In some ways, I was lucky.
I grew up without any real concept of sexual orientation. When I was in Grade 2, it was briefly mentioned that some kids had two moms or two dads, and I believe it was in the context of remarriage after a divorce, but it was easy enough for my mind to come to the conclusion that some kids had two moms or two dads who lived in the same house. It seemed like a strange concept to me, but nothing particularly bad, just different. Everywhere I looked, the concept of the type of love that leads to marriage as only possible between pairs consisting of one woman and one man was being upheld, and yet even when I was seven years old, there was something in my mind that, however subconsciously, told me that this wasn't necessarily the case. So maybe that's why it wasn't as big of a shock to me as it could have been when I developed a brief crush on another girl when I was thirteen—while I couldn't help wondering if something was wrong with me at the time, I recall that it was more shocking to me that I was having these feelings when I was already crushing pretty badly on a boy who had become a pretty good friend of mine several years earlier. Nonetheless, as strong as my memories are of what was to me a fairly confusing time, the crush on that girl never actually made it into my journal. I'd already internalized the idea of same-sex attractions being somehow wrong, though I couldn't have said why, and I thought of it as some kind of phase that would end at some point. And although I'd long since changed my mind about same-sex relationships by the time I'd left high school, I was well into my twenties before I was able to admit to myself that although I wasn't a lesbian, I wasn't entirely heterosexual either. I hesitate to use the phrase "coming to terms with my sexuality" to describe the process, because that implies that I thought that there was something wrong with it, but the fact is, it wasn't easy. And even now, in my day-to-day life I'm only "out" to a few close friends who I trust not to hurt me because of the knowledge that I'm bisexual.
In retrospect, I was lucky because I was able to pass for straight at a time and place when it wasn't just unwise, but actually occasionally dangerous, to be anything that wasn't strictly heterosexual. Although it was infrequent, guys at my (very Catholic) school who were rumoured to be gay were sometimes shoved around a bit or even beaten up; girls weren't subject to the same sort of violence, but teenage girls' capacity for cruelty to other teenage girls is legendary, and physical acts of bullying aren't necessary for bullies to make their victims' lives hell. When the culprits were caught, the teachers and principal punished them as harshly as they could, but it could rarely be proven that they'd done it because of their victim's supposed or real sexual orientation. Bullying for any reason wasn't tolerated, but that didn't stop the bullies; it only inspired them to be sneakier about what they were doing, especially when their attacks were motivated by homophobia.
Mind, I never really thought the term "homophobia" was strictly appropriate; whether or not fear is behind this hatred of same-sex couples, the expression of what we call "homophobia" is in the end a manifestation of hate. Which brings me to the reason I've called this post "A Day For Purple."
Today, October 20, is known as Spirit Day. On the LGBTQ (etc.) Rainbow Flag, purple stands for spirit, and we are encouraged to wear purple to honour the people, especially the young, who have been made to feel that their lives weren't worth living because of their sexual orientation. If I'd been a little less straight-leaning, or a little less able to pass for straight, I might have been one of them.
I'm wearing purple today. Are you?