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Category Archives: Gender

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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Sleep Deprivation, Misogyny and Thug life.

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Around 3:30 am, Tuesday morning I pulled into a 7-11 somewhere in Maryland.

At this point, Mercedes and I had been driving for a couple of hours. She had to work that day so I told her she should sleep some.

Perhaps I should explain why I was in Maryland at 3am. I spent the previous weekend in Montreal for a Theatre conference. I should have been home Sunday night but due to bad weather, I missed my connecting flight in Toronto. I ended up at the hotel the airline got for me at 1:30 am, after landing in Toronto at 8:30pm. This meant no dinner for Tab. I have a lot of unkind things to say about Toronto’s airport and AirCanada but I can do that later. My new flight left Monday at 8:30am. Which meant I needed to be up before 6am to catch the shuttle to the airport.

Still wearing the same clothes from the previous day. I landed in Columbus at 10am.

Great. Tab can rest! Naw. Mercedes and I previously decided we would take her three nieces back to Philly on Monday. They had been staying with us for two weeks.  So I rented a car and drove to Philly, leaving a lot later than I originally planned. Remember I was supposed to be home Sunday night, in bed by 11pm. But since I am thug and driving long distance runs in my blood, the 8 hour drive (with kids) was not a problem.

Three kids, three different mommas meant I was playing bus driver making multiple stops. The run also included getting some of Mercedes stuff from her old place to bring back to Columbus. I had to pretend like being in a basement at after midnight didn’t scare this never had a basement Florida girl. Plus, I gotta impress my lady and show off my Crossfit strength.

Tab: “Don’t worry boo…what box you need? I got this.

You know I still aint really had meal since brunch the previous day. The thing about the drive to Philly, it is really expensive, $60 in tolls roundtrip. Damn, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. However, your girl was feeling bold and cheap. So I decided to take another route. Technically it was 45 min longer but would save $30. That’s like a lap dance and a half. We got on the road around 1 am but for some reason all the entrance to the highway was blocked. We spent almost an hour trying to get on. Remember, ya’ll I still haven’t really eaten or slept. The plan was to stop get some fruit for me during the drive. The first place was some rest stop type place. It was $5 for thing of grapes. Hell no. I ended getting a banana for free because the lady didn’t know how to charge me for it. So, since I was still hungry I stopped at the 7-eleven, I figured it would be cheaper.

Yeah. That was long intro. Hope you are still with me.

When I pulled up I notice this black man playing music in his car. He looked about 30ish. Nice beard and good build. I walked in and got what I came for. Mercedes is still in the car, half sleep. As I was in line, I noticed him talking to this woman. She was paying for her stuff and she appeared to either be going to work or just getting off.

She was clearly not interested in dude.

W: I’m married.

M: How long has that been a problem?

W: It’s not a problem for you, it aint a problem for me.

The man continues his advances.

Tab is in line behind them. And of course she has to say something.

Tab: “Yo, clearly she isn’t interested. Chill man”.

M: “Who the fuck was talking to you? Mind your fucking business.”

Can we just say that went from 15 to 100 real quick! I am not letting anybody talk to me like that. So me and dude went back and forth until he left. During this time he told me I was lucky the police was across the street and that I was a female. He also mentioned going to my car and getting at my girl. I pretty much told him he wasn’t going to do a god damn thing and he was an ignorant ass motha fucka…among other things. When I left he is staring at me smiling from his car. I pulled off and he attempts to try to follow me and scare me. He got stopped at a light and I sped off to the highway. I guess I will never know if he was really trying to follow me and do me harm or was just trying to scare me.

What bothered me the most about this situation was the (lack of) response of the other two Black men present. When the guy left, the clerk asks me if I knew him. I tell him hell no, I have never seen that man before. The clerk tells me I am “a tough lady.” He tells me that guy has been bothering every women that walked in and he should have left her alone because she said she was married. I told him even if she wasn’t married he should have left her alone.

As I drove away I reflected on how vulnerable women are in this world. This man watched another man verbal harass several women and threaten to assault me. Yet, he did nothing and said nothing. He could have easily asked the man to leave the store or even called the cops (who were camped out in the parking lot across the street). But he didn’t. Him and the other employee sat silently by despite knowing the man was wrong.

I am left wondering where are the men who will interrupt patriarchy and misogyny. Who will say not on my watch, not in front of me. Who will make it their business to speak up. I want my brothers to know that their silence makes them complicit. That their silence will never protect them.

Until then I guess I will have to stay on my thug life swag.

While I can joke about this now. I do want to acknowledge how scared I was. In that moment, I didn’t have the luxury to show fear.

I have never directly experience such aggression from a man. The reality was I had no clue where I was, what this man was capable of and despite the other men presence, I was alone.

I drove away fully awake but oh so tired.

~JustTab

 

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Is you a boy or girl?

“Is you a boy or a girl?” I have been asked this question several times by young children. While, I doubt very few of them- if any actual think I am a boy, the question is more about my lack of adherence to their “image” of what a woman looks like.

My hair is cut low and my clothes might not always emphasize my feminine features. I never get mad or upset when children ask me this question, since usually it’s out of curiosity.  However, what does annoy me is being CALLED (different from asking) a boy or any type of male. As a child I detested being called a tomboy. Even now it irks when children who don’t fit others perception of what a “girl” is supposed to be or like or whatever is called a tomboy. Or currently in certain communities the term “boi”, has gained popularity for more masculine gender-queer/ androgynous people. My friends have trouble understanding how and why “Oh, Tab you are such a cute boi”- highly upsets. Yeah, I joke about looking like a 12- year old boy, but those are jokes.  The gender that I identify with is “woman”, no matter what I am wearing or who I am dating that’s what I am- a woman, so to be called a “boi” even by friends is to me calling me out my name and associating me with something I do not identify with. Simone de Beauvoir famously said “One is not born a woman, but becomes one”, this quote was further popularized by Judith Butler in theorization of gender. It speaks to that fact that gender is not a biological fact rather it is a construction. Whereas sex: male or female can be considered a biological fact; which is why people can be born a certain biological sex, yet identify with another gender or no gender at all. . Yeah, it’s kind of tricky but you don’t have to agree with me about this.  Knowing how strongly I feel about my gender identity and the power of being called or haled something you do not identify with I can’t imagine what Caster Semenya had to go through.

If you can recall Caster was the South African runner who was “gender” came into question after she won the 800m World Championship in Berlin in 2009. Her gender as well as her sex became a subject of debate around the world. Was she biological male or female? If she was female, why did she look so masculine? Why didn’t she wear “girls” clothes? Is she gay? Does she take testosterone? Is she intersex? Are just some questions that surrounded her. At some point she got a make-over, but did a dress make her more of a woman then she was before?

Caster story is fascinating to me…who decides what makes a woman? This woman had an 11- month investigation launched about her gender. I just get questions from children. To her grandmother who changed her diapers as a baby, to her friends, to her community, to herself she’s a woman…yet it took a whole organization and 11-months for a decision to be made regarding was she woman, enough. If you have time I would strongly encourage to watch this documentary made about Caster by the BBC. It was filmed during the 11- month wait to receive the results of her “gender” testing. After hearing so much about Caster, it is refreshing to hear from her. It also opens up dialogue on the construction of gender in today’s society, as well as the gender inequalities in sports. Anyway, the doc is dope and I think I might have low key crush on Caster. I admire her strength and her courage. Watch it. I promise it is worth your time.

I would like to ask what makes you a “woman” or a “man”?  Is it dictated by your clothes, your attitude, you’re sexual organs? What is it?

~ Just Tab

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2011 in Gender, politics, Rants, style, Them Black people

 

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