A Web Portal For Lesbians Of Color
Summer has come to a close and we look forward now towards fall. For me, fall represents a time for new beginnings when old ideas and thoughts fall away, leading to winter’s contemplative moods and spring’s rebirth. The seasonal changes will be particularly important this year as a result of a task I assigned myself this past July/August. The task was to do whatever I wished, however great or small, and do it without question. My intentions were to follow that small voice inside that often asked I go here or there. I had been ignoring the voice for some time because my heart ached and I had no interest in doing something exciting or would cause me to think or feel anything sans my loss and feelings of despair.
I assigned myself this task because I quickly became a person who forgot how to live. With Christine’s death, in many ways I died too. I stayed home more than usual, I did not venture far from home, I stopped shopping for clothes or shoes, I lost my zest for life, my ambition, my sense of humor, and my joy. Though I had many good friends who came by to feed me, wash my dishes, clean my clothes or my house, console and consult, they could not fill my heart with joy or take away the misery I felt.
The assignment was meant to change what had fast become my usual, which was unusual for me. It was done to create a little happenstance and equally create new stimulus as a means to see life totally different than what I had grown accustomed to experiencing. The assignment meant, if I felt like a drive through the mountains, sitting in a park, or doing something spontaneous, I would do it without question. The assignment proved beneficial.
Meeting new people was a little tough, particularly those I met through FemmeNoir. Having always been a fiercely private person who became very out and very public as a result of this site, I had no way of knowing what people thought or what conclusions were drawn because I lacked the benefit afforded through face-to-face communications. After biting the bullet and pushing myself to meet with some, I found myself in the company of some wonderful women who not only inspired me through their sharing, but some of their experiences were my experiences as well. Unfortunately, not all experiences shared were good.
One woman I met lost her partner and initially spoke bitterly about the lack of support she received from the “so-called” friends she “thought” she had. She was once active within the community but now says she wants no part of the community and feels there really is no such thing as “community” with gays and lesbians. Her views have softened since our first meeting, to a point. In truth, she believes she is more disappointed with friends and those organizations she supported who in the end, failed to support her when she needed them most. She believes many of those individuals had never been in long-term relationships to the point of losing a partner in death and therefore, could not relate to her or her experience. For them and for her, it was better to back away.
An upbeat story came from another woman I met last year who has since come from fear to faith. She stepped out and embraced her sexuality, her identity and has made positives steps in that direction. She has gone from anonymity to visibility; she has joined organizations for lesbians of color and has become quite active within the community. She is a different type or kind of woman and has often found herself at odds with some in our community because they have set the bar of expectation too low. Their expectations are so low that when someone offers to do more or comes along with high-minded goals, they are often shut down as if they’re crazy for even thinking such things. We are capable of doing much more than we give ourselves credit.
Again, as part of my self-assigned task, I felt the need to take an evening off from work and attend a town hall meeting sponsored by ULOAH on the issue of marriage equality. In all honesty, I was surprised at the low turnout of women at this event, particularly considering the number of women who attend various parties, Black Pride, or any other social activity. Admittedly, there were more than 20 women at Cabrini’s that evening and it was truly an excellent showing and should not be discounted. However, more women could and should have been there whether they agreed or disagreed with the issue of marriage equality because, as it turned out, other issues were raised that addressed the core of our experiences as lesbians: coming out, young people, support within the community, and visibility. Many women shared some of their personal experiences with coming out and living their lives as lesbians. It was a very good and beneficial discussion. I also learned there are still some basic issues that need addressing within our community.
Two issues stuck with me after leaving that town hall meeting, two issues raised by Lisa Powell, Director of ULOAH. At one end of the spectrum were the high school girls who are "fighting boys for girls" in school. On the other end of the spectrum, she mentioned an older woman she met at SistahFest whom she described as a life on hold. The older woman waited until her child was grown and on his own, her retirement, and made sure her house was paid off before coming out as a lesbian – a life on hold.
Another little assignment was a spur of the moment decision to go to another ULOAH sponsored event for young women between the age of16 and 25. As I sat in on one session and watched these young women, I thought of them as our future. When they are my age, I may or may not be here. I asked myself then, what will be our inheritance to them? Will they create community? Will they tear down each other and their organizations? Will they fight the same battles we are fighting now and deal with the same issues we have been dealing with since I was their age? What was beautiful was looking at them and knowing they could speak the word I didn’t know when I was their age. It was beautiful to see young women who felt free to dress in a way that expressed how they saw themselves, be that butch, femme, or other. I did not have that freedom when I was their age and they represented for me new beginnings of hope for a better future.
Something else happened as well and that was meeting another woman who I attribute to turning my head in the opposite of fear. She shined a bright light into my heart. Through our meeting, my heart no longer longs for what was. Instead, I can now see the possibility of what can be. Instead of reliving the past, through her I began to see a brighter future. In an instant, I found myself no longer wishing to keep my blinds closed, stay indoors, or continue the wretched and daily ritual of asking God why me and why now. She truly turned my head in the opposite of fear and caused me to again think about the possibilities of seeking companionship and falling in love.
