When I Didn’t Know

Feb 1, 2012 | 2012 Winter- When I Knew, Articles, Poetry

By Debbie Block-Schwenk

I was always a late bloomer…..

The villains in the cartoons I watched as a child always tied up the women, So I imagined tying them up, too.

All I knew of the word, “queer” was that it meant “different” when I shouted

“I’m queer!” in the mall. (Was I 8? 9? 10?)

My parents hushed me.

(What if we lived in a world that celebrated difference, instead of hushing it up?)

My first crush was Chekov from Star Trek.

I thought my seventh-grade English teacher was so beautiful. I wanted her to like me.

I had a huge crush on a male classmate in Junior High. His sister was also gorgeous.

During high school, I read science fiction. In the books I visited worlds with people in all combinations of relationships. It made sense to me.

Heading to college, my best friend gave me the first three Dykes to Watch Out For collections. I identified with alienated, politically savvy Mo the most.

I dated a Filipino-American guy from my biology classes. Briefly.

I dated a male suitemate. (Very briefly.) A friend of ours was an out and proud bi woman with wild hair and a “Silence = Death” t-shirt.

I went to a meeting of the campus LGBT group (how many letters did it have back then?) – purely out of curiosity. (Or so I told myself.)

I wrote a science fiction story featuring a young woman (who lived in a house a lot like mine) meeting a female, tentacled alien. They bonded. They had sex. It was published in the campus science fiction magazine.

Starting senior year, I had crushes on one woman and two men. I ended up dating one of the men….and we’re still together. (If I’d ended up dating the woman?)

[I ran into her years later at the OutWrite conference. She still had beautiful green eyes. But she’d cut her hair.]

We went to the 1993 March on Washington with Kevin’s old college friend the year after we graduated. We sat three together in the back of the bus. People wondered what our relationship was. I wondered.

I wondered.

I told Kevin later that year, “I think I might be bisexual.” He wasn’t surprised.

With a bad map, we walked the long way around to the one gay and lesbian bookstore in Providence. I bought the one book on bisexuality they had. (BBWN was mentioned in it!)

I watched “Claire of the Moon,” full of clichés but… the half-understood longing, the slowly coalescing identity like stringing together the words of the perfect sentence. I identified with that completely.

I understood. Finally. I was 25.

(Well, I had always been a late bloomer)

Debbie now owns many more books on bisexuality. She still reads (and sometimes writes) science fiction.

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