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An Education on Love Between Womyn

September 3, 2015

It started when we left the land. She was riding in her car with her best friend. I was in another car with a friend and my daughter. I hadn’t seen her since the day before, on the land in Hart, Michigan where we’d attended a womyn’s music festival. Where we met. I’d stayed in Detroit. She spent the night in Grand Rapids. We met up somewhere in Ohio, on the road from Michigan to New York. I wanted some time alone with her so I told everyone, the two adults and my daughter, that we were going outside for a few minutes. My friend who is 63 and came out when she was a teenager, who is seasoned and protective, reminded me: “We’re not on the land, V.” She didn’t have to tell me what she meant. I knew and I resented it. I resented not being able to hold my love, to kiss her and feel her arms around me. I insisted. I leaned into my love and puckered my lips. She kissed me quickly. Just a tap kiss. It wasn’t long and deep like it had been on the land. She looked around and stepped back. I frowned. We were in the parking lot of a Mexican Restaurant in a random, small Ohio town along a heavily traveled highway.

Back in New York we were safe. This is a cosmopolitan city with a huge gay population. No one actually said anything outright but when I walked hand in hand with my love, to the supermarket and the liquor store, to the park and the hardware store, in a neighborhood I’ve lived in for twenty years. Where my family has roots since my grandmother first arrived in the late 1960s. Where I know the bodeguero by name and the lady who sells the icies and the street vendor who sells everything from sunglasses to boots to movies. where I walk into the Dominican restaurant on 207th and my coffee is made without me having to specify how I want it. I couldn’t help but notice the eyes on us, leering. A few sneers. Outright staring. The manager of the supermarket, the one I go to a few times a week, who asks about my daughter when she isn’t with me, just stared, he looked down at our clutched hands. His “Hello” felt forced. A womyn I’ve known since I was a teenager who always gives me a wide smile from her always heavily make-upped face (bright blue eyeliner and crimson red, matte lipstick), snapped her head away quickly when I noticed her, she looked puzzled, her lips were tight. It’s the first time she didn’t greet me with a smile and an “Hola, ¿como estas?” When I turned, she was staring back, her mouth in a perfect “o.”

My love has been out since she was fifteen. She’s a butch who says she’s used to the stares and reactions. She giggled at my discomfort. How I stared right back, daring someone to say something. “You’ll get used to it,” she said. I thought about my Millie.

I was raised by a self-proclaimed butch in late 1970s, early 1980s Brooklyn. She wore her hair in a short push back. A man’s cut. She wore faded Lee jeans and nylon bell bottoms. Men’s pants. She wore guayaberas and polo shirts. Men’s shirts. She put her large breasts in bras and wore women’s underwears, the cotton Fruit of the Loom, full coverage kind. She wore kangols on her head and men’s shoes on her feet that she bought at Fabco on Myrtle Avenue, the shopping area closest to our railroad style apartment in Bushwick. Millie hung out with the men. They sipped on small latitas of Budweiser beer while they took swigs of pints of Bacardi and Palo Viejo, wrapped snug in a paper bag that they passed around. They cut open cardboard boxes and laid them out flat on the ground to slide under their cars, hands greasy, cheeks smudged.

I only saw Millie shrink into herself when she and mommy fought and mommy pulled out her strongest artillery: spitting maricona at Millie, whose lower lip trembled in response. “Yo soy butch,” she yelled, over and over.

One time when I was a teenager, during an argument about I don’t know what, our Ecuadorian next door neighbor sneered at my mom and yelled, “Maldita maricona.” My mother slapped her so hard, she fell back onto the wall. When her mother went for my mother, I grabbed her by the neck and with my face inches from hers, teeth gritted, I whisper-roared, “No te atrevas.” She stepped back, grabbed her daughter and pulled her into their apartment.

