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Father’s Day

“We don’t necessarily know how to hear stories about any kind of violence, because it is hard to accept that violence is as simple as it is complicated, that you can love someone who hurts you, that you can stay with someone who hurts you, that you can be hurt by someone who loves you, that you can be hurt by a complete stranger, that you can be hurt in so many, terrible, intimate ways.” Hunger, Roxane Gay.

 

This is a story of hurt.

This is a story of violence.

Sunday, I went to church. Ya’ll know I don’t go to church. My reason for going was similar to some children going to church on Mother’s Day. I knew it would make my father happy. I am a child, I like to make my parents happy.  In the 7 weeks since I moved to Florida I have rarely been in town on a Sunday. I have rarely left the house other than to find food or go to Crossfit. I spend my days largely at home and since my father works from home – I spend a lot of time with him.

I get anxious when I go to my childhood church. At times, I bring friends to deflect the attention that is geared towards me. I am rarely seen- people get excited to see me. Their excitement also comes with a host of questions, many of which I do not want answer. However, there is a beauty in returning that I see more as I age. On Sunday, I remembered feeling a warmness of being surrounded by people who have known me all my life and who I have known all their lives.  The children I left when I went to college over 13 years are young adults-who appear older than me. My father became the pastor when I was 6 months old, I have history here. Often the bad history overshadows the good. But there is a lot of good. After the passing of the peace, it was time for the sermon.

Shortly after he stood to start the sermon, my father made a joke that I found transphobic and repulsive. His words caught me off guard. I have no memories of my father every being homophobic or transphobic from the pulpit. The laughter echoed by some in the congregation made the violence of his statement reverberate through my spirit. Violence accompanied smiles and laughter still causes harm. It is as harmful as violence accompanied by screams and physical harm. My whole body changed as I heard his words. I was confused. I did not understand the purpose of the “joke.” Just moments before he had been relatively inclusive about ideas of “fathers,” just to ultimately define one ability to be a father by their genitals.

The words spoken by my father would have caused me to get up and leave the service if it was spoken by anyone else. I sat and wrestled with my inability to leave. I did not want to upset my father or throw his focus off during his sermon. Although, I believe he saw my face and body shift when he spoke those words-he quickly shifted to another topic. I was shock to a point where I could not really move. I felt betrayed. Gender is my life. I wonder how real the conversations my father and I have had about gender was? I thought that he would be more conscious about the harm his words can cause from the pulpit.

As I sat the harm that I experienced in the church came back. The realization that the church will never be a safe space for folks like me and those I love.  I have stories of harm inside of those walls that seem endless. Those experiences have led me to research and do the work I now do. These experiences taught me that my queerness and my gender were problems, that they prevented me from truly being loved by my creator. So much came into my head. By the time alter call came, so did the tears. So did the tears. I remember someone rubbing my back. They probably thought I was overcome with the “spirit.” I was crying because I had been hurt. I was harmed by his words & his laughter. I was harmed by someone I love more than almost anything in the world.

We are a family of awkward and corny jokes. These jokes at times reveal the truth of situations. I believe and know I am my parent’s favorite. Not despite my queerness but because of my queerness. I joked with my father that I didn’t have the luxury of heterosexuality so I must be perfect. I wonder how much my performance of “good” is tied to my queerness, to me not being a “believer.” Never asking too much from parents. Always giving. Always wanting to help. My drive to finish school and get degrees. My need for them to be proud of me. For them to know I am still good even though I am not a Christian. That I am still worthy of their love even being queer. I see this same drive towards perfection and “success” in many of my queer friends. They are doctors and lawyers- they are the ones their families go to for financial help. Yet, they are the ones being encouraged to change. They could never do half the things their trifling siblings do.

I was grateful that I sat near the back of the church. I left immediately after alter call. I did not have the strength to engage in small talk with anyone.

During the service, I texted my younger brother and told him what had happen. He told me that those words did not even sound like our father, something I agree with. I wondered who is this man speaking right now. He was so different from the man who I have deep and meaningful conversations with. My brother- the pastor told me he was sorry for the harm I experienced.

