Public School Sex Education Turned Me Gay

No doubt some of you wonder exactly how I became such a horrible person. It is not difficult to connect the dots. Unlike many of you who were raised in the warmth of a values-based, God-focused Catholic education, I was indoctrinated with the treacherous secularism of the public school system. Part of that indoctrination, of course, consisted of sex-ed.

I vaguely remember the evening before my first sex-ed class, when I was twelve years old or so. I remember feeling nervous. I knew there was a thing called sex, but I didn’t know what it was and I was not sure I wanted to. I was right to feel apprehensive; not only would the subject of sex preoccupy my time and attention for years to come, but public school sex ed turned me into a homosexual.

The first day of sex-ed wasn’t terrible. We were handed a booklet produced by a tampon company, which detailed the many ways our pubescent bodies would betray us, and told us all about tampons and the role they played in dealing with the menstrual cycle. The booklet was 80% focused on cisfemale development and the many questions that young women might ask. The remaining 20% discussed male body parts and nocturnal emissions. I was relieved to know that being a cismale was far more straightforward than becoming a woman and menstruating. We also learned the “proper” names for our private parts, and some information about how cismale body parts interacted with cisfemale ones to make babies. (Readers wanting a refresher on this might refer to this entry I wrote for poor Steven.)

The pictures in the tampon-sponsored education book were sterile and abstract, the cutaway renditions of human genitals pointing out fallopian tubes, the vas deferens, etc. But then our secularist schoolteachers (or more likely the amoral, culturally relativist curriculum designers who probably studied postmodernism in university) took things a step farther: they passed around photocopied line drawings illustrating (so to speak) secondary sex characteristics in human development. The line drawings were reminiscent of those in coloring books, but instead of farm animals or Disney princesses these drawings consisted of a man and a woman standing side by side. Unlike the educational drawings from the tampon-sponsored education manual, these were not medical diagrams cut away to show the innards. They were just drawings of people — naked people. Neither of them was wearing any clothes.

Supposedly, these nefarious drawings were intended to be educational, pointing out the different changes puberty would bring. But these drawings were nothing less than soft-core pornography, and like an innocent gosling gazing upon Konrad Lorenz, I imprinted. One secondary sex characteristic was facial hair, and sure enough the naked man in the drawing sported a full beard, in addition to a broad chest, pubic hair, and a lengthened wee-wee. If he had not been a line drawing, this man could have come straight out of Fearsome’s blog, and he warped my impressionable young mind immediately. That was the point I turned into a homosexual (For further evidence, see shocking disclosure #2.)

Almost immediately I knew something was wrong. I felt the drawing was somehow shameful. I hid it in my room and only took it out to gaze at it when I thought nobody would catch me.

Why? Why did the public school system do this to me? If they had not exposed me to such images maybe I would not have imprinted on Mr. Naked Dude and maybe I would not have been doomed to a lonely, loveless life.

I’m not trying to say that I oppose sex education. To the contrary, I learned many things in sex-ed that I might not have been aware of otherwise: never put anything other than food in your mouth because that is unhygienic; using a tampon does not mean you have lost your virginity; and condoms really aren’t good at stopping the transmission of STDs, because they only cover your penis and not your entire body. I do believe we should have comprehensive sex education, but it should be age appropriate, and we should be sure to defer material that impressionable young minds might imprint on until their hormones have settled down — maybe age 35 or so. In exposing young minds to morally corrosive illustrations of naked people, just how many homosexuals are we trying to create?

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Books for Sixpence

Sixpence Nottthewiser (the dear!) recently posted an entry about the importance of reading. He writes about being horrified when he finds no reading material in some beautiful man’s apartment. Although I am in no danger of receiving a visit from Sixpence (or anybody else), and although anybody who did visit would be horrified for different reasons, I do sometimes read books. When Sixpence asked us for a favorite book to recommend, I had to speak up. So here are a few of the favorite books I have read over the past five years or so. Although I occasionally read books for straight people, for this entry I picked out books that are related to LBGTQ+ authors or themes in some way.

The Young in One Another’s Arms

by Jane Rule

Jane Rule is an amazeballs lesbian writer. Her strength is writing about the nuances of relationships. The Young in One Another’s Arms is about a one-armed landlady interacting with her boarders. The novel consists of the flow of everyday human relationships in a boarding house punctuated by surreal, sometimes violent episodes of ultradrama. It is such a strange novel.

