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They say that behind every great man is a greater woman. As a gay man, I’m an exception to this. You see, I have multiple greater women standing behind me.
When I first came out to my mom (the foremost Great Woman in my life), she asked me why I didn’t love women. “You don’t understand,” I had said, “I love women more than anything. That’s why I don’t want to have sex with them.” And this statement remains true to this day. I believe that the most shining, transcendent, sublime human bond occurs when a gay boy loves a girl.
There’s something remarkable yet completely sensible about the union between a gay man and a straight woman. On a shallow, heteronormative level, you seem to have a traditional romance of sorts, in which a boy and a girl care greatly for each other. But look closer at this dynamic, and the layers become more complex, intertwining like strands of DNA. Without sexual tension and social norms, the love between the two of them is not clouded by expectations or unwelcome erections. Something deeper, something magical, something liberating happens, and the rest is history.
It all started for me when I was a sexually confused teenager in high school drama club. Drama club, it turned out, was the mecca of sexually confused teenagers in high school. I was obese and unhappy, defined mostly by my good grades and utter lack of social skills, when I was cast as Mr. Van Daan in The Diary of Anne Frank. By the way, Anne Frank proved that teenagers can still find time to be sexually confused even with Nazis trying to kill you.
Mrs. Van Daan was played by a beautiful young girl named Julie. I was in awe of her. Julie was everything that I had wanted. She was smart and popular. She lived in a gorgeous cabin up in the mountains surrounded by thoroughbreds. All the boys had crushes on her — including the precocious gays.
But instead of taking a look at me and writing me off like everyone else had, the “bond” between us occurred instantly that first day of rehearsal. Never had a friendship blossomed so easily for me. And when she made me grab her boob backstage and it did nothing for me, our eyes locked and we knew we were meant to be.
It didn’t matter that I had my walls up of insecure self-defense and gay teen self-loathing. It was a matter of destiny, there was no stopping her. A gay boy and a straight girl fell in love. I slept over at her house and became close with her equally wonderful sister Amy. We went shopping together. We played Sims a lot (these were the early 2000s).
Julie made me feel beautiful for the first time in my life. It isn’t easy being a double minority. But instead of feeling weird, she made me feel special. And yes, she was my prom date. I wore a pink vest and it was one of the best nights of my life. You might snicker, but some stereotypes are beautiful.
This past Valentine’s Day, I spent it with Julie. She cooked dinner and I brought her the last bunch of dozen red roses at the flower shop, which I had to wrench out of another guy’s hands. We ate too much, then passed out on adjacent couches. At 25, I’ve known and loved her for eight years now.
Could this have happened if I was straight? No.
Would it have needed to happen? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Other Great Women would enter my life after Julie. The first person I ever came out to was Chanda who lived down the hall my first year of college. She hugged me and told me I was brave. Then came Kate, who I still visit monthly in San Francisco. Kim held me every night for a month after the first boy I ever loved dumped me. No one makes me laugh more than Marissa. And I spent the entire day at the beach yesterday with Caitlin and Mara. We teared up as we watched the sunset, huddled together to block out the wind.
I admire the Great Women in my life more than anything. They inspire me, they fulfill me, they march in Gay Pride Parades for our rights… while I’m too hungover to get out of some rando’s bed. They’ve promised to make me the godfather of their future kids, so that by the time I’m 45 I’m going to have an Army of Godchildren.
And I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to make them feel beautiful as well.
Follow me on Twitter @justinhuang.