By Laurie Wolfe
Women’s space might as well have been outer space growing up. Until I came out as Laurie, and went to my first bi women’s meeting, that’s practically what it was.
Like the kitchen at my Aunt Betty’s apartment, at our Thanksgiving family gathering. She fed me pieces of turkey before everything was ready to be put out on the table. In the kitchen it was warm, and there was food, and skirts to hold on to. It was caring, it was love. She asked me which kind of turkey I liked, light or dark, and I didn’t know. So she fed me some white meat, and I didn’t like it. Then she fed me a piece of dark meat; it was soft, and juicy, and it tasted really good. She said, oh, you like dark meat; and I discovered I liked dark meat. But right after that I was sent out of the kitchen: she said the women have to do something, go be with the men where you belong. I didn’t want to leave. But I was sent away, so I had to go. It was cold in the living room; cigar smoke hung in layers of gray, and darker gray. The men didn’t talk, but stared at the tv watching the football game, and yelled things at it from time to time. It wasn’t my space; I didn’t belong there.
The other space where I wasn’t allowed was the girls’ line in elementary school. The first day was the most terrifying: we were told we had to line up with boys on one side, girls on the other to enter the school. This might seem okay to you, but I was in a panic; I knew I belonged with the girls. But the teachers were barking commands The vice principal was the scariest: she told us you didn’t want to get in trouble and wind up in My Office. She was just like the Wicked Witch. I didn’t belong on the boys’ line, but clearly, if I didn’t go there I would go to the Vice Principal’s office. So I lined up there, certain the teachers or vice principal could hear me thinking as plain as day that I was in the wrong line. I would wind up in the vice principal’s office, and then it would get out, and no one would want to play with me, or I would get beaten up. I knew this ’cause Robert, my neighbor who was two years older, had told me this would happen.
I could go on and on, and list more examples, but it would just be more depressing. I locked up all my thoughts of wanting to live in women’s spaces, or stand in the other line, hold baby dolls and stuffed animals, wear dresses and skirts and princess clothes. I locked them up tightly so no one could hear them. Which is why it took them decades to re-emerge fully. It took the arrival of the internet to become aware of others living their lives as themselves (thank you, On Q and AOL chatrooms). And later on, therapy helped me find myself again, and begin to remember wanting to be a girl. And then I could reclaim all my thoughts and memories and develop internally as a woman. Thank you, Fenway.
The first time I was able to be in women’s space again in the world was at the Women’s Center in Cambridge. I called up to see if transwomen were welcome at the bi women’s meeting there, and they said, “Yes, you are welcome.” I went to a couple of meetings, but it took more time to grow in confidence. A couple of years later, I found the Bisexual Resource Center via a friend at work and attended a house party. And I began to go to the bi women brunches.
Since that time, the women’s space inside me has taken root; the women I have been honored to have in my life have grown in number and importance, And my heart and soul have been nurtured.
What the heart has, the heart shares.
Laurie Wolfe is a speaker and trainer with SpeakOut Boston, the nation’s first LGBT+ speakers bureau. She also volunteered with Keshet and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and has served on the board of the Bisexual Resource Center. Laurie also appeared for four years with the cast of Bilicious, sharing stories and poems about her life. Her writings have appeared in Bi Women Quarterly, the Pride Haggadah, and other places.