I was reading an article that suggested that partnerships are more likely to last when partners have “unrealistic” views of each other. Possibly like mothers who believe that their children are the most beautiful in the world. That idealistic focus, the impassioned affection is what keeps that parent protecting their child at all costs with a fervor that is difficult to put into words. And this is entirely unreal what I share 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 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.
I have often described myself in so many ways, dyke, gay girl, queer, homo. I love the search to name ourselves, to claim a process that is so often withheld from us to determine what we get to access; doctors with no knowledge of us as people, declare our gender; our names are passed down from slave masters; borders are drawn and nationalities are given. I applaud anytime we reclaim that process all too often afforded to people with systemic power and distance ourselves away from those who do not love us. And in my falling in love and marrying an incredible trans man, I have found that the way I name myself, the way that I know myself now implicates my husband and a larger family. I have also inherited a son, a brilliant young man who Tiq has adopted in community. The way we build families and networks are radical and powerful. This is what keeps us alive, and not just in a post apocalyptical zombie apocalypse sort of way, but right now. You often don’t realize how big your heart can grow until it is invited to, and so I found I needed more, I need boundlessness and as always I turned to my community.
On Being Femme
I have found the fullness in my femmeness because so many previous partners were threatened and unwilling to understand how powerful it is. 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.
On Being Queer
Femme genius Kiley May gifted me this wisdom on naming, “I got the idea after becoming frustrated with the limitations of the spectrum concept. We do not have to position ourselves within this model, it’s not adequate or sufficient enough to accommodate our fluid identities and desires. When you hold a kaleidoscope up to the light, that’s how I envision and conceive of our sexual and gendered beings: without borders nor ceilings nor floors, it is energy and light, multifaceted, iridescent, full of potential and possibilities.” I am Queer. Kaleidoscope, Femme. So many lovely humans have shown up knitting a web of care and kindness around us with so much faith and knowledge of purpose needed to be here. I am deeply thankful to my queerness for bringing me here. I think about Brandon Wint’s words “Not queer like gay. Queer like escaping definition. Queer like some sort of fluidity and limitlessness at once. Queer like a freedom too strong to be conquered. Queer like the fearlessness to imagine what love can look like… and pursue it.” My queerness was exactly the durable and malleable fabric that brought me here to this love. 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 that nurtures creativity both for ourselves, our kin and our community.
We are variables and these labels are fixed. I am so grateful that I was able to grow — and big love was ultimately what catalyzed it, what better way to instigate transformation than through a life changing kind of love.
I’m not going to lie, there are things to miss. I miss being able to look at a young gay or lesbian couple and communicating that sense of solidarity, particularly in public spaces. I miss rocking my “Dykes Come In Brown” t-shirt. I was always really excited about being queer. Despite all the shaming and the violence, I have never once wanted to take back being a Black Queer girl. It felt like the best secret club in the world, with some of the most diverse and exceptional members.
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, trans* folks and allies who have held on and a whole new extended family. And as Yumi 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.
I have also decided to change my last name. My paternal grandfather raped my grandmother. He was a sugar plantation owner in Tobago and was referred to as “massa” by our family. I have never been proud to have this name and have often wondered when and how I would shift it. And in doing some deep soul searching, I decided that I wanted the opportunity to join a clan, to be rooted in a family, something I have always sought. As the bastard child born to a single immigrant mother, home has always been illusive at best and violent at worst. I am clear and joyous as I prepare to make this transition. And for those who feel differently, I wish us all enough space in this intricately connected community to get our needs met without bringing each other negativity.
I recognize the privilege that we have marrying in a world where all people are not granted self-determination regardless of their relationship status and recognize that although we are open about our lives and experiences that we will access heteronormative privileges. I remain deeply committed to a life devoted to increasing access to knowledge and resources to communities most marginalized and working towards equity, power and self-determination for all life.
I also know that Black families are increasingly in danger; threatened by the prison industrial complex, job insecurity, poverty and white supremacy. 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. Next July we will renew our vows back in my old stomping grounds in Toronto, and I have a feeling we will be finding as many ways as possible to continue to renew them a thousand times over.