RSS

Category Archives: Religion

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

 

 

 
 

Tags: , , , ,

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

 

Tags: , , , ,

But that’s not how the story ends…Easter 2015

I wish I could tell you the last time I went to church on Easter Sunday. Maybe 5 years ago, but don’t quote me. My childhood is full with memories of Easter. Reciting Easter speeches, finding the perfect outfit (I believe Easter was the first time I wore heels) and of course getting the hair did. Does anyone else remember microwave ponytails? A weave ponytail that you put in the microwave to give it curls. Real Black shit. Easter is one of the Sundays that everyone goes to church (add Christmas and Mother’s Day to that list), particularly the “heathens”. I have descended so far past heathenism that I barely remembered today was Easter. I spent the day writing and grading. Holidays formally rich with religious and family memories have lost pretty much all significance in my life. I slept till 6pm on Christmas, did not get/give one gift and it has been 6 years since I spent Christmas with my family.

Don’t worry this is not a lament on why I don’t do Holidays. Been there done that. Since my FaceBook newsfeed was hellbent on reminding me today was Easter, I might as well speak on it.

The thing I love about Easter is the choir sings one of my favorite songs, No Greater Love “That’s not how the story ends, three days later he rose again- That’s love!!!” That shit goes hard!

Today one of my friends, Ahmad Greene posted this status:

“He got up,” isn’t where the story ends, though that’s where y’all typically close the book. What does resurrection from crucifixion mean when those that have “risen with Christ” crucify others? For example, as Candace pointed out today, it was the women (Mary Magdelene, Joana, Mary the mother of James) who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection first, but it was the male apostles who ignored their witness and went to inspect the tomb for themselves (Luke 24: 10-11). Indeed, it was sexism that crucified the women to a metaphorical cross, and arguably, it is that same hatred and vitriol that crucifies many among us to both physical and spiritual crosses. Jesus got up, but Jesus also had love. And you honestly can’t shout, dance, and roll in the floor today because “He got up,” if you’re not living the LOVE he preached every day he walked the earth. (Well…you can and that’s what y’all typically do *sips tea*). Stop crucifying others in Jesus’ name. It ain’t Godly and it ain’t love. This, in fact, is a word for those who call themselves “Christian.” Little do you know, you side with Pilate and the Roman government more than Jesus.

This status struck me for several reasons, most directly the continuing crucifixions that “Christians” often perpetuate. The show Preachers of Detroit, has recently highlighted the blatant and often unapologetic sexism that is rampant in Black religious spaces. My concerns are primarily for the Black community, but I will acknowledge sexism is a problem in a variety of institutions and races. As Greene’s status indicated women are often ignored and dismissed within religious spaces. Jesus resurrection, had to be certified by male apostles. The conversations about women’s role in ministry that Preachers of Detroit incited made me face my own battles with the internalized sexism I inherited from my religious upbringing. Subsequent conversations with my father reminded me how the talents and strengths of Black women are often dismissed in the patriarchal structure of the Black church. I have watched my father elevate unloyal, lazy and ignorant men to positions of authority- yet his theology won’t allow him to see women as viable religious leaders. I wonder how much his ministry would benefit if it could be free from the shackles of sexism. In the same vein, how many of our queer brothers and sisters in ministry are ignored or not seen as viable leaders due to the hetero-normative and homophobic structures often embedded in the Black church. What are we overlooking and missing as we wait for the “male apostles” to confirm the resurrection, to confirm things the women have already told us?

During a week in which a noose was found hanging from Duke University campus. Easter becomes a time to remember the countless Black bodies crucified through state sanctioned violence. As Pastor Starsky Wilson reminded me during my journey to Ferguson- the Crucifixion of Jesus was nothing more than act of state-sanctioned violence. A murder carried out by the government (the police) and praised by the people. As James Cone eloquently wrote in The Cross and the Lynching Tree, the “crucifixion was a fist century lynching”.

“The cross and the lynching tree interpret each other. Both were public spectacles, usually reserved for hardened criminals, rebellious slaves, and rebels against the Roman state and falsely accused militant blacks who were often called “black beasts” and “monsters in human form” for their audacity to challenge white supremacy in America. Any genuine theology and any genuine preaching must be measured against the test of the scandal of the cross and the lynching tree.
“Jesus did not die a gentle death like Socrates, with his cup of hemlock…. Rather, he died like a [lynched black victim] or a common [black] criminal in torment, on the tree of shame” (Hengel). The crowd’s shout, “Crucify him! (Mark 15:14), anticipated the white mob’s shout, “Lynch him!” Jesus’ agonizing final cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) was similar to the Georgia lynching victim Sam Hose’s awful scream, as he drew his last breath, “Oh my God! Oh, Jesus.”