I called him when I left. He was preparing for his own Sunday service. I appreciate him taking the time to talk to me. I appreciate his love for me. I love him for his desire (and his actions) to make church a safer place not only for me-his sibling but for all of us.

Typically, when one experience harm from the pulpit, they can walk away from the church. I live with this man. I live in his house. His face looks like mine. My plan was to be out the house as much as possible on Sunday. I didn’t want to see him but I also did not want to ruin his “Father’s Day.”

I called my childhood friend. She was at work. I called her because I knew she understood harm through her adolescence experiences growing up in my father’s church. The church (my father included) allowed a man and his unchecked toxic masculinity to destroy young adult lives. He outed my friends. Force her to tell her mother about her sexuality. Prevented her from participating in the choir all in an effort to make her “straight.” There were other things, but that’s not my story to tell. Sunday, my friend told me she was broken by that experience and she believes it change the trajectory of her life for the worse. The pain was still there. The hurt was present in her voice.

Growing up I knew pieces of her story. I knew how they were treating her was wrong. Her experience was a cautionary tale for me. It showed me what happens to queer children. I was charged somehow with being a good role model for her. I remember her mother telling me, “I wish she (her daughter) was more like you.” That does something to a child. I knew her adoration for me had everything to do with my performance of heterosexuality and my “good” grades. I knew I had to maintain those things to avoid being an outcast. My friend was an outcast, I knew I didn’t want to be treated like they treated her.

On the phone I wished my friend a Happy Father’s Day.- for her role in raising her girlfriend’s child. We talked to her shift was over. I follow her girlfriend on snapchat- I saw that they surprised my friend with a Father’s Day celebration.

I want to tell my father that people with penis do not own the title of father. Just like they do not own masculinity. I want to tell my father that people with vaginas do not own the title of mother. Just like they do not own femininity. Black and Brown Queer folks have redefined and created families when their own families were inhospitable and violent places. See the real work that house mothers and fathers have done to care and nurture Black and Brown Queer youth in ballroom culture and beyond. Shit, I can let you know why they called me daddy but that’s a NSFW topic.

Staying out the house was harder than I expected. My date went ghost on me. I aint trippin tho’ we had one good tipsy night together.

My natural reaction to being hurt is to shut down. Close myself off to others. Try to ignore the hurt until it is a distant memory.

Since Sunday morning my father has told me he loves me more times than I can count.

Monday, he came in my room. Told me he never wants to hurt me. That he loved me. That his greatest joy is seeing me happy. That he is sorry for anything he has done to hurt me and he loves me unconditionally. Then he grabbed me and hugged me. I wept. There is so much I am unpacking.

I do not doubt my father’s love for me. I do know his love and ability to see me is clouded by what society and religion teaches us. We live in a transphobic, homophobic and anti-Black world, it is only natural that he/we internalize these messages. I am fighting to unlearn these messages.

Monday night, I left for Colombia. I am grateful for the time away to think and process. I am thinking about what happens after harm. I am thinking about what healing and reconciliation looks like. I am committed to liberation and wholeness in my life. I am not afraid to leave those behind that do not contribute to this. But I am invested in building bridges and trying with those who so clearly love me, but have not been taught how to love and protect people like me.  Love is not enough action is needed. So perhaps, when I get home I will have real conversation with my father and explain to him the work he needs to do if he wants me in his life in a real concrete way. It is enough for me to feel safe with him, I want to know that those around me can also feel safe and free to be themselves. There is a lot more to this. I am reminded of the ways that unaddressed trauma resurfaces. I am grateful that I have more tools and language to deal with trauma than I did at 19.  I am thankful that I know “I am holy, by my own.”

 

 

 

(You like how I slide in that I am in Colombia for the week. Estoy en Medellín)

 

-JustTab

 

 

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Capricorn in Cuba

 

I was almost to my casa particular, the Cuban home I was staying at while in Trinidad.

I went out. Listen to Cuban music and watch beautiful Cuban men flirt with white foreigners.

I even had a drink, although I nursed it for an hour and did not finish it.

