Joy Wilson

Kentucky, Lexington, USA

If Only I’d Been Born Rhett Butler

Queer / 17 and Under, 23-29 / White /

Where to begin? The nuances of tomboys and grunge kids in the 90s? The pre-Ellen country and the pro-Jesus south?

It was 1995 and I found myself getting along REALLY well with boys. Mostly because I was not attracted to and therefor not intimidated by them. Also because I felt more comfortable around them. In fact as this story unfolds I will steal someone’s boyfriend from her, not because I really liked him, but because I didn’t want her to be with anyone. Wasn’t quite sure why that was, but let’s begin with her.

I’ve changed her name because I never want to exploit her, and to this day still have more respect for her than most other women on the planet. We’ll call her Scarlett, as a nod to her repetitive reading of Gone with the Wind (which I found absurdly charming). I was in youth group at my church one Sunday night – yes that’s where this starts – and in walks Scarlett. Wearing a small shredded fabric of denim as shorts, a shirt three sizes too big, and with soaking wet hair. It looked as if she had leisurely napped away the majority of her Sunday then schlepped into youth group for lack of anything better to do.

After I got to know her better I realized that scenario was totally plausible. She could have been wearing a banana costume for all I cared. As soon as I saw her I felt ALL OF THE THINGS. She sat a couple rows in front of me and I stared dumbfounded for the next two hours. People started to play guitars and sing songs. It was just when I felt like I was getting a grip on my creepy behavior. Then I heard her singing. This wet haired, blonde , hippie creature might as well have been Jesus at this point, because I was ready to surrender.

Over the next couple of years, without knowing why, I did everything I could to be as close to her as I could be. I dated boys that were friends with the boys she dated. I opened up the idea that female friends kissed other female friends on the lips sometimes, and had to kiss several people I didn’t want to just so I could get these random peck kisses with her. During this time my aunt was a counselor of my youth group. She was none too impressed with all of the kissing going on, and even less impressed with me.

Ok guys, looking back on it I was REALLY gay. We were going on church trips, playing guitar and singing Indigo Girls together. I’d love long church trips because she LOVED to nap, which often meant on my lap. She would write me long meaningful letters that I confess still to this day are more poetic than any other woman has come close to writing. She’d sing Don McLean’s “Miss American Pie,” and I would completely fall apart. On the inside of course. I still wasn’t aware I was gay, or really what gay was.

Scarlett got her driver’s license, and suddenly I was of much less use to her. She was branching out with new friends, and I was devastated. I started to pick petty fights with her and spent many nights arguing with her on the telephone. I knew she was stubborn enough to fight back, and at least if we were arguing we were still talking. Finally I came home one Sunday, and my dad had a talk with me. It went something like “I know you’re gay, and I know you think you’re in love with her, and it’s going to be ok.”

I was PISSED. I had only heard the term lesbian when referring to the indigo girls, and I still hadn’t fully unwrapped what it meant. I was so upset I moved into a friend’s house for the remainder of the school year. My dad and I kept this convo to ourselves until I had time to date a couple guys and realize in fact I was gay, and I had TOTALLY been in love with Scarlett. As “in love” as you can be as a teenager.

There isn’t a day I’m alive I don’t realize how lucky I am for my father, and also for her. In a very conservative land I was truly blessed for a soft landing. I can’t say the rest of my coming out was 100% easy, but I do feel I had it easier than most. I never take that for granted.