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Category Archives: Learning bout Tab!

A Meditation on Love: City of Refuge

I been missing something, I did not know to miss.

When I was 19, I spent way too much time watching wedding shows. That is the only time I can recall ever wanting a wedding. Outside of potential tax breaks, marriage was never something I desired. My visions of a future did not include images of a romantic partner. I told my parents long ago that I will be there one child who does not get married. No worries, my siblings got married enough for all of us.

I firmly believe that marriage is an archaic, patriarchal and oppressive institution. However, this belief does not explain why I never desired long-term romantic partner(s). Perhaps subconsciously I didn’t think it was possible for me. The examples of long term partnerships that I saw did not interest me. Perhaps, I did not think long term partnerships were available for someone like me. Especially as I begin identifying as queer.

I was raised in a world that taught me that queer folks were not worthy of love. While, I have done a lot of work to correct this belief- It is still something that lingers in the corners of my mind

At the end of 2017, I finally made it to “The Bay.” San Francisco and Oakland are kinda iconic for Black Queer Folks. This is where Marlon Riggs, Sylvester and Pomo Afro Homos created iconic works. Oakland is where the Black Panther Party was founded. for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf debuted in Berkeley bars. “The Bay” has always been a place I felt I knew, without ever being there. So you you know I had to stan out as a “tourist.”

Attending Bishop Yvette Flunder’s City of Refuge Church, was at the top of my to-do list. I have been following her ministry and work for years. I skipped out on going to SoulCycle with my friend to attend service. The last time I went church I left in tears and the reminder that church is a violent place for people like me. However, I knew that Bishop Flunder made space for people like me.

I don’t have the words to describe what it felt like to watch queer people of color be themselves as they worship and praise. What it meant to hear queer folk talk unapologetically about being HIV positive. To know how much harm the Black church inflicted during height of the AIDS epidemic, while also being in a church that was giving free HIV test during the service. The Sunday I went happen to coincide with World AIDS Day and the sermon was done by a HIV+ minister. That despite not being a believer, that I could fully show up and be seen.

Up until I was 20 years old I thought all Black lesbians were chronically unemployed who got kicked out of their mother’s houses. I was probably 23 before I stopped associating lesbians with predators. While my access and understanding of the queer community has grown significantly, it is still limited. Sitting at City of Refuge, I was surrounded by Black queer people of all ages. I saw something I rarely see in our youth obsessed culture, mature and elderly queer Black couples. I can’t think of ever seeing a representation of an elderly queer Black couple in the media or in my life growing up. But here I was surrounded by queer Black folk with grey hair and aging bodies-holding hands and loving each other. I could not help but wonder how my capacity for love might have been expanded if I knew this was possible at an earlier age. Would I have had the desire to share a life with a partner(s)? Having access to only heterosexual and monogamous models of love does us such a disservice.

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Walking thru the Casto and found the Bishop giving cover girl looks

Bishop Flunder wasn’t there young Tab would have left, but her wife Mother Shirley Miller was. Their love story has lasted over thirty years. They were open about their love in the highly homophobic gospel music industry, while also doing ministry as an out lesbian couple in the 90s. They toured with Walter Hawkins and The Love Center Choir. Shirley is also Walter’s cousin. Hawkins’ church, The Love Center would come to embrace the Sylvester James at the end of his life and Flunder would serve as his spiritual council. So much Black queer iconic history wrapped up in Hawkins and Flunder’s ministry. (Go watch Sylvester’s Unsung).

When speaking of their love in a 2014 interview, Bishop Flunder states: “You know, one of our church members said the reason why our church has grown so much over the years is not because of our programs. It’s because of our love for each other. Our love has shown people that a great love like this is possible.”

I wholeheartedly echo her sentiment, the love that was evident at her church, through Mother Miller’s words and the many Black queer people present in the sanctuary challenged me to think about love and expand my own desire for it in my life. I left City of Refuge wanting to cry, thinking about all the time I spent never even considering the possibility of having someone(s) continually love me. That somehow, I was taught that being Black and queer meant love was temporary and fleeting- that in the end I would be alone.

That day I learned how much I needed mature and elderly Black queer people in my life. I get so much joy from being around and seeing Black queer families and couples. But I can’t help but feel angry, that I was deprived of these representations and models for much of my life. While I still have no desire to be married, experiences like the one I had at City of Refuge opens me up to love in new ways. It reminds that I can create define partnership and family in affirming ways.

Shirley Miller is 12 years older than Yvette Flunder, their age gap love gives me hope. You know I like em’ older.

~JustTab

 

 

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Mission, Tab-possible.

I have been able to lead a life where I can cultivate the type of people I spend time with and build with. My chosen community consist of queer, radical and open-minded folks. My time in St. Lucia earlier this year had me around more cis-hetero people than I am used to. They were all older and many subscribed to very different politics than me. I can only imagine how they read my queer self throughout our week together. I believe they would say I was idealistic and perhaps naive. This tends to be the reactions folks give you when you believe you can create the world you want to live in and question things they have been taught are facts.

