Can I Fit In?: Psalms 110 – 118

I trusted in the Lord when I said,
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said,
    “Everyone is a liar.”

Psalms 116:10-11 (NIV)

50,000 students attended my college, and bars covered approximately half the buildings in our downtown area. I often heard the statistic that our noble little college town had the most bars per capita out of any town in America. This wasn’t true – a simple Google searched proved that to me – but it might as well have been. We were a party school – why wouldn’t we have a ton of bars? And out of all of them, there was one tiny gay joint – scrunched between a bottle shop and dance club, and underneath one of the few classy restaurants in the sprawl. Outside, the standard rainbow flag flapped proudly in the wind, while inside, a single long bar extended twenty feet to the back until it dead-ended into a pair of gender-neutral bathrooms. A mirror made up the back wall to give the illusion that it continued on twice as far. For the gay students at the school (and for the residents of the nearby town), this was what they had to offer, and it was more than enough. It was almost always half empty (or half full, for the optimists).

I turned 21 over the Christmas holiday while abroad, so I missed out on the typical college fanfare when a youngen finally reached drinking age. No shots, no brazenly staring down suspicious cops, no party hats with the phrase “Happy Twenty-Oneth.” When we came back from break, I just casually joined the bar hopping crowd. One friend noticed my sudden arrival and ordered me a “Four Horseman” to celebrate – which is Irish Whiskey, Tennessee Whiskey, Bourbon, and Scotch mixed together. I drank it and regretted it – now I was an adult.

My first weekend back, though, I decided to check out the gay bar. My curiosity could not be contained – did all gay bars have strippers? Would some old guys hit on me immediately, the new fresh blood?

I was shocked by how calm it was inside, and then I realized. We were not in New York or some other equally diverse city. At the end of the day, we were a college town surrounded by 100 miles of cornfields and mountains. Small town gay bar = calm gay bar. We needed to remember our place.

When I entered, I took a survey of the group.

A butch lesbian with a pixie cut and an oversized jersey served everyone. She didn’t act special to me, even though I was new. I was just another patron.
Most of the customers were older, not from the college. One who was in his 30s looked me up and down and then returned to his drink.
A few loudly chatting queens sat at the sole table in the back. They were two seniors and a grad student – clearly, they had found each other randomly and glommed on to one another. I joined them for a few moments before moving on – they smiled and said, “nice to meet you.”
A guy in his 50s – grizzled, gutty, gray – offered me a drink back at his place. I declined and ducked out.

If this was gay culture, then I was completely on board. There were sweeties and sluts, an unmotivated bartender and unapologetic slobs, well-dressed denizens and barely-dressed attention-seekers.

Just like any other bar. And I liked it.

Some Gay Stories: Psalms 101 – 109

Psalms is for everyone.

We have wailing and praising. Contemplation. Even good old fashioned retellings of historical biblical events. Perhaps this is why any good pastor can toss a Psalms verse out there no matter your ill.

This is very general – and I will do a more comprehensive wrap up post Chapter 150 – but I don’t think Psalms really tries to assert any actual truth about God. Instead, it seems like it is many Godly men trying to figure out the truth about God. Maybe that is my projection. I like the second option better.

Last week in my lead post, I promised a “very gay week,” and I got sidetracked. My story about Ansley and her blatant question (“Are you gay or what?”) and my wishy-washy response (“Sort of”) was meant to be a precursor towards my first experiences in the gay culture. I changed courses when I realized what a profound effect my relationship with her had on the development of my sexual identity. So I told that story instead.

But now I want to tell some other ones – about how I never felt comfortable (and to some degrees, still don’t) in the gay community at large. This is not meant to be a criticism of the culture, but rather a commentary on my experience in it. Gay people express themselves in all types of ways – why do you think the rainbow is our symbol? But for a while, I felt pressure to be a certain type of queer person – meaning the flaming, tank-wearing, Madonna-loving stereotype. But it never fit, and it won’t fit. And I’ve come to realize that no queer man wants to be that stereotype, however close he might come to it naturally. So let’s talk about that.

All of this is filtered through the Psalms, of course, which we all know was written to be applied to queers.

Casualty: Psalms 91 – 100

(This is the final part of a multi-part entry. Check out the first, second, third, and fourth entries)

When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.

