Ace (left) and her partner Elle

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault and Language

Disclaimer: This is personal account and is not meant to be reflective of anyone else’s experience. My partner and I are open to engaging in dialogue with anyone who may have similar experiences or different views to share.

I met the love of my life on a Wednesday. Just in passing, but she left a mark on my soul. It wasn’t surprising that after 10 hours of endless conversation I prayed to keep this feeling for as long as I could. She exuded warmth, positivity, wit, and a smile that could change the earth’s rotation. So when she so confidently said, “I am a survivor of sexual trauma,” my heart stood still and as she would describe it, I stopped breathing. How could anyone hurt such a wonderful manifestation of the universe’s majesty? Why did she bring it up? We were having such a positive conversation, why dampen the mood with such a sore subject?

My queer sisters, it is so important that we support the women inside of one another. Approach every relationship as if the woman is a survivor. A recently released CDC study found that 35% of straight women had experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by a partner at some point in their lives. But 43.8% of lesbian women had experienced one of the three, as had a full 61.1% of bisexual women (and the numbers for my trans sisters I’m sure is much higher). I know it sounds presumptuous, but in my experiences if only we had safe space, how many of us would reveal a moment when we hadn’t consented to what was done to us. I believe it is even important to give voice and support to our community as we begin to debunk the myths of how we don’t have relationships with men because of our traumas. It is my firm belief that I love my partner in spite of what has been taken from her.

Loving a woman who wears her survivor badge proudly took some getting use to. In the beginning I asked myself questions like, “why does she have to tell everyone?” or “why doesn’t she get how rude it is to presume people want to hear that?” What I found in my own questions were fear and my own issues around violence and trauma. Her ability to confront her reality makes everyday a testament to her survival and each time she opens up about her experiences a bridge is created for another voice to elevate the sounds of survivorhood. Often times we hear stories from our other queer friends of terrible relationships and that one experience that causes them to shift in their chair and glance at their feet. It is in those moments that I am able to recognize those 14-year-old girls whose voices were silenced and consent stolen. I thank her for equipping me with the tools to advocate and properly console my sisters in queerdom.

Speaking of consent…this is the opportunity to share the most important lesson I have been given in being in a Same Gender Loving (SGL) relationship. “Consent is sexy!” What’s that you say? Before elevating our relationship to a physical one, we discussed getting tested (did I mention she also works in sexual/reproductive health? yeah I know how to pick ‘em) because as women we carry not only emotional baggage but at times undetected physical baggage as well.

From the Centers for Disease Control: “WSW [women who have sex with women] should not be presumed to be at low or no risk for STDs based on sexual orientation. Effective screening requires that providers and their female clients engage in a comprehensive and open discussion not only about [how they sexually] identify, but sexual and behavioral risks.” I cared about her enough not to make her victim to my past choices. After we decided it was priority for us to share our status with one another, we waited, and that wait became extremely difficult. (What can I say? She is gorgeous.) Once the results were in and the scene was set, I had prepared myself for what I knew to be the start to a cosmic, spiritual connection that neither my mind nor body could understand…but wait. Wait?

“We need to talk about what consent looks like for us,” she said. Consent? In a way that only I could deliver I said, “Of course, baby. You have consent to do whatever you want.” Then I paused and thought about it. No, there are some things that I just don’t do. Wait, but if I tell her will it ruin the mood? I have learned since that she can hear my thoughts at times and was met with a coy stare that said “see what I mean.” I braced myself for what I believed would be the most awkward conversation I could imagine having with her except explaining why Hidden Valley Ranch goes on everything.

What I found was one of the most open and honest exchanges with her to date. We started by expressing what we like, what we don’t like, our desires, fears, and yes those “this one time I was with this girl who” stories. What we found was common ground and complete understanding for one another.