But the point remained, I went out for my 30th birthday.

As I approached the street my casa particular was on. I saw Andres. Andres hair was in a long ponytail and they wore a short dress showing off their legs. I had been on an unofficial search for queer people in Cuba.

I had not seen many in Havana and when I did I was not in a place where I could approach them. But here alone at 10:30pm on an empty street in Trinidad, I ventured to speak.

Andres walked past me and I turned around and stop them. My Spanish was not helped by the nervousness that is accompanied by stopping a stranger and assuming them queer. I am from the U.S. it is not always safe for people that are perceived as masculine to express femininity in clothing and in acts.

“Hola. Yo estoy in Cuba para tres dias, no mirrar mucho gente de diferente. Pero tu. Tu es muy bonita. Como se illama?”

That was me shooting my shot. It worked. Andres then responded to me in English. They asked me where I was going and told me that it was too early to go back home. There were many parties in Trinidad, they invited me to join. As we walked back to the party era we met up with one of Andres friends. He was a young cutie who later told me that he was 19. As we walked Andres asked me was I gay? Andres seemed determined to find me a Cuban girlfriend. We return to the House of Music, the venue I had just left. Andres introduced me to all the queer folks there. The crowd had grown since I left.

I was struck by how popular Andres was as we walked through the city. Everyone greeted Andres. I did not apprehend mean looks or stares. Andres took me to 3 clubs. Reminding me to stay quiet as he paid (with my money). Cubans paid less than foreigners and I look Cuban. I just do not sound Cuban. Pero mi Buenos Dias es muy perfecto. Hence, I saved money.

At the end of the night Andres and the friend. Walked me back to my casa and we made plans to meet the next day to go to the beach.

I am Black and Queer.

Consequently I seek out other Black, Brown and Queer Folks.

I tend to travel to countries where the majority of the population is Black or Brown.

I have not cared enough to travel to Europe. I can stay in the US and see white folks in power.

Over the past 4 months, I have traveled to Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Bahamas and Cuba. Without a doubt Cuba appears to be the most hospitable place for queer folk.

I ask the 19 year old was it easy being gay in Cuba.

Si, es muy facil.

But easy is relative. His 19 years looked and felt very different from Andres 33 years. Cuba is complicated in ways my Black American self will never understand. The next day at the beach Andres told me more about their life and what it meant to be queer in Cuba. I was reminded that life for queer people of color is rarely a crystal stairs.

My time in Cuba forced me search beneath the surface and remember that things are rarely as they appear to be. In this next decade, I plan to be more intentional about taking time to listen to other’s stories.

~JustTab

 

Also Andres is also a Capricorn, the best sign out there

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2016 in Gender, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Without a home

 

Homeless.

As I left Ohio, I looked down at my three new keys. Two storage units and a P.O. Box.

Tab you are without a home. To say that I am homeless does not mean I do not have a place to stay. As many of you know, I am teaching at a summer program in Michigan. While here I am subletting someone’s apartment.

But this is not my home. It is temporary. It is filled with another person’s stuff. This stuff includes lots of religious iconography. I sleep underneath a cross.

I am a girl without a home.

In the next week I will begin a search for housing in Ohio. This will certainly be my last year. Three years longer than I initially anticipated.

The place I find will be comfortable but not a home. It will be temporary. I will resist putting too many things like pictures around the house. I will know that shortly I will be leaving. I will not get too comfortable or attached. The place will not be my home.

For the first time in three years, I face the reality of moving into a space alone. Of being the one person responsible for the upkeep and whatever love that will enter the house. I won’t have to share a bathroom or compromise.

As thrilling as this should be, I am also dealing with anger. I do not want to have to do this alone.

The writing of this is steeped in privilege. I do not fear not having a place to sleep at night. I have the money to pay a deposit on whatever residence I decide to lease. I do not fear not being able to afford utilities or any essentials.

I am aware that while homeless LGBT youth represents 7% of the youth population, they account for 40% of the homeless youth.

That for many queer kids in this country finding a safe place to rest their head each and every night is a struggle.