Psalms 94:19 (NIV)

A little less than a year later, Ansley agreed to meet with me in order to go over the “whole situation.” After that passionate evening – the kissing, tree climbing, the frigid wish-wash – was a month of dating, two of confusion, and then a half dozen in anger. It had become clear to her after some time that I was using my relationship with her in order to figure out my own sexual identity. She felt betrayed – rightfully so. I had taken her side against me shortly after we had given up talking and separated. She was the first woman to ever call me out on this behavior – on the knowing deceit I participated in. Confusion on my part was allowed – there isn’t a clear-minded soul out there – but I could not manipulative the feelings of others in the process of figuring out myself. I regretted all of it.

So we met on the porch of a Fellini’s Pizza but didn’t order anything except a pint of beer each. The conversation began with a prolonged silence. We slouched in our chairs.

She spoke first. She wanted to say her piece. That was fair. I let her.

She did not ask for an explanation – I think she had prepped herself not to expect one, or perhaps, to not expect a satisfying one.

I said I was sorry.
She said okay.
I explained my thought process, my headspace, where I was coming from, my confusion.
She said okay.

I had not prepared anything to say, so I started to improvise. No, I did not lie, but I had taught myself for so long not to analyze that I had not yet thought the whole situation through. I knew my fault, yes, and I knew why, yes – but I had not yet figured out the next step – how I would take this experience and… move forward.

I told her I would not do this again.
She looked dissatisfied.
I guaranteed her that I would not do this again.
She said okay.

Was that a promise I could keep? I didn’t know.

So where did that leave us now, we thought, or maybe we said out loud.

I realized then that I had won this situation, if a winner could have been chosen. I was the arbiter, the one who had inflicted the damage, and then, a year later, she absolved me of my sin. I witnessed the potential damage I could do by using others as taste tests for my sexuality. And what had she gotten from it? What lesson did she learn?

So I told her.

You don’t get anything from this situation.
You are a casualty of my growth.

The Parts: Psalms 81 – 90

(This is the fourth part of a multi-part entry. Check out the first, second, and third entries)

[God said:]
“I will not violate my covenant
    or alter what my lips have uttered…”
But you have rejected, you have spurned…
You have renounced the covenant with your servant…

Psalms 89:34, 38-39 (NIV)

We kissed immediately. It was expected – Ansley and I had just announced a mutual affection for one another, and some next step was required. The first thing I had noticed about her (the third time I had met her) was how she dressed. Southern patterns – floral, block – with a smooth feminine silhouette; boots that came up mid-calf with a small heel that boosted her an extra inch-and-a-half; muted leggings that covered the rest of her legs. This day, as we moved in on one another in the frigid interior of my handed-down golden Camry, she was covered head to toe, knitted cap on top, fluffed mittens, with a sleek pea-coat that landed somewhere around her knees. Her cheeks shown through, rosy with stilled blood underneath, accented by a fleece scarf she had just bought from Rag-a-Rama up the street.

We kissed.

In terms of her personality, she was opinionated and bold. When she spoke, she had something to say – about the rights of gay individuals, the need to educate our children properly. When she listened, she made eye contact that never broke, even as she started to speak. And when she spoke, it was always relevant. She was not one of those people who just stared, waiting for her turn to speak her slightly related nonsense. She touched when listening, her hand on top of mine. She hugged and said “I love you” – no, not too soon, not an “I’m in love with you” “I love you” – no, she just loved others and wanted to let them know. She encouraged.

We moved outside and shuddered underneath a twisted oak tree. Our warmth came from our close proximity; it came from dependence.

We kissed.

More than anything, she wanted kids and to be a mom. When I asked her about her career goals and plans, she mentioned singing and acting, perhaps teaching and nannying, but none of that mattered without a family to go home to and kids to raise, a place to call her own. She still lived at home – yes out of comfort, yes out of a slight fear of the unknown, yes out of fiscal sense – but no, it was her parents, handicapped with Parkinson’s and RA respectively, and so she worried, she worried that if she left, no one would be there, and they would wither as a result. She cared about and cared for. It was just her nature to nurture.

I looked above us at the gnarled branches of the tree above and wanted to climb. Slowly, I disengaged from her and reached for the first branch. She hopped up, discouraging it – yes we had drank alcohol, yes the passion had deadened my senses along with the cold, yes it was rash – but no, I wanted to climb, and fuck if I want to climb then let me climb damn it. I wondered how high I could get before the tree limbs gave way and dropped me.