When we visited the storefront Pentecostal church where her brother was the pastor, Millie who was usually raucously loud and boisterous, grew quiet and sullen. She didn’t stand with the men like she did when we went to Long Island or Hancock Street or Highland Park where she played dominoes and stood with the men, talking about their carros and the mujeres that swished by. But Millie still dressed like the men in the iglesia, in her polyester slacks and crisp off-white guayabera. She didn’t stand with the women either. She stood off to the side. By herself. I went over, grabbed her hand and looked up at her. The rusted elevated train trestle framed her face. She’d look down and smile. But this wasn’t her trademark chipped tooth smile. It wasn’t wide and joyful. It was small and sad. She didn’t belong there though she tried. She always tried.

When we walked in the street, Millie held my hand and stared straight ahead. I was too young to notice if people stared but I imagine they did, like they stare at me and my love when we walk. When we kiss. When I lean in and she takes me into those arms where I feel the safest and most protected I’ve felt in lifetimes. I won’t stop doing that, loving her publicly, but I am having a visceral reaction to the stares. “You’ll get used to it,” she says. We shouldn’t have to.

***

The day after our first kiss, I knew I had to tell my daughter about my love. They’d already met and spent time together. We were at a womyn’s festival where there were concerts and activities throughout the day. Vasia already liked her, but this was different. I don’t keep secrets from my kid. Not these kind, at least. I knew even before the kiss that I liked this womyn. That I wanted to see her in New York. That I wanted to get to know her romantically. I’d always kept my daughter away from anyone I was involved with. If we’re not going anywhere beyond casual dating and sex, there’s no reason for you to meet my kid. But this felt like more than that. I had to say something.

We went for a walk on the land that morning. I bought her a doughnut and myself some coffee. My heart thrashed in my chest. My hands shook. We’d talked about my sexuality being fluid before, but she’d never seen me with a womyn. She’d only seen me with a man once. A situationship that didn’t last. It’s been just her and me for so long.

“How do you feel about mommy liking a womyn?”

She stifled a giggle and searched my face. She shrugged. I was quiet.

“You like Katia, don’t you?” I laughed and stared at this child who is so wise, I don’t know what to do with her sometimes.

“I do.” We both giggled loudly. Playfully.

She threw her head back then looked back at me, “Finally, mom!” She said it loudly, in an exasperated tone, like this was something she’d been waiting for. Then she hugged me tight. My eleven year old little girl doesn’t care who I’m with. She just wants to see me happy.

Weeks after we got back to NY, she was watching me get ready when she said, “You smile more now, mom.”

She invited my love to her birthday BBQ. “You okay with your friends knowing?” I asked, knowing she’d invited more than 15 of her friends from school. She shrugged. “I don’t care.”

When I took her and her bff out to the movies on the day of her birthday, I asked, “Did you tell her?” I was purposely evasive. “What? That you’re a lesbian,” she said this in a matter of fact tone, while she looked from me to her friend. “Yeah I told her.” Her friend smiled her wide, gummy smile, “It doesn’t matter as long as you’re happy.” They skipped off ahead of me, not a care in the world.

I blinked hard to push back the tears. These kids are more open and understanding than the adults who stare and judge. Adults who are supposed to lead the future generation in the right direction. Adults who are more lost than the kids they’re raising.

***

When my kid was five, she came home from kindergarten with the word faggot in her mouth. “That’s nasty,” she said. I knew she didn’t know what she was saying. She was parroting. I sat her down. Asked: “What do you mean faggot? What does gay mean? Why is it disgusting?” I didn’t reprimand her. I just listened. When she couldn’t answer, I told her about my Millie. She’d heard my stories, so many about my childhood and how Millie loved me. “Millie was gay,” I said. “And so is Tio tio.” I was referring to my now dead brother, her favorite uncle. “That’s love, baby girl. Love has many faces. Love is me and you. Love is daddy and his wife. Love is a man and a woman, a man and a man, a womyn and a womyn. Love is so many things.” She stared at me with those big brown eyes that tell me I am her hero. “And all love is beautiful.” I kissed her cheek. “Remember that I told you that God is love and love is in you.”

She nodded emphatically. “Yes, God is in everything.”

