All my life I’ve known I was “creative” and “different.” Only recently have I realized that I’m both neurodivergent and bisexual.
In my youth, as I struggled with drugs, alcoholism, depression, and underemployment, it never crossed my mind that I was neurodivergent—not that the term existed then.
Even after I was diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder some ten-plus years ago, I didn’t make the neurodivergence connection. It was only as my ex and I began coming to grips with our kid’s autism that I began to recognize many of her autistic qualities in myself and other members of our family.
And it’s only in the past year or two, and only with my daughter’s help, that I’ve come to realize I’m bisexual.
I’ve known I was attracted to women since age five, when my mom took me into the powder room at B. Altman, where I gazed with open mouth as ladies touched up their lipstick, fluffed their hair, and adjusted how their bodies fit into their dresses. I was dressed in a wee suit with short pants and a bow tie. Two of the ladies picked me up and called me handsome. A lady kissed me. I smelled flowers as she enveloped me in a hug. A deep hunger was born in that moment. (I know. That sentence is gross.) Years later, in college, as I watched the adoration sequence during my first viewing of Fellini’s 8 1/2, I recognized my own experience of awakening.
Yet for all those years of knowing I loved women, I didn’t understand that the love I felt for male friends could also be a romantic attraction.
How could I not know that? I suppose it’s because the other drive was more dominant—and, let’s face it, was also far more socially acceptable in those benighted days. As a short, nonathletic, curly-haired, unaggressive Jewish male in a world that beat me down for every one of those adjectives, I suppose I wasn’t eager to throw an extra (and even heavier) albatross around my own neck.
So much so that I could not accept or even recognize that aspect of myself—not even when my unconscious tried to tell me.
I remember writing a short story about a failed connection between two male high school friends. Thinking I was another D.H. Lawrence, and that my hermetically sealed tale was secretly ripe with deep meaning and profound feelings, I shared the story with my peers in the graduate creative writing program where I was hiding to avoid growing up.
A colleague in the program, who was a far better writer than me, and an out gay man, disdainfully labeled my work “another failed male bonding story.” I thanked him for his honesty and because his ability to use words that way amazed me, but I didn’t understand why he didn’t understand—because it was I who didn’t understand. (Understand?)
And so the decades have passed.
At this point in my life, being single works for me, and, after two marriages, I have enough to get on with, just working and being a dad. So why even share these fragments and evasions? Surely who I find attractive is of interest to absolutely no one.
Except that Fascists in my country are drawing lines, turning back the clock on human rights and human decency, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit silently warming my feet at the hearth of some late-recognized private truth.
If they want to outlaw queerness and Blackness and ovaries and pretty much any identity other than Ward or June Cleaver, then they’re not just a threat to humanity and a wrong turn in the arc of history, they’re my enemy to fight. I’m right here, motherfuckers.