By Mister Curie
After finally acknowledging to myself that I was attracted to men and I began applying the gay label to myself, there were moments that I felt frustrated that I hadn't accepted it earlier. Certainly life seems more complicated when one comes out as gay after getting married and have a child with a woman. Reviewing my life, there were plenty of experiences that should have given me a clue that I was attracted to men. Somehow I had dismissed those experiences and managed to find a wonderful woman to marry. I blamed my Mormon worldview for giving me the wrong idea about what "gay" was. I blamed society for stigmatizing homosexuality beyond what Mormonism did. I blamed myself for being in denial. Yet somewhere among all of that, I managed to maintain a wonderful and fulfilling relationship with my wife, and having that relationship did not seem to contradict my core identity.
Still, it was hard not to imagine how life might have been different if I had accepted being attracted to men earlier. I got caught up in the challenges and triumphs of the younger MoHo community. I wondered how many believing MoHos could be so aware of their attraction to men and struggle with it in their believing Mormon worldview, when I had been in complete denial of it, largely due to my Mormon worldview. I felt that I had perhaps missed out on some gay coming-of-age event that I could have experienced if only I had come out to myself earlier in life.
So it was with some surprise and potential self-recognition that I read the statistics compiled by the researchers who wrote "Dual Attraction", which I recently reviewed. They sent out questionaires to people of all sexual orientation: heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual. Part of the questionaire asked about age of first attractions, behaviors, self-labelling, and coming out. Heterosexuals reported their first heterosexual attraction at 10.2 years, bisexuals at 12.8 years, and homosexuals at 14.5 years (yes, some homosexuals did report heterosexual feelings). For first homosexual attraction, homosexuals reported 11.5 years, bisexuals 17.1 years, and heterosexuals 21.9 years (yep, even some heterosexuals reported homosexual feelings). Perhaps most interesting, homsexuals first used the homosexual label for themselves at 21.1 years (right at the age when young missionaries are returning home - and I've certainly read lots of MoHo accounts about coming out to themselves while on a mission or shortly thereafter) while bisexuals first labeled themselves as bisexual at 29 years of age (I first acknowledged to myself that I was attracted to men shortly before my 30th birthday). Homsexuals first came out at an average of 23.6 years (so a couple of years after labelling themselves as homosexual) while bisexuals first came out to others at 29.2 years ( very shortly after coming out to themselves, which parallels my experience coming out soon after acknowledging to myself that I am attracted to men).
While one's age at self-labelling and coming out is probably not a reliable indicator of whether someone is gay or bisexual, and the standard deviations on the means I reported above are very large (on the order of 10 years in either direction), it was interesting to me that my story seemed to fit more into the bisexual pattern. Rather than being a gay "late-bloomer", perhaps I fit squarely in the mean of the bisexual.
As an aside, I don't really fit either pattern with regard to first attractions, I clearly remember having a crush on a girl in 1st grade and inviting her over to watch a movie and share a drink from a romantic glass with two straws and I also had a guy friend about the same time that I thought was very cute and I kissed on the cheek, for both experiences I was younger than the mean age at first attraction for either heterosexuals attraction for women or homosexuals attraction for men.
What has been your experience? How old were you when you self-labeled and when you came out to others? How old were you when you experienced your first attraction to men and/or women?