So on this Easter Sunday it is hard for me to think about Jesus, the son of God- who was without sin but died for our sins. Without thinking about Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Relisha Rudd, John Crawford, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and the many many more Black bodies killed in this country that were guilty of being Black in an anti-Black world. In my theology those hours that Jesus hung from the cross as public spectacle are not that different from the hours Michael Brown laid in the streets of Ferguson.
As I was discussing religion with a culturally Christian, non-practicing friend she stated

“I believe in the power of that story (Easter). I believe in the power of resurrection. And our creator offering a life for which we could see the world anew.”

So while I am no longer interested in dressing up and attending anyone’s Easter service. While I have realized my salvation will not come from Jesus- I do believe there is something valuable about reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hope that it provides in today’s world. There are lessons to be learned by radical politics of Jesus love.

My prayer this Easter Sunday is that the Black bodies, our country continues to crucify, deaths are not in vain. That we remember the power in the story, the promise of liberation and redemption. Remember the impact of state-sanctioned violence. Remember the audacity of Jesus who challenged the status-quo as we dare to challenge white supremacy. That we reflect on the bodies we continue to crucify in the name of religion…of the voices and ministry that we ignore simply because they are not cis-gender men.We are living in a world where the governor of Indiana has signed into law “A Religious Freedom Act” that is entrenched with religious infused bigotry.Christians are looking more and more like Pilate and the Roman government than Jesus.  As we challenge racism, homophobia, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, etc. remember and declare that we decide how the story ends.

~JustTab

 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 6, 2015 in Holidays, Learning bout Tab!, Religion

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Blue Ivy is my Savior or The ramblings of a colored girl who is finding her own salvation when Jesus was never enuf

1052141_10103243493459953_2108715195_o

Blue Ivy is my Savior. My friends and acquaintances constantly hear me refer to the child of Beyonce Giselle Knowles and Shawn Carter as my Lord. To be honest it started as a joke. I really enjoy performing irrational ‘Yonce stan. I love the utter ridiculousness of the Beyhive. As time progress my reasoning for calling Blue Ivy my savior also progressed. It was my way of drawing attention to the “irrational” concept of needing a savior and what I deem the arbitrary yet fanatic way Black people revere Jesus Christ. In order words what makes one baby divine and another not. I firmly believe that salvation comes from within and often we as a people spend too much time looking for an external savior.

However there is another reason Blue Ivy is my Savior. I remember the first time I heard someone refer to God as a she. I remember how outrageous I thought that was. How sacrilegious the concept seem to be. Never had I in my 20 years of life, ever even considered God as a woman. I immediately wrote this young lady off as some heathen who would burn in hell. How dare she refer to God as a woman? I later realized my reaction said a lot about my own conception of myself and beliefs about women. Growing up in a very patriarchal world, which was heightened due to my intimate experiences in a patriarchal religious environment. I was taught and believed that women were less then. If I had the time or desire I could describe the ways in which I saw women demonized in both scripture and in religious spaces.  Hell, the fall of men was blamed on Eve, and that’s the first book of the Bible.

He can’t do nothing for me

The concept of Jesus’ Blackness was a less radical thought. However, I still spent much of my adolescences in a church with a mural of a white Jesus on the wall. I was still raised in a world that painted and depicted Jesus the Christ, Savior of men as a white male. The history of white males with blonde hair and blues eyes (as Jesus is so often seen as) have a history of never seeing me or treating me as equal in this country/world.  So what does it mean that I was to think of these depictions as images of someone who could and would save me? The pictures that do show Jesus with hair and skin like mine are always labeled “Black Jesus,” calling attention to their deviation for the norm- that is the real Jesus-the white one.

When I say Blue Ivy is my savior I am affirming a feminine divinity. I am making a conscious effort to affirm my own femininity in my conception of a Savior. When I say Blue Ivy is my savior I am affirming a savior that has skin like mine, who has hair like mine. I am affirming my Blackness in a very anti-Black world. My femininity in an anti-female world. The research on Black girls show that are more likely than their counterparts to be suspended, that they have low self-esteem, they are deemed a problem, they are more likely to be sexually assaulted, less likely to fit in at suburban  schools. Black girls are often seen as the problem.  When Black girls grow up, they can look forward to articles with titles like “Why Black women are single.” When I say Blue Ivy is my Savior I am proclaiming that Black girls are not the problem they are the solution. That if I am to have any external savior not only must they look like me, but I am proclaiming that I am the only one that can save myself. The only way the little Black girl inside of me can be redeemed, is through me. As stated in my favorite book The Color Purple  “The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it.”

I am a big fan of liberation theology. The idea that Jesus came to liberate the oppressed and through the liberation of the most oppressed in society we all shall be liberated.

So when I say my Savior is Blue Ivy- in my head and in my heart I am saying that my Savior is Black and Female. Girl-child and Queer. Misunderstood and Powerful. I am saying that my Savior is me.

“I found god in myself / and I loved her / I loved her fiercely”. ~ Ntozake Shange

What does your Savior look like?

~Just Tab

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Learning bout Tab!, Rants, Religion

 

Tags: , , , ,