How will I know when you want to have sex? If I don’t want to have sex with you that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Please don’t touch me there, because that’s how he controlled me when…

This wasn’t an easy conversation to have and I encourage you to get some guidance (as strong Black women this may be hard, but part of loving her is equipping yourself). In wanting to better understand her experiences and the badge of survivorhood, she recommended that I read Cindy Crabb’s Support Zine (it’s only $3 and they offer sliding scale prices). There is an entire section on consent and questions to inform your conversation. If that’s too much, just have the courage and care to ask what your partner(s) like and one question that’s always been important to me: “What under no circumstance can’t I do?” I think you would be surprised to hear the answer. Remain open and honest. You may be opening up a conversation that has layers you’ve never seen. I believe it’s worth it as I never want to bring her harm. “One really important way to be supportive is to make sure that you, yourself, aren’t doing things that may be abusive,” says Cindy Crabb.

The sexy part comes in when I get a kiss on that area that I told her I like or hearing how her wants change depending how she feels. Knowing is half the success, the other half is honoring one another’s requests. Another concept in Crabb’s zine focuses on you as the supporter. Don’t allow her experience to overwhelm you or impede your own history. If you need a break, take it. Be prepared, however, and know that it always gets better. “Do your support work as a team.” Seek a professional if you need one.

I will never celebrate Valentine’s Day again because it was the day, 11 years ago, someone forced the love of my life to submit to their will. Took away her consent and silenced her voice.

I will never celebrate Valentine’s Day again because I love her openly and honestly every day of the year. I recognize that her experiences and triggers are real.

We are still working on this everyday; I even asked her consent about writing this post. Seeing her smile…now that’s sexy.

– Ace Portis

Ace is a proud Southern Blackwoman, Washington, DC transplant with strong Alabama roots. By day, she works to empower and uplift the trans community as a fundraiser. She has dedicated her life to education, social justice, youth, and overall intersectional equality. Ace enjoys fashion as a means of redefining “womanness” and celebrates the arts as the ultimate means of expression.

15 Responses

  1. Elle (@PurposefullyLJ)

    Sorry for taking so long to do this but we wanted to thank everyone for their positive response and feedback, it is truly appreciated.

    Reply
  2. Jovansia Holly

    I loved this article. I love to hear survivor stories, I love positive role models especially those I can identify with. It’s always comforting to know you can be open with your partner and express experiences that aren’t exactly everyday conversation topics. Sexual abuse, any type of abuse is hard to deal with especially alone. All survivors are strong and being able to stand up and share your story with the world means there’s one less woman, girl scared to move on. Every story makes a difference.

    Reply
  3. Toya Ex

    Beautiful story. Thanks for being brave enough to share this sort of subject.

    Reply
  4. Ella Walker

    Thanks for putting this out there. So many women have these issues and don’t share it out loud and when they do their partner’s don’t know what to do. Thanks for education us….

    Reply
  5. Shane Thomas

    This was a wonderful piece. It touched on something that’s not often mentioned in regards to love, in that love is an unselfish emotion. It’s not about what’s good for me, but what’s good for us.

    Reply
  6. Vas

    Thank you for your courage. Thank you for sharing with me and in turn leaving a mark on my soul. Thank you for being brave and reminding me I still have so much learning to do. Thank you for your fearless honesty. These are crucial conversations. I applaud you for sharing your discomfort and fears. I am sorry and angry that this is a reality for myself and other I care about and that sexual violence is so present in so many lives.

    Reply
  7. Q

    Excellent article and very valuable information. I hope to see more talk about consent in our culture.

    Reply
    • Elle (@PurposefullyLJ)

      Hey Q,

      We are definitely hoping to do some follow-up pieces to explore consent and healthy relationships in our community further since it is such a vital topic. Thanks for your feedback.

      Reply
  8. Miah Register

    This is a moving piece. It’s so well written that it immediately inspires. I love seeing black lesbians excel and educate themselves, ad you two ladies are doing just that! Much respect!

    Reply
  9. ADRIANA

    Thank you for this. I wish everyone was mindul of what it feels like to be a survivor. Its very difficult to live with these triggers and love someone who is less mindful of it (to say it nicely).. Thank you!

    Reply
  10. yvette assem

    My heart is so full right now…..I thank both of you for sharing a truth which is not spoken within black lesbian couples I’ve met.

    Reply
  11. Bree

    This is a really good read. I’m a firm believer in using shared stories and experiences to build and strengthen communities. Much love & respect to the couple. Peace.

    Reply

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