As I celebrate pride month, and as my production team and I begin our Seed & Spark crowdfunding campaign for our queer women of color web-series, Sex Is a God Thing, I've been reflecting on my own journey in accepting my queerness as a Black woman.
Check out my piece below and please head to our crowdfunding page to learn more about our series, and pledge, if you are able!
SHE WAS A SHE
I was seven years old when I experienced my first kiss. I might have been the aggressor. I was the aggressor. Though she was taller than me. Heftier than me. And She was a she.
We were standing under the running water. In a private stall inside the pool showers. A little risqué, daring, foolish.
I placed my left hand gently on her cheek, like I had done this before. And I leaned in. Making a smooth landing.
But it wasn’t a peck. It was intense, or had the appearance of. Tongues moving in directions unknown, trying to make a connection. Lips pressing tightly together, though sloppily. We were trying to incite passion. We were making our own melodramatic ending to a romantic comedy or action film. Mimicking a scene from When Harry Met Sally or The Mighty Quinn.
We didn't know we were doing anything wrong. If we were doing anything wrong at all. We were innocent in our intimacy. We were naive to the desire.
I was 14 years old, when I felt my first butterflies. She was a senior. I was a freshman. She stared at me with unyielding eyes. And I melted away. I was candle wax dripping down her lean fingers. And She was a she.
There were late night phone calls. Four page letters written in secret. Read in secret. In theory, she was my first crush. To be celebrated. Shared. To be remembered.
But in reality,
I hid it. Not completely sure of my impulse to. The only evidence of any wrongdoing, I found in the annotated margins of my KJV Teen Study Bible. Yellow highlights magnified the words, “God does not approve of the homosexual lifestyle...”
I remember reading the passage over and over again. Sitting on the creaky church pew between my mother and brother or my father and mother. Going over and over it. Each time condemning my feelings. Condemning what I could not invalidate, no matter how hard I would try. And ultimately widening the gap between the church and me. Between God and me.
I was 16, when I had my first boyfriend. I breathed a long sigh of relief for that attraction. An attraction I hoped so much would erase my earlier “transgressions.” Though an attraction I could not sustain past high school.
I was 17, when someone attempted to put me in a box. Like I was a gift that needed to be wrapped, and finished off with a frilly bow. An envelope that needed a stamp. A stamp that proclaimed my sapphic feelings mostly out of their discomfort, their fear.
I spent 3 and half years of college never dating anyone. Tucking my feelings deep under my heart. So neatly and routinely, like a businessman tucks in his button down every morning for work. I'd rather be alone, than be labeled as gay. Be labeled as anything.
Anything other than what you could not already see.
I was 21, when I finally wanted to tell everybody. Fresh off of my first “real” love with a woman. Fresh off of my first heartbreak. Eager to experience love again. And tired of hiding it.
That was also the same year I began to wonder, that if by speaking power to my truth, would I be silencing my Blackness? Forgetting about the struggle not yet won? The battle I could never abscond from?
My career path and purpose felt so tied into Black progress, Black healing, Black justice. I didn’t have space for another war, another war that FELT less real, less visible, less necessary.
I was 24, when I decided that being Black was more important. And the year I truly became angry with God. Two demanding crusades to overcome, but one seemed to always win out over the other. More exposure, more platforms, more voices. And so I became angry at those who fought so hard to be seen and heard. I couldn't understand why. Why fight for something so much; for something that was so private, I thought. How can this ever be more important than that which I can never "mask"?
I was 27, when I tired and didn't t want to tell anyone, anymore. They should know. Why was it my role? They should know. Or not know. Either way, why was it my role?
I was 32, when I walked out of my uncle’s funeral. Upset for his portrayal. Upset that he never had the chance to declare ALL of himself to the world. Upset that he never felt safe enough to speak his truth. Upset because I did nothing. I did nothing, but walk away
It was that same year when I realized, that while it wasn't my job or calling to make protest signs and shout out through megaphones for equality and #lovewins; it was my job to NOT stay silent. I could not stay silent. In whatever form or shape my non-silence took, I knew I could not stay silent.
I was 33 when I realized I was proud. And that being proud was something self-defined. That being proud of my lesbianism didn't invalidate my Blackness. And that God made me Black, gay, and woman - writer, lawyer, and teacher, to thrive in and enrich spaces where others might find themselves in the same struggle. The struggle between dichotomy, or intersectionality. Between relationship building with God and mounting anger at God. Between self-doubt and indifference. Between making the choice to speak and choosing how. And trusting that speaking saves a life.
I am 35, and I laugh constantly. Everything that I create is a collision of Black and queer forces. And I smile. The only lens I can see the world: a kaleidoscope. And I cry, happily at the universe’s plan. A sojourn that’s left me, honored, humbled and grateful to carry the flame that could light someone else's way.
Please help expand queer women of color media representation by becoming a contributor to our web-series here: Sex Is a God Thing