It seems totally bizarre to me now, but I didn't consciously know a single gay person until I went to Interlochen in the summer of 2000 and found myself positively surrounded by queer folk. (Dear lord, the Indigo Girls came and I thought there was going to be a riot. I can't imagine being there during an Ani concert.) Or rather, there were gay people around me but I didn't recognize it until years later; the student body president, the angsty trumpet player, my co-worker at Dairy Queen that I had a huge crush on (the last two went to prom together! ha), are all happily out now. I've always had terrible gaydar. I wonder if they knew at the time, or if they were all as clueless as I was--I didn't have more than an inkling until I was about twenty, and I didn't come out more formally until I was almost twenty-two, which is astonishing given the lay of the land now. But I am a perennial late bloomer, running several years behind the rest of the world in most areas of life, so I guess I shouldn't be so shocked. I get there eventually, at least.
I say all the time that life moves in cycles, but it still amuses me to observe it. The seasons, my modes of transportation, and my productivity all spin in these giant circles that end up transcribing my life in the ways they intersect. It also works for somewhat smaller (but not really any less important) things, like the gendering of my clothing (either by choice or force, due to Chicago weather), how much cooking/reading/texting I do, and the frequency with which I crave chocolate. One of the circles I've been thinking about recently is the demographic of my friends. Not the long term ones (those are pretty stable), but the new-ish ones, the people who I actually see and hang out with on a somewhat regular basis. One of the most noticeable cycles for me is the one between queer and straight; it just always seems like either my queer friends are a visible, present part of my life, or they dwindle until they are few and far between.
My last queer cycle was about four years ago, and since then the numbers had been dropping steadily. But now, rather suddenly, I appear to be in the midst of another upswing; even at work, the queer insomniacs are running the show in the shop lately. What's really interesting this time around is that actually seems to make a lot of difference for how I go about life. To be clear, I love my straight friends dearly, but god it's nice to not be the one queer person in the room sometimes. It's good to hang out in queer spaces, talk about gender from a queer perspective, talk about sex without having to be the dyke "expert" to temper all the straight advice being thrown around. (For the record, I mostly adore educating straight men about leather bars and alternative sexualities and sex toys, but sometimes it's nice to be able to assume that at least some of that is common knowledge. I'm generalizing, but that kind of knowledge often seems to be much more prevalent in the average queer outing than the average straight one.) But more than that I just find that things are so much richer when I fit into more communities, and for a while there I didn't feel very immersed in queer life. I missed it.
Now I can have movie night with my straight girl friends on Friday and go to a 1920's drag ball on Tuesday, maybe spend an evening at a gay bar or a queer dance party (no, I didn't dance) in between my generally super straight orchestra rehearsals. It sounds like such a small thing, but it helps me keep track of all the parts of who I am. I love my straight friends, but I love my queer identity just as much.