Joe.My.God posted an interesting open thread today asking his followers when did they know? Looking through the comments I was struck by how many of us knew we were different at a very young age.
It is amazing testament to humanity's hardwired social brain that children are able to figure out concepts that seem so complex at a very young age.
For me the realization that I was different came at the age of 4. I had recently started taking swimming classes. The swim classes were an attempt by my parents to socialize an incredibly awkward and anxious kid who really didn't like spending time with people his own age.
For me it was just another source of anxiety until I hit the lockerroom. There was something about it that fascinated me. The older guys changing from the gym were like aliens to me. So big, hairy and different from me. Time and again I found myself staring at them uncontrollably. Even back then I knew I shouldn't stare and it wasn't polite but I couldn't help myself.
Thats where Shaun (or was it Shane?) came into the picture. He was another boy in my swim class and I was completely totally enraptured by him. Dark hair and blue eyes is all I really remember about him. Two traits I don't think we said more than two words to each other the whole time we were in class. I was too terrified of him not liking me.
Then one day towards the end of the semester I couldn't control my feelings any more and after class I ran up to my mom. I remember saying to her that I wanted to tell Shaun thatI thought he was cute. The look in my mom's eyes told me everything I needed to know.
I had fucked up and done something wrong.
With her lips pursed she explained with some forced cheerfulness that "Boy's do not call other boy's cute. They can say they are handsome. You can call girls cute. Which of the girls in your class do you think are cute?"
I don't recall my answer as it didn't matter anymore. I was crushed.
Thats when I knew in that 30 seconds I realized that I was different and that I shouldn't be expressing my feelings in the way that felt natural to me.
This one interaction setup years of anxiety and neurosis for me. Unlearning that one lesson was one of my more difficult trials. This is the baggage from my childhood that I have managed to unpack and put away. The same baggage so many of us carry.
It is amazing how somethings never change. Big hairy guys still get my attention and I am in a relationship with a guy who's dark hair and light eyes immediately attracted me to him.