My throat clenched shut with anxiety. Look at Ansley. Look at the parts, I thought, she has it allthe empathy, the sense, the honesty, the future. Fall in love with those parts. Ansley did not want me to climb the tree and begged me to stop. She said I would hurt myself – it was such a stupid idea. The concern, the hospitality. Fall in love with those parts. She shouted for me to come down, but I told her I wanted to climb. She’s shouting for you, she cares that much. Fall in love with those parts.

I felt more nauseous with each step – yes the height, yes the dizziness of whiskey mixed with movement, yes the shattering cold that crept in – but no, it was the parts. The parts that Ansley did not have that I desired. Why did I desire a man, when a woman was just as good? What was wrong with me that I would kiss Ansley, when I knew that all the parts she had would never equal the desire of the fleeting momentary attention from an unknown man?

Ansley shouted to me again. She noticed my heavy breathing. She sensed the panic and told me one final time to come down. I acquiesced. I took each step carefully as I made my way down the way I had come.

And with both feet back on the ground, I told her that I needed to go home.

The Self-Parable: Psalms 71 – 80

(This is the third part of a multi-part entry. Check out the first and second parts)

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things…

Psalms 78:1-2 (NIV)

Jesus is known for his use of parables to bestow lessons, but centuries before his arrival on Earth, Psalms drops us one right in the middle of its narrative. In the 78th chapter, a narrator tells the story of a group of Israelites brought out of Egypt by the use of miracles – pillars of fire, manna raining from the sky, and parted seas – only for them to reject God’s word for their own selfish desires. They put God to the test; they complained; they made idols and worshipped them with full and vengeful hearts. And so, God rejected them.

This sounds familiar…

I always thought parables were made up stories, not true reflections from the past – not by assumption, but rather, by design. It is probably most advantageous for the author to make up a story with all the correct elements in order to hammer home a point. I believe this because life does not usually fall within such parameters of clear right and wrong. True recollection can easily muffle a message, especially such a dramatically stringent one. But nonetheless, the author reminds us of the sin of the Israelites in order to emphasize a base value:

Learn from your mistakes!

This thought kept rolling through my head as I read vast sections of the Old Testaments history. How is it possible that generation after generation of God’s people could keep returning to sin, especially with the stakes so high?

Many wonder that about gay Christians who choose to live “in the lifestyle.” How can they defy God so knowingly?

When I moved to Georgia, I had my own self-parable bouncing between my ears. Once upon a time, a young man had conflicting feelings about his own sexuality. So he made a decision to defy his nature in order to maintain loyalty to God and proceeded to pursue women. But the decision caused anxiety and despair, as he knew that these relationships would not last. Then, once taking the pressure off of himself, he fell for a woman in spite of himself. But he would not make the same mistake twice; he would not lie or misrepresent himself. He had learned from his mistakes.

After joining the cast of The Laramie Project, I learned about a different Ansley, one worthy of a profound friendship. Sure, she was still the girl that scoffed at my sexuality, chastised me for drinking her wine, and then guilted me for not recognizing her. But my initial impressions (or lack of them rather) faded the more I got to know her. She was thoughtful and encouraging throughout the rehearsal process and a faithful sound board for the director. Beyond her professional abilities, she also took a staggering interest in the problems and concerns of others. We hit it off, against all odds. Once the show wrapped, we caught wind of a cast member’s comedy show, and decided to go together to show our support.

We parked the car and wandered the streets of Atlanta with our hands in our pockets. The transition from acquaintance to friend always requires some intentional energy by making the decision that “yes, this will be awkward and a bit contrived at the start, but that will eventually wear off.” The conversation was stiff but loosened. Eventually, we abandoned the comfort of our pockets and let our hands dangle out – a sign of inner comfort.

Once back at the car, with the comedy show passed and the structure for the evening lost, we struggled to make natural conversation. We argued about sexuality – she thought men couldn’t truly be bisexual, that only women could do that. It was an interesting notion. More often than not, men used the term “bisexual” as a transitory term. It felt safer than saying “gay” – less final and damning. I argued against it. We never agreed, but we still laughed.

And then she said she made a confession. She had romantic feelings for me but knew it would never work.

But I looked her in the eye and said, “It could work. I like you too.”

And I smiled, knowing full well the mistake I was making.

