Ashly Frances Cargle

Just before I left for college, my father took me and my older sister out to dinner.  During our meal, he offered unsolicited pearls of wisdom to us as we went forth into the world.  One such pearl, as it were, was that my sister and I were to “let no man (directed at her) or whomever (directed at me) dictate our goals and our futures.”  He went on, “it [doesn’t] matter who your husband (again, to my sister) or life partner may be, maintain your goals and your focus”!  I had noticed that my father hesitated to assign a gender to my future romantic partner.  Surely he didn’t think I was gay!   I had never even had a crush on a boy, much less, a girl.  By all accounts I was a late bloomer; and, heterosexual, not to mention, homosexual relationships had not yet made my “to do” list.  How did he make that leap?

I asked my mom, “Does Dad think I’m gay?”  My mother’s reply: “Well, yes sweetheart, we both do.  You understand why right?”  I didn’t.  So, she rattled off a list of “gay” flags,  I:  was a dedicated athlete, had no interest boys, only had friends that were girls, looked up to my basketball coach who was a lesbian, wanted to go stag to my senior prom.  She, of course, didn’t forget “parents’ intuition”, either.  I was enraged.  In true teenager fashion, I decided they would NOT determine my sexuality.  I was going to college and I was going to be straight, damnit!  At the time, I didn’t realize that sexuality needn’t be declared; but declare, I did.  I declared my “straightness” through several terribly awkward and ridiculously brief relationships with guys—and they sucked.  Eventually, I gave up on dating.  As I settled in to other facets of college life, I let my guard down.  I found that I was more at ease around gay women.  I became close to the lesbians on my basketball team and eventually—FINALLY—I fell for someone; a girl.  It hit me, “This is what it’s supposed to feel like; this is what love songs are about.  This is how all those straight couples can make out at the bar and look each other in the eye the next morning”.  For the first time in my adolescent life, I felt normal; I felt honest.  I remember calling my dad to tell him I was gay, that I was wrong and he was right and braced for “I told ya so”. I blurted it out, “Dad, I’m gay”.  His response:  “I know.  Are you happy?”  Me:  “Yes”.  Dad:  “Good.  How’s school?” Today we joke about that first conversation being another one of my father’s efforts to get me to clean my closet.  But looking back, even with my parents begging me to be okay with my sexuality, coming out was tough; but in the end, a small price to pay for normalcy.