“Yes, and in everyone, right?”

She nodded again.

“God is in all of us. Gay and not gay. Ok?”

“Ok.”

Later my daughter told me stories of how she’s stopped her friends when they’ve used the term gay as a slur. When they’ve yucked at the mention of homosexuality. “I tell them love is love,” she says, neck swiveling, all attitude and bad ass. “And all love is beautiful.”

***

My love asked me to be her girlfriend under the supermoon on Coney Island beach. She took pictures of us kissing and posted them on her Facebook and tagged me. That’s how we announced our love to the world. Friends celebrated with us, leaving supportive comments and hearts. I got messages in my inbox. A few texts. I thought of the stares and the silence.

Some time ago I was having a discussion with someone about my fluid sexuality. She insisted that my femme presentation protected me from the vicious homophobia she experiences as a boi identified lesbian. I got defensive. I know better now. She was so right.

Today I posted this status on my FB page:

“I’m receiving an incredible education now that I’m in a relationship with a womyn. While my sexuality has always been fluid, I have been in many ways safeguarded from blatant homophobia because I’m femme, but walking with my love hand in hand & witnessing people’s reactions, from the manager of the supermarket to strangers to the silence of “friends” on my FB, I’m having flashbacks of my querida Millie, the self-proclaimed butch who raised me and taught me the face of unconditional love. I see now how she protected me from this kind of voyeurism, eye rolling and sneering. Here’s the thing: I’m not looking for approval. You don’t have to agree. You don’t have to like it. You will, however, get bit back if you come at me or my love. I was never a quiet girl nor have I ever been afraid to defend those I love. As a kid, I once punched a girl in the face for saying, “You’re dirty like your lesbian moms.” I’m older now so I won’t swing on you but, make no mistake, I won’t be silent either. This life is mine. This love is so good. I will protect and defend it with all of my five foot two Bushwick fierce. I. Am. Not. Playing. One warning is all you get. One. Word.”

People have responded with incredible support and love. They’ve told me to ignore the haters, to enjoy my love, that silence is sometimes the best response. That’s just it: I’m a writer and an activist, and I have a big mouth. This education I’m receiving is making me even more fierce and loud in my defense and support of LGBTQ rights. There is no silencing this womyn. I sit on my haunches in the cut and I watch. Then I pounce. I am Loba, afterall. This is how I howl.

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From → Essays, Memoir

112 Comments
  1. katherinejlegry permalink

    This is simply incredible. I’ve been reading your work for a little while… and sometimes I give links to your blog to people I think need your writing. But wow… this was so amazingly written and I just wanted to thank you… and thank you, and thank you… and thank you…

    Dunno why tears would stream don my face at all… but thank you.

    • katherinejlegry permalink

      um, that was intended as “down my face” not “don”…

    • Katherine, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your message and your reading my work. I am touched by your generosity. And your sharing my stories is so very special. This writing is so very solitary sometimes that when we hear we’re being read and shared, we are reminded of why we do it. Thanks again. So much love! V

  2. tabbyrenelle permalink

    You’re only getting better at writing and everything… when I read your work.

    And that girl you wrote about… OMG… Lucky womyn!

    xoxo
    Tabby

  3. joshunda permalink

    So proud of you Loba. You and your love are so lucky to have what you have and the world is better for you sharing the beauty of your gift with us.

  4. david sosa permalink

    Everything about this is amazing. I know those uncomfortable stares, the ones trying to somehow remind you that you are wrong. Some attempt to get you on board with hiding yourself for their comfort and worse a comfort based on willful ignorance. I’m glad you had Millie, I’m glad you have your beautiful daughter, I’m glad you face your 63 yr old friend, glad you have the amazing Katia but I’m glad you always had you. Anyone should be proud to know you Because you are relentless fierce womyn. Proud to know you and honored to read your work.

