Sometimes when I’m sitting under a big, shady tree on my sprawling country estate, reading one of the classics – perhaps Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris or Mary Roach’s Stiff – and sipping a cool, refreshing beverage, a group of children from the local village will come running across the expansive lawn shouting, “Baroness! Baroness!”
Arriving breathlessly before me they beg, “Baroness, tell us how it was in the olden days, back before you were a lesbian.”
I smile and tousle their hair or chuck them under the chin. “Oh you sweet, silly little darlings. It’s not that I wasn’t a lesbian, I simply didn’t know I was yet.”
“We want to hear anyway. Please tell us,” they implore. “Pleeeeease!”
“Very well,” I say, smiling indulgently and setting down my book. “Gather ’round and I’ll tell you what it was like.”
“Hooray!” they cry, plopping themselves down at my feet, little faces turned toward me, eyes bright with expectation. And so I begin …
Back when I was a little girl I just thought what I thought and felt what I felt without a care because I never thought or felt that what I thought or felt might be different from what anyone else thought or felt. Try to imagine that you are very young and your favorite bug is a moth. You sit outside in the evening watching them bumble and fumble, bouncing over and over again off the porch light. Whatever it is about moths that captures your attention is so natural you never even think about it; and you certainly never considered that other people might not feel the same way about moths.
Then you get a little older and it’s time to start school and you make friends and everything is fine and you’re happy and no one knows how you feel about moths because seriously, how often does the subject of moths really come up? But then one day, maybe when you’re sitting in class huffing freshly mimeographed spelling tests or out at recess playing Smear The Queer, some fucked up moth with no circadian rhythm goes fluttering by and you get all excited. “Look!” you shout. “A moth!”
“It’s cool!” you say. “You hardly ever see them in the daytime!”
Someone looks at you like you’re about to piss yourself over finding a rock. “It’s just a fucking moth. And you don’t see them during the day ’cause they’re so dumb they all kill themselves flying into candles and bug zappers at night.”
“Yeah,” another kid adds. “Moths suck. Not like butterflies. Butterflies are awesome!”
All the other kids standing around nod their heads and murmur in agreement.
One of the kids steps closer to you and looks straight into your eyes. “What’s wrong with you anyway? Do you like moths? Are you a weirdo or something?”
The other kids laugh and you instantly realize that what has felt so natural for so long that you never even thought about it, isn’t natural at all. You’re supposed to like butterflies and you like moths. There’s something wrong with you. You’re a weirdo, a freak. Your head spins and your mind races. Your instincts for acceptance and self-preservation kick in and for the first of what will be many, many times, you deny who you are.
“I don’t like moths,” you lie. “I just think it’s funny that that one is so dumb it’s still out looking for a bug zapper to fly into.”
The other kids laugh again, but this time they’re laughing with you and not at you. And somehow it feels worse.
One of the kids points toward some flowers. “There’s a butterfly!”
Someone nudges you. “How’d you like to get one of those in your net?”
You smile weakly. “I wouldn’t mind getting two …”
The kid laughs.
You hate yourself.
The children look up at me, brows furrowed, eyes serious. “That’s fucked up Baroness.”
I nod. “You’re damn skippy.”