In the anthology Live
Through This, a collection of stories about the connection between
creativity and self-destruction, bisexual sex educator Carol Queen recounts the
unsatisfying experience of losing her virginity to one of her school’s "most
It was the early 1970s, and afterward, in a panic that she
might be pregnant, the 15-year-old Queen considered her options: abortion,
which was illegal; adoption, but then "that baby lived in the world with
you to haunt you forever"; have her parents raise the child, which made
her want to "perish the thought"; or suicide.
With that last option in mind, Queen sat down to write a
suicide note, "but for once no words came." The struggle to
articulate herself in that desperate moment, Queen writes, ultimately inspired
her to become a writer, feminist sex educator and advocate.
At the end of the essay, Queen thanks the boy for inadvertently
showing her the importance of understanding one’s sexuality, and then her
adolescent self for choosing writing over death: "The Carol who turned
herself into a whole person through the little scratches of pen on paper,
finally found a way to escape and make her long thoughts count for something."
Queen, who has a Ph.D. in sexology and is the author or
editor of 11 books, including Real Live
Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, recently told AfterEllen.com
that she sees her role as a writer and feminist sex educator "to empower
women with all the information their traditional education and upbringing keeps
from them — at least, if they want it."
Though Queen’s experiences influenced her to become a sex
educator and writer, this was not necessarily the career path her family
thought she’d follow. Her father died before she decided to get her doctorate
in sexology, but she thinks eventually he would have offered his support.
"He was an eccentric guy in his way," she said via
email, "and handled my coming out as bisexual to him (in a pre-PFLAG
world) very entertainingly: freaking out briefly then asking the blue-haired
old ladies at the stationery shop to help him find a birthday card for me with ‘gay’
in the rhyme."
Though she thinks her mother would also have come around,
she was "never able to make friends with sex and her own body," according
to Queen. "She had been sexually abused as a girl, and never healed."
Queen has written about her family in different anthologies,
including an essay on her father in Male
Lust, and on her mother in her collection Real Live Nude Girl. There is an unfinished documentary about Queen
and her younger brother, a born-again Christian who, she wrote, "I am sure
thinks I’m going to hell — where I intend to meet up with many friends I haven’t
seen in years."
Queen hopes the documentary will be finished soon because "in
spite of our own odd situation, it will speak to other families split to one
degree or another by the culture wars, with religious faith [is] made
oppositional to sexual desire or libertarianism/liberalism/liberation."
Queen came out as bisexual shortly after losing her
virginity in high school. When she began college that same year as a young 16-year-old,
she discovered there was no support system in place for LGBT youth. In 1975,
with two young gay men she met on a gay youth panel, Queen helped found
GAYouth, one of the first gay youth groups in the country.
"We really did it because the LGBT community (it wasn’t
called that then, just the ‘gay’ community) was ageist, but more than that,
because its main social networking place was the bar, and we couldn’t go there,"
Participation in GAYouth stirred Queen’s activism, and with
the help of the ACLU the group sued the school district in Eugene, Ore., for
the right to place ads in high school newspapers.
"We got a good deal of press and attention, which of
course all by itself is one signal your activism is a success: It gets people
to learn about you, your issues, and to think."
GAYouth eventually dropped the case because the school
demanded all the names, addresses and ages of everyone in the group — many, Queen
recalled, who had not even come out to their parents yet.