Unlike some of her other works (eg Desert of the Heart) this book is not explicitly lesbigay, but it is so strange I feel compelled to recommend it. My guess is that you will either like it or be bored stiff.

Tomboy Survival Guide

by Ivan Coyote

Several autobiographical essays by a thoughtful, observant writer. I was not expecting to find an ally in the homosexuality wars from a butch lesbian who transitioned to male (sort of?) but there you go. (I think my allies in the homosexuality wars try to bring us together rather than driving us apart. But what do I know?)

Particularly memorable to me was the story “We’ve Got a Situation Here”, which tells the story of Coyote being scheduled to talk at a high school, and then the local Concerned Parent Organization finding out.

The Naked Civil Servant

by Quentin Crisp

Yes, it’s a classic. Yes, you have very likely read it. Read it again. Yes, it’s hilarious, because Quentin Crisp is a comedic genius who can turn a phrase like nobody’s business.

In some ways it is a very sad story about a crossdressing homosexual who just couldn’t bring himself to fit in regardless of the cost. I for one am grateful that this book helped him find his place in the world.

Real Live Nude Girl

by Carol Queen

As you know, I don’t fit into lesbigay culture that well. I feel like a freak and an outcast even among the homosexuals. Carol Queen gives me hope that there might be a place for freaks in this world. Queen is a sex radical to the sex radicals. She is partnered to (and has sex with) an openly gay man. She has such adventures! She goes to work as a peep show model to see what it is like! She trains doctors how to give pelvic exams by sitting in stirrups with her pants off! She goes to graduate school and watches seventeen simultaneous porn movies projected on a giant wall!

I am nothing like Carol Queen. But something about her approach to sex, about her rejection of labels, about her acknowledgements that sexuality is tough for everybody (even the straights) resonates so deeply with me. If I had to recommend one book that matched my sexual politics most closely, it might be this one. I was skimming through some illicit photocopies I made of some of the essays in this book, and I just want to type them all out for you word for word. This book is probably going to be difficult to find (it was published in 1997) but it is completely worth the search. If I had to pick a single recommendation, this would be it.

Far from the Tree

by Andrew Solomon

This book starts out fairly lesbigay. Solomon has an unusual family structure. He and his husband have some children and he is the sperm donor to some others. They make a complicated family. Solomon is gay, of course, and his gayness launches the explorations of this book. Gay children usually have straight parents, and the book explores how parents deal with children who are very different from them.

But the book does not stop with parents of gay children. It explores the lives of parents whose children have become criminals, about the lives of parents whose children are profoundly disabled, about parents whose children are on the autistic spectrum, and even about parents of children who are child prodigies. None of them have easy lives (do any parents have easy lives?) but the explorations are fascinating.

You might know Solomon from another landmark book: The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. This book changed the way I think about my broken brain. If you suffer from melancholia (or maybe even if you don’t) that book is also a worthy read.

Captivity: 118 Days in Iraq and the Struggle for a World Without War

by James Loney

This is yet another book that does not come across as particularly lesbigay (and it is yet another book written by a Canadian. What’s up with that?), but Loney’s sexuality is definitely a factor in the story.

You might remember James Loney’s story. He was a member of a pacifist group called Christian Peacemaker Teams, whose role was to use their First-World privilege to intervene in scenes of conflict, with hopes to de-escalate the situation. Loney was in Iraq when he and three of his fellow CPT members were kidnapped and held for ransom. Much of the book relates Loney’s experiences in captivity, and the complicated feelings he had about his treatment and his rescue. The book is full of contradictions, but Loney is aware of these contradictions, and faces them directly and with honesty.

In this hyper-polarized world Loney somehow looks for the humanity in everyone — even the captors who mistreated him. He fell in love with a philosophy that spoke to him, and he tried to live that philosophy at the expense of his own well-being. But he does not come across as a saint or a martyr. He is just a guy trying to live out his values.

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Get Pregnant

by Dan Savage

I have documented my affinity for Dan Savage before, and I continue to feel an affinity for him even though he is uncool and mainstream. He can be awfully strident at times, but he is also articulate and smart and once in a while he allows himself to demonstrate vulnerability. I like a good Dan Savage rant as much as the next mainstream homosexual, but Savage is at his best when he is off his soapbox.

I appreciated the ambivalence Savage showed in having children at all, and the mixed, politically-incorrect anxieties he felt in learning about the troubled history of his birth mother. (She’s giving up her unborn baby to fags. Duh.)

