Do they have Kroger where you live?
They have it where I grew up, in Atlanta.
I saw my first openly gay man there. He kissed another man. I was in awe for one reason: The possibility of two men being together had never occurred to me. I’d never seen it modeled. I had the sense, as a kid of only five or six, that they loved each other. I thought it was sweet.
Then my dad jerked me away. He didn’t want me to see that. I got a bad feeling, the kind of feeling you get deep in your gut when you’re about to be scolded. I thought I was in trouble.
I wasn’t. Not then. They didn’t know. Nor did I.
Then the year 2000 rolled around. The movie U-571 was all the rage in my military-loving family. For some reason that was inexplicable to me at the time, I loved to rewind the videotape and watch Eric Palladino take his shirt off. Then it began to generalize.
Don’t get me wrong: I liked women, too. I liked them a great deal. But I didn’t realize then, as I do now, that I was (and am) bisexual. At the time, I believed (because I was told) that every person was either gay or straight. If you liked people of the same sex, you were gay. If you liked people of the ‘other’ sex, you were straight. I liked people of the same sex, so I was gay. But I also liked people of the ‘other’ sex, so I was straight. But no one was both gay and straight.
This confusion cleared up in college, where I first heard the term ‘bisexual’ and realized it applied to me.
It wasn’t until graduate school that I finally understood another queer reality: I’m not a man. I’m not a woman, either. This isn’t about what’s in my pants, as much as social conservatives would like for it to be about that for its (dubious) value as a reductio.
It’s partially about how I perceive myself, including what’s in my pants. For most people, their ‘sexual parts’ feel normal, a part of them. They take showers, look down, and don’t think about what’s there. But I do. What’s there seems foreign to me. I have no issue with it whatsoever; I don’t want it gone. But I have absolutely no sense of identifying with a particular ‘sexual part’, of it seeming familiar or part of me, or of thinking of myself in terms of its presence (or absence). There have even been times when a medical professional has asked me about my sexual parts, and I’ve had to remind myself about what parts I have.
It wasn’t until graduate school that I realized what this means: I’m agender.
It took me a long time to become okay with all of this in my head. But not in my heart. There, I was always okay with all of this. Bertrand Russell was once asked how he knew the difference between good and evil. He replied, “The same way I know the difference between blue and green: I can see it.” My earliest memories contain those moral perceptions: I could just see that these identities of mine were good things, born of love—not sin. Everything I had ever been taught, however, made these truths harder to pound into my mind. But once I tried to understand, I did, and it didn’t take long.
Cedarville didn’t help. Well, not outside the philosophy major. The administration conveniently eliminated a major devoted to critical inquiry about the big questions. But within that major, we devoted our very selves to acquiring not only true belief, but well-founded true belief. I graduated in 2011 and I’ve pursued professional academic philosophy ever since. I am as convinced as ever that Cedarville’s positions on these issues are false, and that my identity as a queer person is precisely as nature and nature’s creator intended it to be.
I want students there to know that they can reach out to me to discuss these issues. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do, please know that my pronouns are ze/zir/zirs (and not, for example, she/her/hers) and my salutation is Mz. (and not, for example, Mr.).