The love of my life wrote a blog post. About us. About me. About her. About our experience as a couple navigating the waters of coupledom, striving to be to be our best selves and communicate effectively within our union. She wrote a blog post about being my partner, and supporting me as a sexual assault survivor. It was an amazing blog post, exceptional even; it received an overwhelming number of positive responses and even more, it helped our family in the LGBT community be able to relate and seek support for their own situations. I am proud of that blog post and what it achieved. I am proud of us, our love and our commitment to effectively communicating with one another. But once it was published I had apprehensions.
I wanted to say, “Hey, I really love this and do you think it’s too late to edit it and maybe change this part?” I wanted to and I didn’t. I didn’t because she had worked so hard and was so proud and I knew that it was coming from a good place but still I was not all the way comfortable. I should have asked to make the edits. I should have asked to read the post before it was published; I trust her and love her and did not want her to think I didn’t. I should have read that blog post. I should have read it before it was published because had I read it, I would not have let it be published the way it was. How do you tell the love of your life that when they are so excited, and you want to be supportive? The whole point of the post was the importance of effective communication in building a better relationship and I found myself not being able to effectively communicate that I was not completely comfortable with the post as is. So instead I said nothing. I forced my discomfort down and focused on basking in what the post was accomplishing.
The basking lasted for 72 hours and came to a screeching halt on the morning of February 16th when I called to wish my aunt a happy birthday. She had seen the blog post; not only had she seen the blog post but she had found out about its existence through a church member. Have I mentioned that up until this point I was not completely out to my family? And by not completely I mean the majority. So on the morning of her birthday my aunt cried and exclaimed how she had been praying for me because she knew this was not the lifestyle God wanted me to live. I got defensive, told her that was her opinion and some other things and she hung up the phone.
Panic. Immediately followed by rage. Which was followed by: “I should have asked for the post to be edited.” Which slowly planted the seed of resentment towards my partner.
Shaking off the seed of resentment I focused on the conversation with my aunt, which had hurt, but not as much as it would have had I not been expecting it. I have known my whole life how my aunt feels about being gay and the LGBT community, so her reaction came as no surprise; but it still hurt. There were tears, briefly. I shook those off, too. The next thought was, well if my aunt knows that means other people know. I proceeded to call my mother, who upon answering the phone launched into one of the most heartbreaking speeches I have never heard my mother make.
She was angry, hurt, bewildered, ashamed, feeling disrespected but mostly she was disgusted and upset with my partner for writing what she labeled as a “sexually explicit and blatantly disrespectful” blog post. I was appalled by the things that came out of her mouth. I was appalled but at the same time my immediate want was to agree with her, to side with her, to take away everything she was feeling, to apologize for hurting her and destroying the image of her little girl that she had in her head. And I did. For a brief moment I did. And I wish I could take it back but I can’t; and honestly I don’t really want to because it was how I felt in the moment. To hear my partner tell it, she says, I threw her under the bus and I did. I panicked.
I should have asked for the post to be edited.
This was the prevailing thought running through my mind as everything was unfolding before me. And my amazing partner who was trying her best to support me as my world fell apart around me had no idea that the tree of resentment was growing. In that moment, I hated myself for even having the thought, but I couldn’t stop the locomotive of emotions barreling through my chest. I was losing my family (the family that had meant so much to me for so long, whose expectations I had always tried to live up to) and it was all because of this blog post. This was obviously coming from my irrational mind, it was coming from fear, it was coming from a dark place and a place of cowardice. Fear breeds resentment.
Yet, instead of acknowledging it right then and there, instead of communicating to my partner how I was feeling, I buried it (I’m exceptionally good at that) and tried to focus on other competing, yet true emotions. I was relieved; I am relieved. Finally my truth was out in the open and my family had to deal; there was no going back. But every time one of them told me that my sexuality was the work of the devil, a little piece of me died on the inside. Why did I agree to have the picture posted too? If there was no picture they would have never known it was me. I teeter tottered between a wave of emotions, between the highest of highs and the lowest of lows; I felt bipolar and manic depressive all at the same time.
Fear is not the place I want my thoughts to come from. I want my thoughts to come from a place of assuredness, positivity and most importantly love. So on Monday, February 18th, I wrote my family an email. The email was extensive and was my way of telling the unadulterated truth without fear being invited to the party. I knew that talking on the phone was not working because my frustration bred fear which bred disaster and caused me to revert to a younger more docile self. I needed a platform upon which I could stand firmly and hear my own voice. By this time however, the repercussions of not initially letting my sentiments be known had already done its damage internally. So here I am trying to get it out all out so that it no longer has a place inside me.
In this quest of not being crunched into other people’s vision for who they want me to be there will be setbacks; you may revert, you may allow yourself to be silenced in an effort to not rock the boat. Being bold in a West Indian Pentecostal family is just something you do not do and so when the opportunity presented itself for me to be bold and stand on my adult legs I panicked. And that’s okay. Because two days later I wrote an email and the day after that when I got a phone call I did not back down.
My partner is in no way shape or form to blame for the reactions of my family. And my initial resentment was merely a defense mechanism in response to everything being out of my control. I love this woman with all my heart and soul and could not be prouder to be building a life with her. I was wrong for not telling her how I felt from the very beginning; she is not a mind reader (although she can read my body language and emotions exceptionally well) and won’t know if I have an issue with something unless I tell her. I need to uphold our promise to one another of bringing our whole selves to the space and saying my piece no matter what (even if it hurts her feelings, which I of course never want to do). And if I say I love her, I am committing to the act of loving her which may include hurting her feelings on occasion; and that’s okay.
“My silence will not protect me.”
And try as I may to come up with one there is no rational reason for me to want the post edited other than my fear of not being out to my family. And I am now and I have stood firm in my truth. Breaking my silence may not protect me either but it has elevated to a higher realm within myself.
I am deliberate and kinda sorta still afraid of some things, and I am learning to face those fears and then expose them to the light within myself.
– Latishia “Elle” James
Latishia is a self-professed contradiction. A reproductive health and sexuality worker, she is currently a seminarian based in Washington, DC. She is a firm believer in the Divine and is on a quest to bridge the gap between reproductive, sexual and spiritual justice. You will be able to follow her journey soon at “The Purposefully Queer Seminarian.” For now you can follow her insights on Twitter @purposefullylj.