I've heard a lot of people say that gay kids can tell they're different pretty early on. I guess it could be true, I did always feel different. It never really occurred to me when I was little that being different could be a bad thing. I grew up in a fairly isolated environment, it was me and the stories (there was my family, but I was a solitary child and they were like the landscape to my existence*). My first crushes were on characters from books, Triss and Muriel from the Redwall series, Aerin from Robin McKinley's "The Hero and the Crown" and Menolly from Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonrider's of Pern".
Because of my isolation I didn't know how different I was until I was about ten or twelve, and started attending a homeschool co-op for the first time. I am naturally introverted, and had a hard time making friends, but I was used to going it alone and co-op only met once a week anyways. It was in that first year of co-op that I had my first crush on a flesh-and-blood girl. She was the only goth girl in the entire co-op, and took a lot of crap for it (apparently self expression is a form of rebellion against one's parents. Only immature and ungrateful children do it, you know.). And she was gorgeous. I think she was of Latino descent, she had caramel colored skin, and waves upon waves of shimmering black hair that fell to her hips. She was always wearing black and red, and decorating things with safety pins. She was an artist, and did cool, edgy things like drawing on her arms and listening to rock music (my childhood culture was pretty narrow, okay). I had a class with her--despite the fact that she was a few grades ahead of me--and sat in the back corner constructing scenarios in which we would talk and she would be so impressed by how awesome I was. I never talked to her.
If only I'd figured it out then, but I still had a long way to go before I muddled through all the confusion. In part two, I'll talk about my junior high friends, the party where I got jealous, loving too hard, and purity culture!
*I really, really, love my family no matter what dysfunction we share and despite all the crap we've put each other through. Unfortunately, one of the things about spending your entire childhood in the near constant presence of the same five people is that you take them for granted.