    • Thank you, David. Reading this comment brought tears to my eyes. So much love for you and the love you gift! XO

  5. This. Is. Amazing. Love, courage, vulnerability, spit-fire, MOXY. Well done you.

  6. Félicitations pour ce post 🙂

  7. Congrats! You’ve made it to the freshly pressed page, good for you! Keep up the good posts we’re waiting to see some more from you!

  8. skrylcomputers permalink

    Good work

  9. It is ………….. ok I think cool but not so cool

  10. good good good

  11. This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing this absolutely beautiful and fierce warrior story! As a sister festy-goer I can even imagine you walking and talking to your daughter on the land. Wish I would have been able to make it to the last Fest but glad I was able to go so many times in the past. I love your fire! Thanks for staying true to you! Besos y abrazos ❤

  12. I forgot to mention, I’m cryin’ many tears over here! *sniffle*

  13. That was a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing it. There is no excuse for how those people acted. God commands us to love one another, and treat others how we’d want to be treated. Some people see the sin and forget we’re all sinners, and we’re all in the same boat so we should be trying to look after each other instead of giving one another grief.

  14. I have a question and I don’t know how to ask this without being rude, so please forgive me if it feels that way but why write “womyn and womyn” and “man and woman”? If it is about LGBT rights, that they should be treated as equals to others, then why differentiate them?

    • “Womyn” is one of several alternative spellings of the English word “women” used by some feminists. Writers who use alternative spellings see them as an expression of female independence and a repudiation of traditions that define females by reference to a male norm.”

      • Thank you, that I also found out online, but what I wanted to know that when the author is telling her daughter about love she says,”Love is man and woman, … , womyn and womyn”.
        Why write “woman” in first part and womyn in the second. Is it to differentiate between LGBT community and others? and if it is, is it right to do so? If one supports equality for them, then why segregate them?

      • That’s a typo.

      • Ha-ha… And I was ready with a page long post about it.

    • Stop liking the question guys, it was a typo.

  15. I’m from a small town in India and here we get cold glares from people even when you hold hands with a boy publicly. I can only imagine how difficult things must have been for you. I don’t think we can just keep saying “mind your own business”. We need to stand up say widen up ur tiny brain. Acknowledge the fact that everyone has a right to love and be happy. You cannot take this right away from a person.

  16. Reblogged this on Kania-Info .

  17. Loved reading this paper! You have an incredible writing style!

  18. I agree with everything you said

  19. I know how to spell, thank you very much. The spelling was intentional. I’d appreciate not being mansplained. Thanks.

    • Your insecurity is blatant as is your privilege. Here’s the thing: I didn’t write this for you and could care less what you think. You can exit left now. Let’s keep it civil.

      • This is not critique, it is judgment based on privilege so, no, I do no accept it and I do so unapologetically. You came here to mansplain and got shot down. Deal with it and move on. Punto.

      • I need help with my blog, your writing is so good.

      • If you’re in NYC, I teach a personal essay workshop periodically. It’s called Writing Our Lives. I’m also working on bringing it online in the spring.

      • I’m all the way in Africa…but really like your writing

      • Thanks. I recommend you go online and check out articles and tutorials on writing for blogs. Good luck.

      • Thank you so much can you follow me so you can comment on my development

      • Sorry but with my schedule, I really don’t have time to help you with your development. I have over fifty students right now as it is but good luck.

      • I understand but a follow from you would be very good for me

  20. herlix permalink

    Reblogged this on herlix and commented:
    An education on love

  21. It is cool

  22. Clare M permalink

    First time I have read your work… it is inspirational and well written. I was a little teary eyed when you wrote that the kids accepted you without judgement, what a wonderful feeling. One of my best friends is gay and he is one of the best people I know, always up beat and sharing with me things that I hadn’t even thought about before. All that matters is that you are happy and living your life! Thank you for sharing this story!

  23. Oozes passion with an honest plume

  24. Great post, loved reading it. I think being able to live and love whom we choose is the greatest gift in life and Gods plan for us all xxxx

  25. Loved it! Simply from the heart, strong and love-ly 🙂

  26. Empowering story 🙂 Loved reading every bit of it 🙂

  27. Almost like a story have to say its well written

  28. Beautifully written from the heart

  29. I think that I have stopped looking to see the reactions of bystanders because their evaluation of me has no meaning, no importance.