“They are always getting kicked out the house. They never have homes.” This was one of the many reasons I told myself I did not like being around lesbians as a teen. They just seem to have so much drama. It is always easier to look at the LGBT youth as the problem and not the society we live in.

They are children without homes.

I have been in community and in relationships with adults who were kicked out of their homes as a child for being queer. That kind of pain never really heals. When she tells me about her 16-year old self being called a dyke. Her mother throwing plates at her and her brother assaulting her per their mother’s request because she was dating a girl- my heart breaks. Knowing her story is one that is too common.

Many years have passed, yet her greatest fear remains being homeless.

She is a girl without home.

She was a girl I try to be home for. To give a home to.

But I was also just a girl without a home.

“I cannot go home as who I am It seems. Unredeemed by what blood? Unsaved by what grace? Unnatural by whose standard?”

A young male poet performs this in Marlon Riggs’ 1995 documentary on Black identity Black is….Black Aint. This poem introduces the section where sexuality, religion,  and Blackness are explored.

This poem always resonates with me. People often ask me when I will go home again. They mean to my hometown. They mean to my father’s church. They mean to my parent’s house.

Some days I respond not anytime soon. Other days I tell them I do not have a home.

No one ever talks about the queer kids who grow up to be queer adults. Who come into their adultness and their queerness away from their family and the community they grew up in.  No one ever talks about the pieces of themselves they are encouraged to hide- explicitly and implicitly in order to be welcomed home. No one talks about the parents who might never overtly demonize your queerness with words, yet their actions creates the same results. The attention and favor they bestow on the performances of heteronormativity present in their other children produces just as much pain. Pain that is often hard to put in words because no one ever beats you up, no one ever calls you a dyke. They just pretend that aspects of you and your life do not exist.

Home denotes a place of safety, of care and permanence.

I am a girl without a home.

 

~JustTab

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Blocked

Blocked.

Not in the social media sense. Though I am all about blocking people as a self-care practice.

But Blocked in the sense that I am not able to write.

The thoughts that are in my mind have not easily translated to the written word.

So here are some thoughts.

I turn 30 at the end of this year.

They tell me that is a big deal.

I agree.

Not everyone makes it to 30.

Mike-Mike didn’t.

Tamir didn’t.

Renisha didn’t.

Mya didn’t.

Marshawn didn’t.

The list goes on and on.

I mean I aint even make it…yet.

I had so many plans for where I would be by now.

I wanted more figured out. More accomplished.

I still got time to change some things but I feel blocked.

Stuck.

But maybe it is a sign to be patient. To be still and think about the things I have done.

To be still and think about the things I have done.

The people I have loved. The places I experienced.

The places I experienced.

They say people are a mess in their 20’s.

I say people don’t start looking right until their 30’s.

You know Tab likes them older.

They tend to grow into themselves and find a level of self-acceptance that only increases with their age.

I am looking forward to that.

If I am 30 that means people gotta take me serious.

I gotta take myself serious.

No more blaming my recklessness on my youth.

Tomorrow I am going to New Orleans.

I have never been.

It is part of my list of things I want to do before 30.

  1. Visit 3 new places
  2. Go skinny dipping.
  3. Skydive
  4. Cuba and Brazil for my birthday

The rest of the list are personal growth things like unapologetically engage in practices of radical love for self and others.

Can’t be going into 30 with the baggage from yesteryears.

This means doing the work.

Even when I feel blocked.

Or especially when I feel blocked.

I’m looking around at how lucky I am to be alive right now.

Hamilton reminds me to look at where I am and where I started, the fact that I am alive is a miracle.

And if I can stay alive that would be enough.

Because I am enough.

 

~JustTab

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2016 in Learning bout Tab!

 

Boots Tuesday

4-5-2016, 11:00am

“Do you have a hard time asking people for things?”

“I don’t really need to ask people for things. I am pretty self-sufficient.” That’s the response that first came to my head. I didn’t respond. I sat with it. This woman stays trying to see me. To read me. Demanding I drop whatever mask I think I am wearing. This  annoys me. This makes me uncomfortable. So I fade away.

