on human social interaction: I joined a blog community of other chaste same-sex attracted Christian intellectuals. I figured that I could complain with Mantis and Egypt about my kids, and my husband, and my various normal, straight-woman type problems, but I also needed people to talk to about this homosexuality thing. Mostly for research purposes, of course. Because I was different. I wasn't really gay. I was married with six kids, and hadn't deliberately entertained any lesbian fantasies in over thirteen years. So that meant I was straight. Right?
Within half an hour of being on-line, I realized that that was bullshit. It's hard to entirely describe the feeling that I had, reading what other people were posting, what they were thinking, how they were relating to their sexuality, to beauty, to their faith. There was no sense of horror at all, no sense of my worldview or self-concept crumbling, just an immense relief. I thought, “Here, at last, are people like me. I'm not completely alone in the world. I'm not just the really, really weird girl who doesn't think and feel and talk like other people. I'm not just strange and socially awkward and out of place. I'm queer.” That word fit so well. The lovely “q” sound, the euphonious Victorian twang, the fact that it was a pejorative that had been reclaimed in self-defence, that it described a state of sexual otherness which didn't necessarily connote any particular kind of sexual behaviour whatsoever. Queer. Other. Exile.
But an exile travelling towards the promised land – and no longer travelling alone.
(Part 6 of 12)