By Linda Blair
Location, location, location. They say that it’s a deciding factor in whether a restaurant will fail or succeed, that it’s the most important factor in what you can charge to sell your home, or in determining the value of any piece of real estate.
I think location is also the biggest factor in any coming out story, or one of the top three, anyway.
I lived in Northampton, Massachusetts, when I was in the throes of coming to terms with my bisexuality, and I felt like it was an impossible location in which to come out as bi. For those of you who are local, you know its claim to fame is having been dubbed “Lesbianville, USA” in a magazine cover story, a reputation, by the way, that it most certainly deserves and lives up to. Moving there shortly after finishing college at UMass Amherst, just a short bus ride away, was like the experience of an alcoholic moving from a dry town to one where there was a bar on every corner, with a neon sign lit up outside saying, “Happy Hour, All Day, Every Day!”
Northampton held an abundance of female energy. Women were everywhere. And they were not shy with each other! They were holding hands, kissing, flirting and generally sending my hormones into overdrive as I went from a state of having my still closeted feelings of attraction for women under control, to a state of having them control me.
So, then, what’s the problem, you might ask? It was that I was involved for seven years by then—with a man, a man I wasn’t ready to leave and didn’t want to hurt. We lived together in this lesbian paradise. I was not out to him or anyone else. The land of feminine milk and honey felt so close I could taste it, but at the same time, it was protected by the widest moat and tallest fortress walls imaginable.
In that location, a lesbian oasis but a bisexual desert, I had no tools at my disposal to ford that moat or scale those walls. I was virtually alone with my thoughts and feelings: confused, conflicted and closeted. Without allies, a support system or anyone to guide the way forward, the gap between these women’s lives and mine appeared unbridgeable.
And then, I moved to Boston.
What a difference a hundred miles can make. Without realizing it, I had moved to the Mecca of bisexuality!
Things didn’t start with a clear-cut roadmap, though, even right here in the bi capitol of the USA. After finally managing to find the Bisexual Resource Center’s pride booth, an unstaffed card table on the Boston Common with no banner or sign, and taking one of everything to go home and figure it out for myself, I was still feeling discouraged. But moving to Boston made it possible for me to access the resources, community and support I needed to face my own fears and come through with rainbow colors, especially the bi rainbow colors of blue, pink and purple, flying on the other side.
There will always be special locations in the city that I see as central to my coming out as bi here. The first one was the LBGT bookstore on Boylston Street, across from the library, where I attended my first reading from Bi Any Other Name and met several of the anthology’s contributing authors. These brave bi writers opened my mind and my heart to reconciling my conflicting emotions and became my role models, as well as trusted friends, to guide me along my journey ahead.
There was my Dorchester apartment, where I came out to my boyfriend, who listened sympathetically, and then later held me lovingly, while I cried when it became clear to me that we would break up over the changes taking place in my life, and that there was really no better solution that was going to work for us.
Being new to the city, I learned my way around Boston and the art of self-acceptance at the same time, as I began attending the brunches, movies, parties, readings and other activities that Biversity Boston, the mixed-gender bi group, or the Boston Bisexual Women’s Network held every week. As my calendar filled up, so did my sense that I could find my own way, with the help and guidance of a community of people who had traveled this road before.
There was the Winter Hill house where my first girlfriend lived, and Walden Pond, where she took me one crisp, cold winter morning for a walk. The relationship lasted just under two years, but my memory of that love-struck day will last forever.
And then there was the “Bi Office,” once located on Clarendon Street in the South End, but later moved to its current location on Stanhope Street. The office was where the bi community gathered to mail out the newsletters and calendars that kept us all informed about upcoming events in the days before the Internet. It was also where I would come to spend countless hours editing this publication, and serving on the board of the Bisexual Resource Center.
From the office, I would field phone calls from people around the country who were unsure of what to do about their bisexuality, and were seeking information and understanding. Later, I helped found and facilitate a bi support group for people within driving distance of the Boston office. I also met there regularly with fellow bi activists to find better ways to reach people across the country, and even the world, with information and education around bisexuality and to facilitate the creation of bi community.
Lately, I’ve become interested in world geography and studying maps. And with the world such a big place, it can be easy to generalize and think that a whole country, region or state is all the same. But, as the world becomes a slightly smaller and more comprehensive place for me, with the pieces starting to fit together, I will never forget how a mere hundred-mile move, given the right circumstances, can make all the difference in the world!
Linda moved from Northampton to Boston in 1989 and has called Boston, and the bi community there, home for the last 25 years. She lives there with her wife Maura and their cat Sintra.