I met her last summer at the Movement for Black Lives. While the conference was officially over, we just had an impromptu action against the Cleveland Police.  Afterwards- in victory we chanted, “we gonna be alright,” in unison with over a hundred Black people. Someone started a healing circle. Others dealt with those who were pepper sprayed. I noticed her boots before I noticed her. Cowboy boots and shorts. She stood out. She was cute and different. As you might already know, I am smoother than freshly churned butter. I went to her and asked her about her boots. Somehow this turned into a whole conversation, where she gave me the origins of her boots. She got them on a trip to Arizona with her ex-girlfriend. She was quick and witty. We exchanged info, for you know community building, the revolution and what not.

Power to the people.

7-27-2015  Facebook messages

Me: Nice meeting your boots as well as you yesterday. Stay in touch. I’m sure you have great stories about the places the boots been.

Her: Ha! So many stories.

Me: Maybe you should do Boots Tuesday and tell me a new story about you and those boots i lusted after. (I’m good now, I have accepted they are yours :))

 

And just like that, she started sending me weekly stories. She never told me which ones were fiction. Her stories were great. Moving. Interesting. Insightful. All keeping with the theme of the boots. I found out later that she majored in creative writing. So yes, she had skills.

Eventually, I asked what I could give her in return. I was enjoying the experience of a weekly story so much. I didn’t want to take and not give. There is beauty in exchange.

I was going thru a Tab love crisis at this point. Feeling like I was fucking up with multiple people. I abruptly ended a relationship that I had been cultivating. You know Tab shit. She wanted me to write through this. Sometimes she gave me a prompt sometimes she didn’t. I would write about my journey of being a better person.

This went on for almost 2 months. In retrospect, this impromptu writing exchange/collective was pretty amazing. It gave us both an audience and reason to plan writing into our busy lives. She was always on a plane flying somewhere. I never knew what city she would be in.

Maybe it was one too many ignored questions that made me call her secretive. Maybe I am. I just don’t like questions. I like the control of the information. I will tell you everything if you just don’t ask.

She told me that sharing was invasive. She wasn’t willing to be vulnerable and share aspects of her when it wasn’t reciprocal. She heard my confession that I struggled to be open and honest. She pushed me to know why (more for myself than for her knowledge), She asked did it help with others are open and honest with me? She pushed me on my evasiveness.  I answered briefly. And then stopped answering. You know Tab shit.

In the last two months, I have spoken to her more. Thanks to the snapchat and a new phone that makes texting easier. She mentioned my disappearance early on in our “reunion.” I think I briefly addressed it. But we continued. No stories tho. And not many questions from her.

This morning I was reminiscing on Boots Tuesday. Sent her an email inquiring about restarting Boots Tuesday.

She replied “Dr. Chester, don’t you believe in assessment and reflection before repeating a course.”

Guess who didn’t respond.

She texted me about a favor I asked her to do for my class. I told her never mind. That we can try for another time. Maybe next semester. Some shit about me knowing she had a lot on her plate.

She responded: “Do you have a hard time asking people for things?”

I remembered how much I hated her questions and her ability to not only see me but ask me the questions I hate to answer. She doesn’t know me but she knows me. She is a reminder of how transparent I am even when I believe I am performing cryptic and complex.

 

~JustTab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Marshawn was a Freedom Fighter

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Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

When I clicked on the link and saw the name. I jumped out of my seat, screamed and grabbed my heart. The pain I felt was so intense I felt it physically throughout my chest. I cried. I could not understand how barely two hours ago I was building with another activist. Talking about our friend in common, Marshawn. How proud we were of him, how much he has grown. We laughed and danced to Formation out of Denison together. 24 hours later I would be at a candlelight vigil with her for Marshawn.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

