A Web Portal For Lesbians Of Color

Half Way In, Half Way Out

By:  Frances Scott

I remember the day when I knew I was never letting anybody, including myself, know that I loved girls.

It was a hot summer day.  I had just hugged, kissed, and ran my ten year old hands down Cee’s back and butt.  She felt good to the touch.  Only twelve, she had that hourglass shape, small breast, shoulder length pressed hair, voluptuous mouth, flat wide nose and the color of tapioca with a tinge of cinnamon, short waist but with that little indentation, full hips, short thick thighs and a mini backside.  During the summer I would occasionally get to hug, kiss her cheek and touch her outer clothed body.  Yeah, I still remember how it was to be ten and free!  Little did know, I was about to find out that people, my people, Black people could be so cruel to each other for no other reason than… 

As I walked back from around the corner I saw a new family moving into our building.  They had kids!!  Maybe I can finally find another friend.  I knew they were moving into the apartment above me.  The nurse who lived there was nice.  I liked her.  She was tall, brown and beautiful.  I loved the way her accent would get thick when she would tell my father off when he hit my mother.  She would knock on our door, push pass my father check on my mother and talk with my mother in a very quiet assuring way.  The men in the building didn’t like her and I don’t think she cared.

The new family had three kids and I think they were about my age.  It has been so long so I don’t remember if there were 2 boys and a girl but I remember their mothers.  One of the women was medium height, full figured, deep dimples, short beehive do and skin that was beautiful smooth dark black that went on forever.  The other woman was long, dark, not like the other women, but just as beautiful and lovely with a seriously well-kept Afro.  They were always laughing, helping each other with laundry or grocery shopping.  They looked happy and so did their kids.  They spoke every morning and every evening to folks, went to work, ate dinner, did homework with their kids, they did the same ole day-in-day-out living and loving the way most black folks were doing in 1970.

Then it happened.  One day in September when I came home from school the lady with the dimples was sitting on the stoop.  As I went by I smiled and said “hello”.  She didn’t answer until I was half way to the door.  She answered as if she wasn’t there at all.  Later that night a neighbor who has lived in the building before I was born knocked on the door.  Mommy was busy ironing and daddy was out.  I answered the door and went to get mommy.  I went back to the door because I heard whispering and was being nosy.  He was asking mommy to sign a petition.  I overheard him saying things like “they have no business being in this building around our children and we have to get them out.  They were told to move from the last place they lived.  Women like that living like that can’t live here.” My mother listened and so did I.  Finally, I asked, “Who are you talking about?”  The adults didn’t realize I had been listening.  My mother said “Be quiet and go to your room”.  I moved a little and as I turned to go to my room I realized that he was talking about the women upstairs.  I said, “What did they do?  They are nice and their kids are nice. They don’t make loud noises.  What did they do?”  Nobody answered me.  So I said “we aren’t going to sign that petition, right mommy.”  I repeated that two more times and my mother told him as she looked at me, “we won’t sign the petition.” 

That night when my father got home he yelled at my mother about not signing the petition.  He was so angry.  I remember pulling the covers over my head, fist balled up face burrowed as I heard him say, “Those dykes have to get out of this building.  They aren’t staying here let em go elsewhere.  We are decent people they aren’t.”  My mother was silent.   The way he said, “dyke” hurt me to the bone.  He said it with such hate as if these women had done something to him.  I didn’t know what dyke meant but I knew from the way he said the word that I never ever wanted to be called one.  The steel plank on the freedom I felt for Cee closed with a loud bang and four locks with no way for light, air or energy to filter in, encased my heart.

Adults were strange.  Cee’s mother put her on the street when she was ten to make money for the rent.  Nobody asked them to get out.  The women upstairs didn’t do anything but be and they are kicked out.  I turned away from Cee and stuck my face in books.  I would find out a few years later that the men in the building were unable to use the petition to make them leave but they threatened to call Child Welfare on them.  Yet, the other family upstairs and across the way from us put Cee on the street with men in and around the neighborhood for the rent.  Her mother was a prostitute, now she was too old to turn tricks so she turned her daughter out, but the men in the building didn’t say anything about that.  I guess having a man around, Cee’s father, made it okay in the community’s eyes.  I wonder would my parents have loved me less if they knew how I felt about Cee?  Would they make me leave the way they did the women upstairs?  Would they hate me?  Why? 

I kept to myself and then at 16 I met him.  He was tall, with a nice thin frame.  Generous lips, a good sense of humor and was interested in me.  I liked him; there was something about him that made me take notice of him.  Not in a sexual way but there was something there.  We talked and laughed and my mother was so happy that I was dating a guy.  She went around telling her co-workers and one of them was real surprised, my mother told me, and she was upset that the woman would think otherwise.  Once again I knew I couldn’t talk to my mother about how I felt.  I felt good with Cee and okay with him.  Touching Cee was the most wonderful experience I had ever had.  Touching him was okay but left me feeling incomplete.  I continued to be with him.  Every now and again I would catch sight of a curvaceous figure or some other seriously rounded tones and though I would never turn my head my body would react.  I was waiting to see if my body would respond to him or any man the way it did when I saw women.  Years came and went and I still stayed with him.  Once we parted I stayed alone.  Then I met an older guy and tried to be a woman of the 90’s cause I was told that nobody could figure out what century I belonged in.  We dated briefly and I let him into my body.  Again, there was nothing.  So I moved on.

Celibacy, work, occasionally vacationing and school were the way of life for me.  Once I hit 39 my body began to change.  My hormones were completely out of control.  I began to wonder why I was okay without sharing my life or even my bed with someone special.  Friends (straight) kept asking me why I wasn’t dating and kept trying to fix me up.  I wasn’t interested.  Deep down I questioned what I really wanted from life especially in the area of the heart.  I decided at 40 I needed to know to confirm if my desire was really for women.

Enters the Latina who I gave myself over to.  I never lost myself but gave myself to her physically, spiritually and emotionally.  I was affirmed as a sexual being and I knew that being with her was the most natural place to be.  She brought me home and I was complete and knew nobody would ever make me feel bad about loving, desiring and wanting to be with her.  I owned self and declared that I am a lesbian to myself.  Amazing the change in the way I carried myself.  I walked as if I owned the world, but actually owned self!

I came out to two friends and haven’t with the rest as yet.  Found out way too many folks are homophobic.  So I have decided to step back and rethink the friendships I made over the years.  See, if they aren’t going to be about me, loving and affirming me then I don’t want their negative homophobic ways in my life.  For me it’s as simple as that, for I have squelched half of me for so long in order to not be hurt by others and ended up hurting myself.

I named this article Half Way in Half Way Out because I am still working on the out part.  I went to my first marches this year.  I marched with some wonderful sistahs of AALUSC   at the Dyke march and thanks to JaVonne asking me to march with AALUSC at Pride, I spent a week working on why I was scared to come totally out.  It goes back to fear of being ostracized for whom I love, I even hurt physically for who is in my bed and dehumanized because people feel they have the right to do this.  For me, owning self, feeling that elation of being complete outweighed everything.  Yes, I am scared and I will always have some fear but I find that fear moves me to do for others.  I decided to march in the parade to show solidarity for all, to show that I am prideful of who I am, I wanted to march for those women who really can’t and are more afraid then I am and for all those Black lesbians, like the women who lived above me, to honor them for paving the way for me to say it loud, I am Black, Lesbian and Proud!!!