This book is very much a time capsule. I will never ever ever get pregnant or have a baby, but it is worthwhile look into the lives of a couple that really wanted one.

Saving Alex

by Alex Cooper and Joanna Brooks

The subtitle of this book is “When I was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I was Gay, and That’s When My Nightmare Began”. The subtitle is not a lie. Alex’s nightmare, in this case, was being sent off to a reform house to punish away the gay. It’s harrowing. It made me angry. But it was well worth the read.

My Husband is Gay: A Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Crisis

by Carol Grever

What’s interesting about this book is that it was written in 2001, long before having a gay husband was acceptable. Much of this stuff is similar to stuff you will read on the “Gay Husband” corner of the blogosphere, but it is written well and all in one place.

Men who come to terms with their sexuality, come out of the closet and live their lives with authenticity have to go through an emotional journey. So do their wives, but we homosexuals often neglect that part. To some extent, this book fills in the gaps.

Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey to Manhood and Back Again

by Norah Vincent

Norah Vincent (a lesbian) wanted to know what men were like. So she went undercover, posing as Ned, a somewhat metrosexual man. She joined a bowling league. She went to a monastary. She tries to date women posing as a straight guy. She visits strip clubs. She goes to John Bly manhood groups. Sure enough, she learns what life is like in exclusively male spaces.

I learned a lot from this book. Despite being fairly male, and despite participating in some communities that are largely male, I have never felt in tune with male culture. I have never played poker or been to a strip club or joined the clergy. I do not really know what it is like to be a real man interacting with other real men. Ned enters these spaces and observes, and I am the richer for it.

We talk a lot about “toxic masculinity” these days, but I am still not sure what that is, or how it differs from regular masculinity. I guess this book offers some clues. It also offers sympathy, which appears to be a common theme of many of the books I am recommending.

It is worth noting that this book took a toll on its author, which Norah Vincent documents in her followup Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin.

Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming-Out Stories

edited by Patrick Merla

Back when I participated in an LGBTQ+ reading group at the Lurkville Community Centre, I read a lot of LGBTQ+ anthologies. Many of them were mediocre, with a few standout stories. This collection was much better than average.

I wrote about this collection before, in my entry about Chip Delany, but there were a number of other standout stories as well. We have all read a lot of coming out stories, both in blogs and in print. I am not certain that this collection has anything new to say, but it says those things in an interesting way.

The New Moon’s Arms

by Nalo Hopkinson

A flawed fiftysomething woman adopts a young boy who may or may not be a sea creature. I thought that this was going to be tedious and boring, but I was pleasantly surprised. It also does not seem to be particularly lesbigay, but keep reading.

Blog Puppy

Today’s self-indulgent blog entry is about online community and my relationship to it. The more I think about it, the more I perceive myself as being like a puppy. Puppies are social creatures. They want love and affections from their masters. They have lots of energy to jump around and play, and they will play with you much longer than you are interested in playing back. Unlike older dogs they are often impulsive and imperfectly trained. They have accidents. Sometimes when puppies are play fighting with you they nip too hard, and you get hurt. They don’t mean to hurt you; they are just unaware of their limits.

There’s no need to explain how this simile relates to my online behaviour, so I’ll do it anyways. It is abundantly clear that I am not very good at blogging myself, and that I have run out of things to say. But I enjoy playing with other bloggers in their comment sections. I crave attention and affection, but sometimes I nip too hard and feelings get hurt. Occasionally, a few bloggers throw a stick for me to fetch a few times, but I tire them out quickly. Other bloggers are busy doing two-foot things to engage much, and still others don’t like puppies (in particular this puppy) that much. I try to recognise when bloggers don’t want to play, but it is difficult for my puppy brain to understand that you don’t want to spend every waking minute keeping me entertained. I may exist in the world of two-foots but that doesn’t mean I comprehend it.

One disappointing aspect of blogs is that they tend to be one-to-many interactions. The blogger in question makes a post, some commenters respond to that blogger, and sometimes the blogger writes back. Sometimes I wish blogs were more like dog parks, where commenters could sniff each others’ butts and run around together independent of the blogger. Old bulletin board systems had that property, but it is mostly gone now. The blogosphere is okay, and I am grateful to read the blogs of so many thoughtful, erudite, and intelligent people, but I miss group interaction, and I treasure it when I see it happening in your comment sections. This is not to say that dog parks are perfect. Sometimes they get noisy and chaotic. Sometimes there are mean dogs that will growl and make me feel unwelcome. But they can be a nice alternative to one-on-one walks.