I met Marshawn in August of 2014. We were a part of the Ohio crew that traveled to Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death. He was tall and skinny with a real cool swag. He reminded me of Snoop or Wiz. All skinny tall Black men remind me of them. That trip ended with me giving a very long side eye to Marshawn. Thankfully, I was able to see other sides of Marshawn. One of my favorite memories of Marshawn occurred last fall. I organized a teach-in about Ferguson/ Racial Justice at my university. Marshawn came as a representative of Ohio Student Association and lead a breakout session after the panel part of the event. As I prepared to leave I found him and two of my other organizer friends with a couple of students just sitting, talking and organizing. I told them it was after 9 and I was going home. Shawn was the type of person who liked to make people to people connection. He stayed in contact with at least one of the students he built with that night. He showed up for people. He showed up for Black women last summer at the #sayhername action in Columbus I helped plan. I remember how articulate yet vulnerable the words he spoke about his responsibility as a Black men to show up for all Black women.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

I have so many great memories with him. I am realizing just how many actions, marches and protests I participated in since coming to Ohio and he was at every single one. People keep asking me do I know why he did it. I resent the ways the conversation, particularly with people who don’t know him- center on questions about what was wrong with him. Was he suffering from any mental problems? I don’t deny that there are conversations that need to be had about mental health issues as it pertains to the Black community and Black masculinity.  I do not pretend to know what Marshawn was thinking or feeling.  However those are not things I concern myself with in this moment. He made a decision, a decision about his life and how and where he wanted to end.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

If we are looking for a why- there is no better answer than systemic oppression. The ways that we are devalued by the state on a constant basis.  The knowledge that these inequalities are so ingrained in our society, that despite our organizing we often fail to change the material reality of those close to us.  What happens when we march, organize and touch people yet we and those we love still experience the harsh reality of life as people with marginalized identities.  I think a perfectly sane person can make a decision to end their life in this insane world.  I think suicide can be and has been a form of resistance against oppression.  How many enslaved Africans jumped into the water, desiring to face death on their terms rather than live and see the grim realities that would become them.  As much as living can be a form of resistance so death is also resistance.  I’m thinking of Margaret Garner and many other women who ended their children lives rather than allowing them to be enslaved.  I have long been an advocate for the right to die for people with terminal/chronic illness. I think there is power in saying I decide when I leave this earth and I won’t wait until cancer or whatever else destroys my body. I am reminded of Buddhist monks practice of self-immolation, the act of sacrificing one’s body as a form of radical political protest, intentional suicide for a collective cause. I think death can force people to deal with uncomfortable truths and act as a rallying cry. Suicide is often seen as the easy way out or for weak people, but the truth is suicide has a long history as a form of resistance.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

There is power in saying the state will not be able to claim my body.  There is power in laying your body on the steps of the state and forcing them to deal with you.  Forcing them to recognize your life even if it’s through your death. I have protested and marched at the Ohio State. I have heard Marshawn voice ring from those same steps crying for justice for John Crawford. I have seen him fight to change laws and policy.  The state of Ohio must account for his body in the same ways they must account for Tamir, Taniesha, John and countless others. The city government of Columbus once told organizers that they need a body in order to enact the type of police reforms needed, well they got a body on their doorsteps now. I witness him building power with community.  At his vigil someone said that he is one young person that would have followed where ever.  If we trusted him to lead us in life, I believe we have to also trust him to lead us in death.  We don’t have to understand or agree.  I believe he had much more work to do alive, but I also respect his laying down his life.  Having agency.  Deciding that he will not wait until for some officer of the state to take his life or become so demoralized that he might as well be dead. Deciding he will leave this world on his own terms.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

I also think a lot about heaven and hell. I have stop believing in hell. Not sure if I believe in heaven. We create both in this world.  I believe that there is no finite line between the living and dead.  I believe our ancestors are all around us.  Even if we can’t see it.  I believe in being transformed. I believe the end isn’t really the end like we think. I believe in a circular and not linear life cycle.  I believe that there is no shame in what and how Marshawn chose to live and how he chose to die. That time comes for everyone and we all must resist. Who are we to judge the means someone chooses to resist? Rather we must focus on their need to resist in the first place.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter who taught us how to fight and we gon fight all day and night until we get it right.