The Boisterous Young Woman: Psalms 61 – 70

(This is the second part of a multi-part entry. Check out the first part)

One thing God has spoken,
    two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
    and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
    according to what they have done.”
Psalms 62:11-12 (NIV)

The boisterous young woman from my first Georgian party had a name: Ansley.
And she had a little not-so-secret surprise too: she was also bisexual.

I met Ansley for the first time three times, because after each of the first two instances, I immediately forgot who she was. I mentioned the first interaction previously, but for those of you in need of a refresher:

[I pour a glass of what I thought was “communal” wine at a party]
ANSLEY: Are you drinking my wine?
ME: I’m sorry… [blah blah etc]
ANSLEY: Are you gay or what?
ME: Um… [blah blah dodge whatever]
ANSLEY: Ugh.

Suffice to say, this aforementioned party (and odd interaction) did not satisfy my making-friends needs, but it did provide the catalyst towards some of my first friendships in the South. I didn’t learn Ansley’s name that night, and why should I have? In my mind, I had deemed her the boisterous, young woman, who – among other things – announced quite angrily at the end of the party “I’m leaving, it’s gross in here!” Memorable, sure, but not something I logged away for future interactions. I sincerely thought that our little story would begin and end there.

Then an outdoor Shakespeare event brought us back together. Through a series of handshakes and handoffs, I became friends with this devilish twosome – Wendy and Tyler. He was the confident, sassy petite gay guy, and she was his equally witty cohort – peas in a pod, looking for their new plaything. I liked her and liked him, so when they offered some drinking on the lawn of a park while watching community theater actors “try their best” at Taming of the Shrew, I replied, “of course I want to go.” We laid a blanket down on the thirsty weeds and cracked the wine. We all spooned under a comforter. Others joined us after a while. A woman who had joined the group said, “Hi,” to me. We all chatted a bit. I fell asleep, because apparently the actors’ “best” was not engaging enough. Sobered and sleepy, I drove home afterward.

Yeah, that woman who said “hi” to me? That was also Ansley. I still did not know her name, nor did I connect her to being the same wine protector from weeks prior.

The third instance brought the other two into a snapped focus. Eager to keep my energies moving in an unknown city, I decided to audition for a local theater’s production of The Laramie Project. It seemed completely benign – I had been in the play in college and knew the material – plus it would keep me busy and I would meet new people. Perfect. They called my name and I walked up to the audition table to meet the director and stage manager.

“Nice to meet you,” I cheerfully said, reaching out my hand for an equally cheerful handshake.

“Yeah… we’ve actually met before. Twice.The stage manager quipped back immediately.Don’t you remember me?”

Nope, not even a –
Wait… female stage manager… the woman… the young woman… boisterous young… shit.

“Oh yes!” I overcompensated. “Of course I remember you!”

I walked away convinced that my faux pas would mean certain failure, and that I would not be cast. Take it in stride and learn, I supposed.

But then I got a call. From the boisterous wine Shakespeare blanket stage manager woman named Ansley. They wanted me to join the cast.

And that last introduction ended up sticking.

No More Closets: Psalms 51 – 60

Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Psalms 51:5 (NIV)

I spent actual time in front of an actual mirror practicing the following:

NEW FRIEND: I have this awesome girl I want to set you up with.
ME: As long as she’s cool with the fact that I also date guys.

Or:

NEW FRIEND: I was wondering… Are you gay or straight or -?
ME: I don’t like labels.

Or:

NEW FRIEND: What are you gay or something?
ME: No. [clears throat] I AM A BISEXUAL.

I had just moved to Georgia, fresh off my separation from Nicole, with the knowledge that I am queer – down to the literal definition of that word. I was different – uncomfortable with the label of gay as I knew I had a true love for Nicole. But a traditional heterosexual relationship – the dates, the courting, the normalcy – was out of the question.

So I needed to start this new journey off with the right language for identifying myself. Closet cases tend to dig themselves into a hole of ambiguity with gender neutral language (“I dated this person”), casually homophobic jokes (“And I was like, dude, why are you hugging me so long?”) and the occasional comment to throw suspicious listeners off kilter (“Oh my God, Rachel McAdams is my dream girl. #wcw). Then, coming out requires so much energy that it slowly becomes insurmountable.

I was doing it right this time. I was starting off this new state with no confusion. When someone asked, I would tell him or her. Simple. My honesty would be staggering, my confidence blinding.