    • I think it’s about much more than that. Let’s not pretend not to be affected by the world.

      • I say it how it is.

      • I am saying how it is for me. lets be encouraging to one another, not argumentative.

      • Saying the truth does not equate to being argumentative. I don’t think serves to be in denial or negate truths. We are all affected by the world, in one way or another, to varying degrees. I wrote an essay about a my experience and what it’s triggered. I’m a writer, it’s what I do.

  30. Well written beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  31. ramzan66 permalink

    Reblogged this on ramzan66's Blog .

  32. You seem to be surrounded by a community of people who notice small things. That’s good more often than not, and time will help them get over their shock reactions.

    • Thanks for reading, Karl. It can be good, yes, and I’m certain that I’ll be better able to navigate these spaces as time goes on. As a writer, I process through my words. 🙂

  33. U had a nice daughter. Nice to hear ur story, nicely narrated and presented

  34. This just came across my dashboard and I actually can’t tell you how much it means. I’ve recently identified “fluid” as I feel more “safe” to do so in a liberal and open minded college setting. this post made me feel stronger, and more alive in my skin. thank you Vanessa, a truly beautiful writing. so happy for you. (I also just learned about the use of the word ‘womyn’! where has that been all my life?)

  35. If you want blog followers, this is not the way to do it.

  36. Great post, loved reading it. I think being able to live and love whom we choose is the greatest gift in life and Gods plan for us all xxxx

  37. Marvelous post. It inspires me a lot. Why dont you write a book?
    I am a freshman in the enoromous wordpress world. I just started blogging yesterday. As you all know, every freshman need a positive feedback from the superfast bloggers. So I’m expecting a very worm welcome from you. You can visit my Blog so that I can share my Feelings to you. looking for a positive feedback https://domaincombd.wordpress.com/ Thank you. Have a nice day.

  38. You are so beautiful, and I am so proud to know there are people like you and your daughter in this world. It is truly incredible to grow up as I am in this shifting generation. This developing understanding of love as a gender-less entity has never failed to make me sob. I am so sad to hear the story’s and remember the feelings of ignorance set upon someone else’s love. There will always be the ones that feel justified to put love in its place, however, what they have yet to discover is that love has no set place. It should be, and can be everywhere.

    Thank you for your words.

    • Oh thank you for such a heartfelt comment. Grateful to you for having read and shared your feelings. Mucho amor!

  39. I am so happy for you, and the fact your daughter is supportive. Love is what matters, not how it is packaged. 🙂

  40. Amazing blog!
    Do check out my photography blog 🙂

  41. jakester48 permalink

    A fascinating and enlightening read for this old straight male. I wish you and your family every happiness.

  42. This popped up in my reader feed. To me this piece meant a lot. Because I have a girlfriend, though we are both femmes. We don’t get too many negative reactions, rather people tend to be perverted trying to invite us to do things etc. I don’t know what to say I identify as since i’ve had boyfriends and long standing relationships. Falling in love with a girl just happened and I took the path deciding that “love is love”. Thank you for writing this. I still don’t understand myself but I do know that all should be treated and love should always be respected.

  43. To Dream in Color permalink

    I relate to this on so many levels, in so many ways. Thank you for putting this out there.

  44. Rhoni permalink

    Reblogged this on #shyamis and commented:

    @Dutch2Haze @VANILLAVVV @rinku2610 #nice— #shyamis (@rinku2610) November 6, 2015

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  45. This is beautiful. I wish you the best of love and light.

  46. Had heard of you through Jani Rose, but had never read you. I have a gay nephew and I worry about his safety in this society of ours. I’ll tell you the same I tell him. Just be careful who you befriend. Promise? I am an over protective mother, Lilliam Arnau

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. An Education on Love Between Womyn | watch194
  2. An Education on Love Between Womyn | Rosane Patell

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