This is the fourth part of my series on my Sexual and Relationship Development and I felt it was important to look at the first times I really began to look at relationships and sexuality. I think, my first understandings of relationships were a mix bag of confusion. Having my first sexual encounter being one of an abusive nature, one would think that I had a skewed understanding of relationships. And I hate to add to it, but I was born into a non-traditional family. You see, my mother was a single mom when I was born, and I never knew my biological father. My mom also was married to an abusive man, before she married the man I call my “dad” (Although, he is not my biological father). To top it off, my mother’s family was interesting too. My grandmother had my mother, who’s dad died while my grandmother was pregnant, and then my grandma married an abusive man. She gave birth to two of my aunts during this time. Eventually, she married the man that I considered my grandfather, and my grandmother gave birth to another girl. So, my first years had a strong female influence (something, I have always wondered had played an influence on how I identify my behaviors). I’ve always, jokingly, told people that my family had a “bush” instead of a “tree” with all of the various convoluted branches going on.
When I was younger, however, the relationships I had available to me for modeling were not too many. I had my grandparents; their relationship always seemed great to me and they are still married, in fact. I only saw my mom with two relationships – the one with the abusive man and the one with the man I knew as dad; when her and my dad divorced, however, I saw her with a couple more relationships that were with horrible men. I saw one of my aunts in various relationships with various men – she was the mother of the cousin I mentioned in my earlier posts. I can only imagine the confusion my cousin must have felt, and I have come to understand that some of those guys were….hmmm…as fucked up as the babysitter she and I had. My other aunts didn’t have any relationships until I was older, and probably outside the purpose of this post.
Growing up catholic, however, I had the traditional view that marriage was between one man and one woman and that there was no purpose to marriage other than to raise children. In all fairness, my mom believed marriage was for love until much later in life. Needless to say, alternative sexualities would not have been a topic of discussion in my formative years – it was simply assumed everyone was a heterosexual and anything else was a sin (Sometime, I’ll point out that some members of my mom’s family had a looser view of sexuality than I knew about, but it wasn’t open and out in anyway – granted, I’m not sure if they believed alternative sexualities were “okay”, but they certainly didn’t hold a hardline on marital relationships). So, the traditional views of marriage and relationships were indoctirinated.
But I began questioning things, in my pre-pubescent years, and those questions happened to pertain to the nature of relationships. I didn’t understand I had too many same-sex attractions yet, but the conversations began around things like the outbreak of AIDS, or celebrities that had come out as homosexual, or other things that occurred in or around school when you begin hearing about different types of relationships and sexualities. I remember the advice I would get from my mom – always about girls, of course – and she would recommend me always trying to be a friend to a girl. She used to always tell me that girls want a best friend, before they ever fall in love. This was advice I always used to approach potential relationships with girls. Sometimes, I question if it was the right advice. I don’t really remember much relationship advice from my dad, until many years later. I remember once, however, my brothers and sisters and I were teasing my dad about not reading Playboy magazine (My dad never had magazines like that and I highly doubt he ever watched porn) and I remember him saying once, “You only need those, if you can’t get a girlfriend.” I remember thinking, at the time, that it seemed reasonable. What woman would want to be “treated like that”?
But, there was another question, I pondered once in a while: What of same-sex relationships? I remember being in 7th or 8th grade, and watching something on television where I heard that “homosexuality was a sin”. Although, I was a catholic growing up, I had never heard any discussions about sex – other than the idea that married people had sex – so, I wasn’t aware of this “fact” that homosexuality was a sin. I was appalled. There was something inside of me, something natural that wanted to exclaim – “That’s bullshit!”, but instead, it came out as, “What?!?!? How can that be? No one can control who they love? Can they?” My mom and dad never made us feel guilty – at least not, explicitly – when my siblings and I had questions about sex. They always answered the questions with compassion and understanding. But I received the “Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve” explanation, that I am sure plenty of homosexuals have heard in explaining how sexuality is only to be for a man and a woman, who are married. At the time, my 12 year old mind could accept that as a rational explanation. Little did my parents know, however, that I was already struggling with trying to understand my own attractions, and this was one of those circumstances that made me think that I had a choice in who/what I should be attracted to.