Recognizing Queerness in Your Childhood
Graphic by Carmen Ngo
It started in a fourth grade classroom. I was supposed to be staring down at my test, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the billowing fairy that trailed among us. I raised my hand eagerly and muttered a syllable. The goddess responded.
“Yes, Jessica?” She said my name.
“I…I have a question.”
She laughed at my nerves. I waited for her to expertly swerve her maxi-skirt hugged hips around the desks and make her way to me. I secretly hoped that one day my laugh would be as womanly as hers. Maybe I would be a teacher and wear clingy, yet flowing cloth too. I was awakened from my fantasy by her spicy perfume. Her face was suddenly next to mine, so I pointed to a random question and feigned confusion. With her attention diverted, I could now study her sun-spotty, wrinkled skin, carefully placed makeup, twinkling earrings, and graying eyelashes. I wanted to make notes.
My teacher, Ms. Crossett, started my odd obsession with the aging female. I liked that she was a wavy-haired divorcee who wore dangly jewelry and patterned dresses to work. I also liked the fact that she had more knowledge than me. Girls and boys my age were always so blasé. Who could compare to a hard-working, well-rounded, elegant, middle-aged woman? I knew, even at 9 years of age, that no one ever could.
Years passed and it became habit to befriend my friends’ mothers. I probed them with questions about their marriage secrets, career woes, and teenage regrets. I listened to them talk about the rising market prices of their beach properties for hours.
Throughout middle school, I found comfort in watching cooking shows, starring women who prepared romantic feasts for their husbands and chic luncheons for their gal pals.
In ninth grade, I became obsessed with Nancy Botwin, the main character in the TV show Weeds. I like to describe her as a recently widowed suburban housewife who decides to deal drugs to maintain her affluent lifestyle. I thought she was cool and non-conforming.
I also attended Zumba classes, sacrificing lunches for the cost. My hunger was always satisfied by that bumpin’ female energy and the sense of labial communal upbringing.
My favorite pastimes ended abruptly, one unordinary day freshman year, when my friend mentioned how my attraction to older women seemed unordinary. After trying to articulate my fascination with the way moms bite the straws of their Starbucks drinks, he hesitantly said my interest was “weird” and “kinda gay.” I realized long ago that, unlike me, my fellow peers didn’t outwardly acknowledge their soft spots for visor-sporting soccer moms. I brushed it off by just assuming I was more honest and expressive than anyone else on Earth. However, this complete lack of understanding I couldn’t get. I looked at him with shocked horror and suggested that his uptight social nurturing prevented him from seeing the innocent beauty in women appreciating one another. Despite the conviction in my empowering reprimand, I stumbled home questioning everything I had ever known. Does he have a fucking point? Am I weird? Who even am I?
In these situations of crisis, it is very helpful to have a sibling. I confronted my sister as an oracle— “What is wrong with me?” “Why do I feel the way I do?”
Barely looking up from her phone, she responded with mind-blowing wisdom, “Um…well, you’re definitely bi, but don’t worry too much about that old lady shit. It’s because of your fucked-up relationship with mom.”
So apparently this essay can be boiled down to bisexuality and mommy issues. Suppressing that last part, it took me a while to accept my queerness because I associated being gay with, “I knew since I was six.” Now I realize that even though it took me until adulthood to know it, I’m still validly queer. I also believe that my coinciding opposite-sex attraction attributed to my complete obliviousness. Because I could relate to my boy crazed straight friends, I just assumed I was also straight. When it comes down to it, if bisexuality wasn’t such a mindfuck growing up, I might have accepted myself sooner. Luckily, being obsessed with middle aged women turned out to be the step I needed to accept my attraction toward all women, and then I discovered The L Word, and the rest is history.