Lots of people say that sexual orientation is pretty much determined from birth, and you can’t chose it or change it. I’m willing to accept that there’s an element of choice and circumstance in who we’re attracted to, and nobody’s 100% hetero or homo, but I think I can say I’ve always known that I’m a straight guy. My moment of realisation occurred in first grade.
My Year 1 class was a tough place. I had a really sadistic teacher, and this was poison for a “pleaser” child like me. I wanted to do well in school, escape the wrath of Mrs Allen, avoid this one kid named Chad who hated me and wanted to pound me, and try not to feel powerless.
There were lots of kids in my class, but this one girl Paula was a newcomer. I noticed her appearance in class matter-of-factly, as just another kid. I distinctly remember one day working at my desk (probably with crayons, a brand new box of Binney-Smith Crayolas with 64 colours and the electric sharpener in the box). All the other kids were doing their thing, too, working in groups, or moving about the room. And then Paula walked past my desk, and said off-handedly, “Hey, Lover-boy.” And kept on walking.
What made her say that? She couldn’t have meant anything by it; it was probably one of those crazy things kids say all day long. Yet its effect on me was crystallising. It was as if a droplet of boiling hot oil had been dropped into the pool of water in my deepest self, spattered and swam, and made me dizzy. I felt confusing desires and weird attractions. I felt drawn. In that moment, I knew: I liked girls and I wanted their attention.
I don’t remember seeing her again — the tape cuts out at that point. But when people say they “always knew” they were gay, I believe them. My girl-likingness was always in me in supersaturated form, waiting for some kind of seed around which to coalesce. I don’t think I chose to be a straight guy.