Love will cause you to do things you would not ordinarily do. Love causes you to look outside of yourself and consider others, think about them and what you can do to make life richer and fuller for them as well. Your heart opens and fills with the love of the world and asks you contemplate well your actions and how they may affect the lives of others. And so it is, through this love I found an awakening that spawned for me a new reality that has served to direct me toward a new purpose for my life.
Through my assignment, my meetings, and the wonderful happenstance that came of it, I heard the voices of women. Women who intimated to me they are tired of parties, tired of political meetings, tired of meeting people who lack self-love or border on self-destructive tendencies which, it is thought, is due in large part to the lack of visible and positive role models within our community. They are looking for support, access to information, someone who hears and understands their needs may be very different than the needs of others. They are looking for those women who may understand, or for lack of anything else, could at least be humble enough to accept them as they are unconditionally.
I also heard from women who are “sick and tired” of what they perceive as the negative images we have adopted which portray us as “bootylicious” types with images they feel are degrading to us as women and as lesbians. Pride, Black Pride, has to mean more than a party with ads portraying bear naked women. If we want to be taken seriously and not considered sex-craved, or as one interesting fellow described us as “all about sex and not about love,” then we need to adopt better images than what we have displayed so far.
We also need to be more accepting of those who feel they cannot come out of their closets and allow them to support the movement and community the best way they can. They are willing, but we need to respect their choices. One wonderful analogy came from a woman who talked about her choice to remain in the closet or closet door ajar saying, she has a beautiful place setting, the table is gorgeous, and though she would like to change the tablecloth or fix it in some way, she does not wish to disturb the beautiful place setting just to change the tablecloth. I truly understand her statement and it encouraged me to rethink a number of things I had previously been thinking.
For me, I cannot turn back from out-of-the closet to in-the-closet. I don’t wish to. I’ve contemplated often and even considered returning to my group of sisters in the secret society. This weekend, I heard from an old friend, a woman nearing 70 who also represents a life on hold, a former member of the secret society who is now out, as an old lesbian – to use her terms – and she told me for the first time in her life she has found true pride because she found beautiful, talented, positive, educated, voices in our community here on FemmeNoir. As many times as I considered, and did, take FemmeNoir down because I felt unqualified to have such a site, I’m realizing I may be more qualified than I thought.
I believe in raising the bar of expectation and will, accordingly, continue to act and believe we are worthy. I have no problems with my faith and my God. I do believe we need to support one another more. We need to support our businesses and our entrepreneurs. If they fail and their businesses fail, we will never be taken seriously. If we do not rally around a sister in need, not only will we continue to be taken advantage of, we may also lose a vital sister in the community. In essence, if we fail to support each other, consider and respect our differences, and honor those who do the hard work on our behalf, we may find very little support on the other end, on that day when we need the community to stand for us. You cannot talk about what the community isn’t doing to support you when you have done little or nothing to support the community, individually and collectively.
My little exercise caused several things to happen for me, a broken heart was healed and eyes were opened. I need to do more as well. FemmeNoir is only the beginning of what I hope to do. I have my days when I am $1500 walking, drama walking, or ultra femme. I also have my days when I look like your last butch. All are very valid and does not detract from my being a lesbian. I wish to be respected and accepted irregardless of my choice or style of dress. I smile and joke a lot more now and may even greet someone with a very warm and welcoming smile. I’m not trying to hit on you – trust me – I only wish to ensure you know you are welcomed wherever we are.
Some of us have faced many battles and have suffered through many hells, I don’t care what you did or did not do yesterday. I will, however, honor you and your accomplishments whether I agree with some of your politics or not. Talking about someone because I may disagree with where they are today honors only the issue while horribly dishonoring the person or organization.
When people shared with Christine their tough times or horrible experiences, she would give them a warm and welcoming hug to let them know they are loved. If I carry anything of her legacy, it will certainly be that, and I will likewise do the same. I have some bisexual friends and I love them just the same. I will not push them into things they are not willing to get into. I have some friends who are closet door shut and are quite comfortable with the darkness. I love them too and will not force them to open those doors until they are ready. I will however ask the question “how can you help?” As long as I respect their choices, they will help.
I have friends who have been through rough times and mini-hells who often sound, talk or act crazy. I understand how that feels – been there, done that, and got the t-shirts. I also know in time this too shall pass. To judge them where they are today only locks them into the same hell tomorrow. I cannot do that especially when I look to my friends and consider what they did for me when I was in my hell. If they too had chosen to run away because I didn’t sound right, I would still be in my hell today.
We must stand together, through the good and the bad, in the darkness and in the light. We must look to help our young as society has already begun the “set-up” towards failure for them. In our own relationships, we must remain resolute in protecting each other until that day when marriage equality becomes a reality – and it will. If we fail to honor our relationships, others will continue to dishonor them. It all starts with us. Each one reaches one, teaches one, and becomes the example for others. Until we help each other through, or in, our basic needs, there is no point to us standing and looking beyond to something else when many of our own are still struggling and crawling across the floor of life’s ups and downs. This is what I have learned these past couple of years, this is the cause of my awakening – we need each other or some will find their own way, to the exclusion of those individuals or organizations that are already in existence, thus creating a reinvention of the wheel. Just as I learned to move on, so do we as a community need to move on in a more positive direction with true pride.Home