I spent the night of my birthday writing a mission statement for my year and my life. I wanted something that could serve as a guide of who I strive to be and a document for my community and loved one’s to hold me accountable when I fall short or forget.


 

Tab’s Mission Statement

It is Tab’s mission and desire to undergo transformative, radical and sustainable growth.

Transformative in the way that it transforms not only Tab but those around Tab, particularly the communities that Tab is accountable to. This means practicing listening as well as vocalizing the things that Tab has previously been uncomfortable and afraid of saying. This means understanding and recognizing how interconnected we all are. Remembering and cherishing the values we all bring into our communities. Reminding oneself of how much we must learn from others.

Radical in the sense that Tab was not been given the tools to love Tab’s Black, queer, female-bodied, GNC self fully.  Remembering that it is a political act to love ourselves and others fully. It is Tab’s goal to practice intimacy, vulnerability and accountability in platonic, romantic, personal and professional relationships. To engage in a practice of showing up for people, how they need Tab to show up. This means not presuming to know what is best for others. Practicing forgiveness and reconciliation whenever possible. Remembering it is ok to step back and breathe.

Radical in the sense that Tab must fight capitalist ideas such as “production” and “consumption.”  This means Tab must practice not measuring their worth in what they can produce in a given day, month, or year. Tab must also be mindful of the products and ideas Tab consume. This means eating organic and local products whenever possible. Purchasing fair trade products, preparing meals for Tab and those Tab loves. Divesting from companies that support apartheid Israel, profit from prison labor and engage in other exploitative business practices.

Tab recognizes change can be a slow and arduous process. Tab must give themselves and others grace as we implement the changes in ourselves and work for greater liberation in our world. Rather than commit to huge life-altering steps, it is important for Tab to engage in changes and relationships that are sustainable. Is it feasible in Tab current life to never eat out or stop purchasing processed food? Or rather is a more sustainable for Tab to be conscious of the choices Tab makes with food and try to make better choices as much as possible?

Is it sustainable for Tab to continue one-side relationships where Tab’s needs rarely if ever get met? Is it sustainable and a best practice to wait until the night before to create lesson plans and/or grade? Is it sustainable to commit to meditation for an hour each day? What are ways that Tab can shift their  relationship with things Tab “hates”?  An example could be grading. Shifting this negative relationship could include spreading out grading, creating more exciting assignments or utilizing non-traditional assessments. grading prompts.

Is the way Tab receives money (employment) sustainable to Tab’s mental, emotional, spiritual and financial health? If not, how might I create sustainable and life-affirming financial stream. How might Tab engage in a practice that is patient and gentle with themselves as they create this stream?

Who does Tab give money to? Do their vision for the future aligns with Tab’s? Do their policies and business practices have a negative effect on the world?  For Tab this means divesting from the “fast-fashion industry” (see “The True Cost”). This looks like rather than paying for a blazer from J. Crew, that might have been made in unsafe working conditions in SE Asia,  hiring those in the community to make and/or rehab a blazer for Tab.

The mission statement serves as Tab’s intentions and check points for accountability. The statements reminds Tab of their values and serves as a check point for decisions Tab makes. These values may shift and change organically, and new ones may emerge.


While I wrote this statement for myself, I want to reiterate this statement is for everyone I am in community with. I desire and encourage you to hold me lovingly accountable as we create a more just world. I plan to share with you my progress on this journey.

 

-Just Tab

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2018 in Learning bout Tab!, my friends, politics

 

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not about you (or oct 12th musings)

This is not about you.

It is about me.

That is something I have to remind myself of constantly. When thoughts of you flood my mind early in the morning and late at night. When I obsessed about finding the right words, putting them in the perfect order so that you would respond. Notice me. Remember me.  When I convince myself that all would be well if you just let me in your life again.

That is when I hear a tiny but strong voice telling me

This is not about her.

This about you.

So I sit. Feel all the things. Hurt, lost, joy, love. All them. Learning that if I don’t feel them they will just come back stronger and more intense until I do sit and feel them.

I ask myself why are you not letting go? Why are you not closing this chapter?

My heart knows the answer. It is a simple one. Fear. I am fearful that if this person who loved and felt for me as intensely and consistently as she did, could leave without a word- anyone can and will. I am fearfully that her decision to no longer be present means that the love we shared was not real. Perhaps something I have exaggerated in the two years since I have seen her.

I take her out of the equation and it is clear- I fear not being loved. I fear I am not loveable. I am afraid that people fall in love with an ideal of me but the reality of me makes them leave.

I hold on to the idea of her returning to my life because it might prove that I am indeed lovable and worth fighting for. Obsessing about calling her and the fantasy of her reaching out to me is easier than accepting and dealing with the fear and insecurity of  not being enough.

So I long for her. Fill my head with thoughts of her. Just to drown out the insecurities floating in my head.

It is not about her.

It is about me.

 

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2017 in Learning bout Tab!

 

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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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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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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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