This life is hard.  This work is hard.  Remember there are people placing their body, mind, spirit, life and relationships on the line every day to fight for us.  To make the world know and understand that we matter.  In a world that is also telling us that we  don’t matter.

We got to fight.  We got to check up on each other. Most, importantly we gotta love each other and support each other.

How do we imagine a world where we don’t have to choose that type resistance? How do we create a world that suicide is not an understandable choice? How do fight the state and systematic oppression when they can’t see or care about our humanity? How do we make them heard us? How do we radically imagine the future?

We fight all day and night until we get it right.  Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he is teaching us how to fight.

This week I have been reminded to love harder, hold on tighter to the things and people that give me joy. But most of all it reminded me why I fight. In my heart I know Marshawn sacrifice his life for us. So today when I attend his funeral I will celebrate his light, his love and his legacy.

~justTab

 

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Marshall L. Jr. Shorts photo credit

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Lovers. Friends. A Story.

A story.

As I remember it.

Eight years later.

We had met before. She was “hanging” with a classmate of mine.

I had recently moved to Philly to start grad school.

She was tall. Very tall. 6 feet tall.

I was 20. Head-strong. Bold. And Christian. Very Christian. More than I even realized at the time.

On this particular night- her, the classmate and this really zealous girl I had met at lesbian club my first night out in Philly. How that experience scared the hell out of me is a story for another day.

But they were over my house. We went to get barbeque. Those were the days I was in love with pork. I wrote poems about this love.

This night stands out to me for several reasons. 1. The overzealous girl called God a she. I was Christian remember, very Christian. The type of Christian that thought calling God a girl was blasphemy. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember telling them (all three of them some type of queer-identified) that they were going to hell for being gay. I was righteous with my condemnation. Because I was Christian, very Christian. Of course, I had gay friends….I grew up and in the theatre and church. I also went gay clubs, but that was them and not me. And I mostly kicked it with gay men. Lesbians scared me. I thought they were all predators. I made sure to keep my distance from lesbian women.

I had never kissed a girl. Because that was gay. And a sin.

Times passed. I learned more about Philly. Dated some guy. He took me on my first $100+ date. I was 20 and easily impressed. He was sweet. I should gave him some. But not because he paid for dinner or because he offered to buy me a winter coat.

Anyway she stopped “hanging” out with my classmate. I say “hanging” in quotes because they were dating. Something she still refuses to admit.

I would see her around. I think she invited me to a sex toy party. And we were Facebook friends. Sometime over Christmas Break we started interacting via the FaceBook heavily and decided to hang out when I got back.

This a good point to mention I flirt. A lot. Most of the time I don’t even know I am flirting until the person is trying to pull me into the restroom for a quickie. (That has never happened, but you get the point.)

She liked men as well. So we would go out and scoop out dudes. I know…anyway she wasn’t really a threat because we would talk about boys. And she wasn’t one of those scary lesbians. I told you, I had issues with lesbians. Thought they were all predators. Over the course of the next couple of months we hung out. Heavy.

I remember one time we made plans for a sleepover and cuddle sessions. All this sounds very gay. I promise you the gayness escaped me at the time. Cause I was straight. But everyone loves to cuddle.

For Spring Break that year I went to Jamaica. I came back with a hickey. Some drunken night with some guy who worked at Dunns River Fall…who still calls me. But that is another story.

She was so mad about the hickey. I did not understand why. Cause me and her was friends and I was straight.

One day when I left her place. She asked me why I never kissed her.

I thought that was the most ridiculous question ever.

“Because I don’t kiss girls!”

She knew this, remember I been told her all the gays were going to hell. I went to church every Sunday so clearly I wasn’t going to hell.

But all the next day I would wonder…”Hmmm…why don’t I ever kiss her. Her lips are pretty nice.”

I figure I can like a girl and not be gay. Looking back I don’t understand how the fact that we were basically dating the whole spring escaped me.

The next time I saw her. I fixed the not kissing her thing.

What came after is none of your noisy ass business. We begin dating consciously.

We begin dating…consciously.

But you remember I was Christian. Very Christian.