A week into my residence in Georgia, I found myself at a theater party mingling with strangers that I hoped would become my new best friends. I had scored a job as a stage manager for a community theater on my second day in town and had not yet broached the subject of my sexuality with anyone. I figured, “Let it come up naturally, and then deal with it appropriately,” just like in one of my previously practiced scenarios. I holed myself in the kitchen as everyone moved about, sitting in the corner – noticeable, but comfortable. A bottle of cheap family-sized wine sat out on the table, so I poured myself a glass. As soon as I replugged the cork, a boisterous young woman snapped to attention in front of me.

“Are you drinking my wine?” She demanded.
I looked down into my cup.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it was yours. I thought it was for every-“
She interrupted me.
“Are you gay or what?”
I blinked a couple times, took a deep breath, and:
“Umm… Sort of.”
Damn it! You practiced!
“Ugh,” she said and then walked away. And by the way, I did not mean to imply onomatopoeia with the word “ugh.” She did not sigh aggressively. She verbally said, “ugh” and then walked away.

A week into my new life, and already, this whole “pure honesty” thing was proving to be more elusive than I thought. Why was this so difficult?

And why, in that moment, was I so sure that this would keep happening?

The Lifestyle

Every Christian leader has their gay person story. Most Christian books have a gay person chapter. Every Christian teen has their gay person friend speech prepared.

There is a strategy. Relate to the gay person difficulties – make the thoughts and behaviors congruous with the straight person mindset without encouraging the deviance. Say something like “we all have our own issues” – compare yours broadly without implying you are also having gay person difficulties. Try to make it like every other sin. Wait, don’t say “sin.” Try “challenge” instead. Or “struggle.” Give them a peak into your struggles, too – your “thought life” (lusting) and “impure actions” (masturbating). Tell them they are more than just a “person with homosexuality.” They are so much more. It is possible to come out of the lifestyle.

My brother (yes, my gay brother – go back and catch up) once told me that he hates going to straight bars. I quipped back, “It’s not like a segregated bathroom, bro. They let the gays in.” He said I didn’t get it, and he was right. Why do gay people like hanging out in gay bars? That’s not the right question. Rather, why do gay people insist on hanging out in gay bars? Because, there is less risk. Because, the lifestyle.

I have always resented that euphemism – the “lifestyle.” First of all, it reinforces the idea of sexual identity being a choice. But secondly, it is an instantly alienating term. When people say it, it is because they are softening the blow of the word “gay” or “homosexual.” It is meant to subtly remind us that our identities are so dangerous, that to even say the word out loud is traumatic. It’s the “Voldemort” of the Christian community. It sends shudders down the spines of pastors and parents alike.

There is an all too common storyline for gay Christians – about bouncing in and out of the lifestyle. A gay person comes to an understanding about their sexual identity and resents it. But then, the resentment becomes too much to handle, so they go off and find a same sex partner. Then, when the guilt comes back, they repent and head back into the closet, now with a compelling story about their experiences in the lifestyle. Sometimes, they get an opposite sex partner. Other times, they stay completely celibate. Sometimes, they get married.

But then, they get sucked back into the lifestyle, much to the dismay of their friends and families. Like a heroin addict tossing their 90-day chip into the gutter, the gay person gives in to his or her addiction and falters. Some praise their self-honesty. Some mourn their weakness. The stories tend to diverge there towards varied endgames.

I fell in love with a woman named Nicole, and so opened the doors to the possibility of living as a heterosexual (with a dirtied past). Now, I want to talk about living in the homosexual lifestyle – all filtered through the advice of Psalms 51 – 100.

It’s going to be a gay person week.

 

A Suitable Woman: Psalms 41 – 50

(This is the final part of a multi-part entry. Read the first, second, third, and fourth entries here)

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Psalms 44:23a (NIV)

I loved Nicole in spite of myself, and she knew it. And so – like proper competitive dancers navigating a crowded floor – we circled the topic rather than nailing it on the head. Frankly, we had tried the whole dating thing before, and it all ended with a curt conversation on an overcast day. Now here we were, with all the cause in the world to strike up a relationship and trot into the sunset, and we insisted on balking. I worried I could not maintain my newly minted heterosexual desire – a sure and honest love for Nicole – and she did not trust me to follow through on it.

So where could we go from there?

