Jan 05, 2024, 06:29AM

When Did You Know?

Laura Branigan’s leather pants were the first clue.

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When I came out on my 53rd birthday nearly two years ago, one question some people liked to ask was “How did you know?” Or they’d ask when I first knew. I think what they wanted to hear was some mind of sexualized lesbian porn story about a college roommate I had a romantic tryst with: one night when she was walking out of the showers as I was walking in and we locked eyes, dropped towels, ended up drunkenly soaping up each other’s tits and, but it didn’t happen that way.

My college roommate was a Jewish girl from New Jersey who was banging her boyfriend while I was in the room (I ended up sleeping on a neighbor’s floor). Although women made advances toward me during and after college, I didn’t realize I wasn’t straight until a random sexual encounter with a woman over a decade ago. She was a doctor, we were in a hot tub, and from that moment on, I knew I wasn’t straight. Since then, I’ve been grateful for my very accepting, loving family. This isn’t an easy path to navigate. A relationship with my first girlfriend recently ended; I thought she’d always be in my life but apparently I was some kind of social experiment, and she chose to go back to men; it’ll take me awhile to get over the heartbreak.

When the initial hot tub incident occurred, I did think about the times in my past that might’ve been signs or early indicators of my closeted sexuality. I believe we all exist on a spectrum from 1-99 percent straight-gay; I don’t think anyone is 0 percent or 100 percent anything, and those who jump up and down screaming otherwise only seem “guilty” of projecting.

For instance, when women are exceedingly jealous of particular other women, I wonder what the motivation is, and whether it borders on attraction but is vehemently suppressed for societal or religious reasons. I think it’s possible that more than a few women walk around miserable and depressed because they aren’t willing to surrender to a desire they aren’t willing to admit, or perhaps don’t even know they have. Easier to choose what society expects; the “good girl” narrative. In short, I believe it’s possible many women are in the closet and don’t even realize it.

As for me, I think it all stems from Laura Branigan. Did I have posters on my wall of Michael Jackson, Billy Squier and Limahl, the lead singer of Kajagoogoo? Yes. But the other thing hanging on my wall was the vinyl album cover of Laura Branigan’s first album Branigan in which she’s wearing tight black leather pants. I went to see her twice in concert (once with my dad, once with my future husband).

Looking back, I had a massive crush on her, my first girl crush because I don’t think I should count Dorothy Hamill—although I did have her haircut, I was far too young at the time. I thought I just liked Laura Branigan’s music—and Christ, not “Gloria”—her most popular song was my least favorite. She was just completely sexy—seeing her in concert I was mesmerized and wouldn’t have known to call that a crush, just like I didn’t know with that girl on the field hockey team. In the 1980s we didn’t get a form like we did with the career choice thing, to select from an array of options. I can still sing the words to almost every one of her songs, and was devastated when she died (52, of a brain aneurysm).

People are obsessed with titles. Ask me if I’m a lesbian, or bisexual, and I said when I came out I don’t care about labels. David Rose on Schitt’s Creek said labels are for wine not people and I agree, but for fine bourbon. I think we fall in love with people, regardless of their plumbing. Love is just love, and for me maybe it started back in the early-1980s with a pop singer who died too young.


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