So this did not work well for my consciousness. I was a wreck. I would have to take shots to be intimate with her. I was on the “Jesus don’t love me” ride. Blasting Tonex’s “Lord Make Me Over” and crying. Would not hold her hand in public. Would jump when she touched me. All that self-hate shit.  Plus I did not know anything about dating a girl. Did not understand why she expected me to open the door for her cause she was a girl….I was a girl too. Very confused about so much.

We had good times but this did not bode well for starting a relationship. To add to this one of my closest friends was dying from cancer. I was an emotional wreck.

I was getting better though…I might have been down to one shot before. And I only jumped sometimes when she touched me.

I understand now why she eventually ended things. It was a lot. I had my own experience being some extra-Christian woman’s first. I understood even more after that.

(I am almost to the point.)

I spent weeks trying to win her back. Maybe I wasn’t in love, maybe it was deep infatuation. I would write her poetry weekly. They are still saved in my email…some are better than others. But Lorde, I was serious.

She was the closest to love my young heart had experienced. The months that follow was rough. I could not see a place for her in my life as anything other than my lover. Part of this was me not be comfortable with my sexuality. If she was the only girl I ever dated, I could convince myself it was just her and that in general I wasn’t into women. So somehow not as big of a sinner. This is my 21-year old logic.

She taught and showed me how to form a friendship with someone you were so intimately connected with. Eight years later, I can text her at 1am about how ____has moved on and doesn’t want me no more. (This happened last week, I been in my lightskinned feelings). I can go on trips with her. I can hear about her relationships and not feel jealous. Legit be her friend. This took time I got the (email receipts to prove it). This also meant time away from each other. Open communication.

She is finally (kinda) over the fact that she had the Tab who didn’t hold hands in public with girls in public and not the Tab who makes out with women in Baby Gap. (This has not happen but I would be open to it).

I read a facebook post the other day from a friend from college.

“For those of you who have break-ups, just know that love is not limited to a particular person or situation. If you have patience, love will find you again (and again if necessary lol).

For those of you who have a hard time celebrating the successes and happiness of those who you have dated and loved…maybe you did not love them in the first place…maybe you just loved what they were to you.

For those of you who are battling to make a relationship work, because you have invested time, you love the person, and it seems like the both of you are good people outside of the pressures and confines of a relationship… it is possible, though unconventional, to resort back to a friendship, and it may be healthier for you both.

It takes a different way of thinking, a greater understanding of life and love, and an appreciation for the person beyond the relationship once shared…but in the end, “friends can become lovers, and lovers can become friends”.

When I am feeling like I can only be in someone life as their lover. I am reminded of her. I am reminded of her teaching me how to be friends with a former lover. I might have to take time to mourn the person as a lover and have patience imagining what new space we will occupy in each other lives.  The love does not have to go away, like energy it can just be transferred or transform until a new shape. Another type of love.  Transitions. Love has the ability and power to help transform us. When I say I love you I mean that forever. Anyone I have ever loved is still in my life.

I am not very Christian anymore. I am still not gay though.

I wrote this for me. I might currently be in the phase of ceasing communication to stop myself from writing a poem a week to proclaim my love to someone and remind their new boo ain’t got nothing on Tab.  I wrote this to remember what it was like making a lover a friend. You know…a friend that I don’t have sex with. I wrote this because I needed to affirm that things will be ok. I’m be ok.

Oh and just because you waded through this long ass story. Here is an excerpt of a poem I sent during my poem a week to reclaim the love phase. Hey, before you judge let me remind you I was 21.

If you had never ask why I didn’t kiss you
I would have never kissed you
If I had never kissed you
I wouldn’t have wanted to taste you
If I would have never tasted you
I wouldn’t have desired all of you
If I didn’t desire all of you
I would have never ask you to be my girl
If I never asked you to be my girl
It could have never been over
If it had never been over
I would have never try to forget you
If I never tried to forget you
I would have never known how much I valued you
If I never knew how much I valued you
Then I would never had the inspiration to write a poem a week for you
If I never wrote a poem a week for you
Would you have ever known how much I cared for you?

~Just Tab

 

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