We maintained. No labels, and if we felt like “tryst-ing” around with others, then we could. But we didn’t really. Monogamy became a choice for us rather than some sort of entry fee to a relationship. How incredibly millennial of us.

I remember leaving Nicole. My parents drove in with my sister for my graduation, and on the eve beforehand, they all wanted to go out to dinner with “my girlfriend” – my deception, not their delusion – I had always described Nicole as my girlfriend. We sat at dinner, and Nicole dazzled them with her kindness and empathy – her round features eased worries, uncovered a future – her conversation settled it. That night, while walking my parents back to their cars, with the anxiety of my final day at school squishing my guts, my mother told me simply: “Keep her.”

We made no plans. I was moving, and she was staying. Me, to Georgia – her, right there. We never had a label, so why make a plan? We left it without fanfare: no crying or wringing of the hands. Just “goodbye” and “see you soon.”

But now my mind was reeling.

For years, I had convinced myself, through the basics of trial and error, that I could not hold the feelings for women as I generally did for men. It was obvious. I bolted from every woman who showed the least bit of interest in me – I wouldn’t even consider it. But now, I had proof – sure, an outlier, but still proof. If I could do it with Nicole, then why wouldn’t it be possible for other women? So I made a plan.

Generalize this experience.

Lower the bar. Take the pressure off. Find someone understanding and empathetic. Friends first. Build trust. Tell her with everything. Find someone up to the challenge.

And then, jump in. It was possible.

Sure, others would call me a hypocrite, but they would not understand. They would fear for any woman who ended up with me, but we wouldn’t need their approval. They would announce quite openly that my life was a sham, but I would not care.

Because I will have won by then. I will have overcome.

If I could resolve my nature with the threats of an angry God, why wouldn’t I shun the queer part of myself in order to stand blameless before Him?

And so, with Nicole behind me and Georgia on the horizon, I began my search for a suitable woman.

A Better Deal: Psalms 31 – 40

(This is the fourth part of a multi-part entry. Check out the first, second, and third entries)

Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.
Psalms 32:2 (NIV)

Nicole kept her promises, just as she said she would. Happy couples tend to make plans and never account for the possibility that a break up might upend them. And so after our conversation on the concrete bench on that Autumn day, we decided to make good on all our plans – all the rehearsals and the classes together – out of both stubbornness and loyalty. She showed up ready to work at our first rehearsal of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and never made it awkward. We attended ballroom dance class together and fell for it – decided to join the competitive team on campus as partners. Our class together that semester – a “Science of the Oceans” class meant only for the poets and athletes at the university – kept us actively in each other’s lives. And it was all great. It was almost as if we had never broken up.

It was better actually.

She was my confidante during rehearsals – someone to complain and commiserate with.
She was my partner in ballroom – connected, focused, and motivated.
She was my sleeping-in friend in our science class – that’s what we called it when we both slept through the class and then grabbed lunch at Chick-fil-A instead.

We were such better friends than romantic partners.

She started coming to my apartment between classes – it was either that or trudge back to hers on the other side of campus. We watched The Office while finishing homework – laughing at the reruns like it was the first time. Ballroom competitions became a regular occurrence – which meant weekend trips and long car rides to cities all over the Northeast – Birmingham, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston. Rooms were sparse so – sure we could split one if it helps. And rehearsals stretched far into the night; who wouldn’t carpool in that circumstance? It just made sense.

Yeah, we went to everyone’s plays together. Sure I saw her opening night in Steel Magnolias – and every night after that. I don’t remember exactly when she started sleeping over, but you understand why, with all the classes together, and the weekend trips, and the hang outs with mutual friends, and – what would you have had us do? Travel separately and do it all alone… together?

Nicole knew about my “dabbling” – a not-so-clever title for my queer trysts – but it never bothered her. In fact, it was a piece of my personality that she enjoyed thoroughly – it provided her a slightly different perspective from those of all the straight dudes around her. It lowered her inhibitions. Without the prospect of a romantic relationship, we suddenly focused on things far deeper.

No, we are not boyfriend and girlfriend… Why does everyone keep asking us that?

One afternoon, between science class and ballroom practice, we sat on my couch, each completing respective assignments. I was leisurely writing a short story due for my workshop later that week – she was preparing a speech for her public speaker seminar. Neither was due tomorrow, or even the next day – no urgency. We sat in complete silence; there was no need to entertain one another. Content in each other’s presence alone…

And that’s when I realized I had a girlfriend.