By Kate Estrop

The process of realizing I was bisexual – and actually following through on it – commenced in classic Kate fashion. After all, I’m horrible at following through on things. I have two bookshelves full of unused craft materials, at least twenty unread or half-read books, a novel I’ve been trying to write for three years, and a gym key fob that I’ve used maybe twice throughout my year-long membership. Half-eaten bags of frozen veggies get tossed years later, half-written short stories litter a folder titled “In Progress,” and the same starred email has been sitting in my email folder for months.

Thinking about doing something, on the other hand, is something I’m good at. I run three miles in my head before I go to sleep many nights and appear on talk shows for my bestselling novel while I shower. I make elaborate meals, publish countless short stories and get hired full-time at a university, all in the realm of imagination. I even think about getting better at following through on things, but of course you can imagine where that goes.

So while I don’t remember the first time it hit me that thinking about kissing another woman turned me on, I remember whom I thought about kissing: Tara, the ex-wife of the man I was dating at the time. She was a tall, long-legged, sharp-featured performance artist with a dry wit and unconventional allure. She never shaved her legs or armpits and gave off a strong, almost masculine vibe, but at the same time wore sundresses and funky makeup. Her haircut was asymmetrical, her teeth stuck out a little in a charming way, and her eyes were like cloudy ice. She was probably one of the first women I knew who identified as bisexual at a time when I finally understood what that meant.

Being a girl who frequently fails to filter herself, I told Tara about my attraction. I think I even told her I wanted to kiss her. Though we didn’t kiss, I do remember her telling me about the first time she wanted to kiss a girl, too. Aha, I thought, this is something.

I mentioned it to my therapist. She said it might be possible I was attracted to women, but it could also be a manifestation of my attraction to Tara’s ex-husband, my then-boyfriend. I’m especially bad at follow-through when someone gives me a loophole to escape through, so I did. Both the object of my attraction and my boyfriend moved away. He and I broke up, and I lost touch with them both. The cozy relationship with my next boyfriend and my contentment with my developing master’s degree overshadowed this brief attraction, and it, too faded away.

The next time I confronted my sexuality was a year and a half later, thanks to Noomi Rapace, the actress who played Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I’d already fallen in love with the character after reading Larsen’s books and found myself lusting after the actress even though in her day-to-day life she was nothing close to the type that might attract me. I pretended she was more like the punky Lisbeth, that she liked to shed her model persona sometimes and carouse with “normal” people, and that she was my super-secret celebrity girlfriend.

Super secret celebrity girlfriend? This was definitely becoming a thing. My boyfriend, understanding and supportive partner that he is, encouraged me to think about it. He bought me the DVD boxed set of Noomi’s movies for our anniversary. He frequently prompted me to ask myself the question, Now what?

Easing back to my comfort level and lack of follow-through, I thought about it. A lot. But not just about Noomi and other women I’d see on the street or elsewhere (though now there began to be a lot of that too). I thought back to the quirks I had as a child, the things I liked and people I felt close to. And that’s what brought me back to the playground in fifth grade, doing flips on the monkey bar before school and waiting for Miss Smith.

Miss Smith was my middle school gym teacher and volleyball coach. She was funny and always joked around with us in an informal manner that my other teachers rarely had. She had what I would now call a butch style, but back then I didn’t really have a word for what I thought of her, other than “my favorite person in the whole wide world.”

My attraction to her was never sexual, but I always wanted to be around her. I wrote stories about her and her “roommate,” my other volleyball coach. I would wait for her in the morning to drive up in her green Ford Explorer and hope that she’d see my antics on the jungle gym and think, “That Kate Estrop is my favorite student of all time.” My friends – my long-suffering friends who I’m sure wanted me to just shut up about it – even helped me to prank call her one night. Being the lighthearted person she was, she laughed, called me a “goober,” and hung up.

I eventually got over my obsession with Miss Smith when I graduated to a new school and found other, different things to be consumed with (like Helen Hunt in Twister). I didn’t think of her much over the years, other than to blush when remembering how embarrassing I had probably been as a student. But now that I was thinking about women in a whole new way, sixteen years later, it hit me that what I had had was a crush. I just hadn’t recognized it.

I began to recognize more signs of my attraction, like my Twister phase, my long standing as a Melissa Etheridge and Indigo Girls fan, and the fascination I’d always had with women I thought might be lesbians. I realized that this couldn’t just be one of those things that would fall victim to my horrible follow-through. This had to be something real, something I actually did for myself and finished.

So now what? I asked myself. I typed “Boston bisexual women” into Google.

A month later, in May of 2011, I sat in the passenger’s seat of my boyfriend’s car, finding excuses to stall before going to my first BBWN brunch. “You know you need to do this,” he said. I knew I needed to do this. I opened the car door.

What I found at this first brunch was a sense of belonging. Everyone was friendly, welcoming, and supportive. They all had their own stories to tell about coming out, being bi and forming a community to combat bisexual invisibility and erasure. Upon listening to my concerns that I didn’t know whether or not I was bi because I didn’t have any experience with women, one member told me that I didn’t need it; if I was attracted to more than one gender and wanted to identify as bi, I could identify as bi.

That started to solidify it for me. I didn’t need to do anything to be bisexual. I just needed to feel something. In my case, my “now what” was just to internalize it, and it didn’t take long after that to come out to myself, then eventually others. Of course, I did eventually end up doing something, but that’s a story for another time.I haven’t finished my novel or re-joined the gym yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a full-time job at a university. But I have become very happily involved with bisexual and LGBT communities, made amazing friendships, and hopefully helped to create the kind of belonging for others that BBWN originally created for me. I guess that some things, like identity and community and being true to oneself, are worth following through on.

Kate is a Boston-area professor, writer, and editor. She is on the board of the Bisexual Resource Center and organizes Young BLiSS.

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