It has been incredible to be joined with Tiq Milan as his partner, wife and co-conspirator. It is the greatest adventure I have ever embarked upon and I wouldn’t change a thing about all the heartbreak that came before, because if I had done one thing differently, I might not have met him.
I have often described myself in so many ways: dyke, gay girl, queer, homo. I love the search to name ourselves, and I applaud anytime we reclaim that process all too often afforded to people with systemic power. In my falling in love and marrying an incredible man, I have found that the way I name myself, the way that I know myself, now implicates my husband. It’s complicated.
I want to be careful in using the word transition, as a cisgender woman I want to be clear that my experience is not comparable to that of Trans* folks; my use of it is to describe the ways I have grown. There have been so many transitions in all of this. New home, new family, new friends, but it is the internal transitions that I find are the most transformative, in particular for me my gender and sexual orientation in response to my relationship with my Trans* partner, Tiq.
We exist in an ecosystem with each other where another person’s experience does not invalidate my own, but it does necessarily complicate it. As a first generation immigrant, an Afro Native mixed race women, I have been acutely aware of the power of naming. On the other end, I have often experienced the incredible disempowerment that comes when colonial constructions of race and identity erase the layers of my identity.
I am also descriptively light skinned, cisgender – these are experiences of privilege I have in the world and although I didn’t choose to name myself in these ways, they are integral to me challenging systems of oppression and to honoring the space being claimed by others. I am Black. Queer. Arawak. Femme. I politically identify in these ways. I find solace in Brandon Wint’s words ” Not queer like gay. Queer like escaping definition.” My queerness was exactly the durable and malleable fabric that brought me here to this love. My Blackness as well, despite differences in geographies and ethnicities; it was a deep connectivity that resonates across the diaspora, a commitment to resistance, in an era where #BlackLivesMatter, that bonded us to each other. I am so grateful to finally have this powerful Black revolutionary in my life, I am thrilled about the quickly manifesting potential of our combined energy, nurturing creativity both for ourselves, our kin and our community.
I have found a new fullness in my femmeness. So many partners were so threatened and unwilling to understand how powerful it could. While I helped them choose bow ties and blazers, I was critiqued for my pace in heels and the amount of makeup I wore. His embodiment of his masculinity makes more space for my femininity to be acknowledged as integral to my mental and emotional health. For the first time, my femininity feels essential and valuable. We have done away with any idea that we are required to be natural. We don’t want to look natural, we want to reflect ourselves as we determine. Tiq uses the term ‘Man of my own design’ to describe the ways in which his masculinity is intentional and thoughtfully constructed physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have often said that I am ‘Femme on Purpose,’ that my femmeness was not something I stumbled across or an unconscious brainwashing from corporate media. My femme-ness is executed with purpose; from my choice to wear a menacing smoky eye to deter street harassment to the tattoos to honor my Arawak roots.
I’m not going to lie, in my partnership with Tiq, being read as a straight/heterosexual couple there are things to miss. I miss the ease of being able to communicate to young gay or lesbian folks a sense of solidarity particularly in public spaces with a smile or a nod. I have an enduring sense of love and admiration for Black Lesbian & Queer women both historically (Audre Lorde tattoos on my forearm) as well as in my peer group (LA Femmes of Color Collective). Being in a monogamous relationship with a man means that I need to find other ways to deliberately express my love, support and solidarity with women & femmes. My orientation has changed but my value system is much the same.
But there has been so much to gain and so much to take with me. I am so grateful for a community of Queer women, Masculine Of Centre Folks, Trans* Folks and allies who have held on and a whole new extended family. And as Yumi Tomsha says, “I am layers not fractions.” I am the sum of all of my parts, of every girl I was before all reconciled in the woman I am today. With that in mind, I am thankful and welcoming of love when I find it and I know that this love, this Black love is something worth fighting for until my very last breath. It is the most delicious love that I have known. And I am so honoured after many close calls to have made my way to him. And now as we prepare to have our first child, I look forward to the exponential growth of that love.