"Monogamy, is it still relevant" heh. Rhetorical question, jackasses. :)
Maybe a better title would have been "Monogamy, why is it imposed?" or "Monogamy, why are wimmin's genitals still owned?" or "Monogamy, why do the descendants of stolen Africans cling to an outmoded relationship model forced on them by their captors?" or "Monogamy, why is one relationship model so centralized in the title of a discussion that is supposed to be about Black folks exploring options?", or, or, or...
Papi and I carefully planned out what we would do, how we would represent beforehand. Of course we invited bug/simian boy to come be there so we would be three. Seven year old was out of town with a good friend of the family. But toddler boy arrived and stayed with papi.
There was a christian minister on the panel who kept talking about depravity, wimmin as institutions made by gawd from the body of man. I appreciated the way Papi kept taking the microphone away from him and basically redirecting him back to the topic at hand every time his mouth would start to work up a rabid, zealous lather. :)
I snuggled with bug/simian boy for the whole discussion and did not plan on saying anything. But a few times the conversation got off track and was headed into the land of STOOpid. One time was a young woman, sweet child, she said she discovered her father was "polygamous" when it came to light that he had been sleeping with another woman and she had a sibling she had never met.
I told a story about coming out to my (mostly absentee) mother as poly to which she replied that I was promiscuous like my father. I said no. He had affairs. I have open honest loving conversations with my lovers and partners. We do activities together and communicate about our plans, needs and desires.
I said to the girl/woman who was clearly struggling with loads of pain and betrayal, that her father wasn't polygamous, he cheated.
I said that having affairs is very different from polygamy, is very different from polyamory.
Another time I spoke was to contextualize a lot of stuff the christians in the audience were speaking about as if it was fact. I spoke about them making assumptions about what rules we are governed by, about what beliefs we share in common, about the veracity of their mythological book. I said that just because our parents and grandparents believed in the monotheistic desert gawd, did not mean that we had to, as well. I said that I'm caribbean, but I don't hold to any of their beliefs and that they might want to stop assuming that everyone in the audience is following the same rule book.
The last time (I had to because Papi couldn't actually put his opinion in the room as moderator and bug/simian boy doesn't have the same comfort level with words as either of us does) was when the dyam minister was talking about children in families that aren't monogamously married living in broken homes.
I said that his comments showed a distinct lack of creativity and imagination. I said that I have a partner (good enough for this purpose) and a lover. I said that I also have two children and indicated that one of them was actually there with Papi, sitting not very far away from the minister, in his stroller playing choo-choo while we all had conversation. I said that my children are well educated, learning about their bodies and their feelings, learning about the middle passage, safe and well cared for. I said that his thinking was binary and that I actually was actively, creatively and intentionally creating a home and a family for my children that was not broken. It was just not like anything the pastor could have ever envisioned.
unh...he had nothing to say. giggles :)
There were two Black gay men on the panel. I've seen so many Black gay men working in community, working to save the lives of people who hate them, fear them and would kill them if given half a chance.
I remember being a younger dyke and being given severe attitude by the Black queers I knew whose caregiver wanna be seen as useful and therefore good and allowed to huddle at the foot of tables where relatives and community sit and eat and take up way too much space stuff perpetually positioned them as at the beck and call of people who did not care about who they were as queer caribbean folks...
where these dark queers craved coming home, being allowed to stay home, being recognized as an integral part of home, so much, needed to walk and live and draw breath and be embraced by those they understood as their people, so much...
that they would repeatedly risk being harmed in order to be near, to be loved and appreciated.
The queers I knew gave me massive attitude for not wanting to come do AIDS education close to home, for not wanting to be in spaces where homophobia and lesbophobia and christian conservatism mingled to create environments where we literally could not fucking breathe, could not sing, could not flame, could not open our mouths and sing and rage and make necessary demands.
I refused. I would not attempt to save those who love to say stupid things like "I'm alright with what they do as long as they don't flaunt it or push it in my face"
Suck my fucking pussy, assholes. I'll shove your face in it. Slick your face with it and you'll see it, alright.
I didn't get along very well in Black community spaces. Even the Black gays and lesbians thought I was much too out of hand and needed to be reacquainted with "my place".
So we have parted ways. Me and the dark queers. And definitely me and the kewl downtowny children of bible thumping, sexually conservative shame filled diasporic Africans.
sigh...I leave those who are interested and so inclined to their masochistic caregiving.
When I saw the two Black gay men up on the stage, I thought they were brave. But I also understood from their words, that not much had changed in community in the almost ten years since I, tired of living on the ship of fools, jumped overboard and swam away.
One of the men came out and spoke about the closet and almost getting married before he realized who he was. I was touched and told him so afterwards, kissing his hand and letting him know that I saw what he had done. But I also felt so sad. Not much has moved for these people. My people? Coming out in a community space is still a big fucking deal. It still has the power to silence a room.
I'm glad I also came out and talked about having been all kinds of queer since my twenties. Stating who I am in spaces such as this is something I do with ease. I do not sweat. Actually, I sweat more when I don't come out. That takes a whole lot more work than speaking clearly to who I am.
Oh! And I'm in love. There was a woman there, on the panel. She owns the natural Black hair salon where the conversation took place. In fact, I'd have to say that given how well embedded she is in the community as someone who cares for the locks and naps of so many, as she is so clearly a daughta of the diaspora, the conversation happened under her aegis. It unfolded and survived because of her personal power made manifest.
You see, she is non-monogamous and openly so. She is an elder. She is in her sixties. She is an amazonian, confident, power resonating off of her like fire heat. Dark, clearly African features, none can naysay her right to speak clear and to take up space there. None would have dared. They need her. They need her salon. They need what she offers. She has power and privilege and uses it intelligently, bravely, with purpose.
When the panel was over she approached me. We looked at each other, arms immediately open and held each other for a long time murmuring words of mutual admiration and appreciation. I felt...I don't know...sad...like I wish I had known her ten years ago when I actually cared about what happened in these spaces...I felt...love...admiration..
I'm remembering her talking about us as a peopling clinging to systems of value that are easily two thousand years old. She spoke about monogamy as being unnatural. About marriage where you swear to be faithful and to love one person for the rest of your life as just not making any sense since we change and grow. She had always been single and had no children and liked it that way. She talked about the dishonesty needed for a monogamous relationship to survive, about the many places where lies and half truths can flourish and about the possibility of people just being forthright with each other and clearly stating their needs.
I'm glad bug/simian boy and I came out to support Papi. I think that going to spaces like this offers bug/simian boy, who has been stridently non-monogamous but who isn't experienced with poly, spaces where he can see people having conversations and get a sense of what the issues are.
But I also realize that as a man who is biracial - afrocuban and finnish - coming into spaces of Blackness are a crucible of sorts for him. Spaces where Blackness can potentially be very narrowly defined, I'm realizing, can be stressful for him. I've pointed out in the past that, regardless of how I present physically, there are so many ways I don't belong in those spaces, either. I've explained that I am as much observant outsider, having not been raised in community, as he is...just for different reasons. Both having stress in the space for different reasons, we just decided to stick close to each other and snuggle. It worked well.
I was glad we came. But the conversation still felt stagnant. It felt stale. It felt old to me. I'm not there. I'm not interested in being stuck where most of the people in the audience and on the panel were stuck.
I've got things I need to figure out that don't have to do with shaking off christian conservatism, shame, sex negativity and homophobia. I'm trying to figure out how to make intentional poly community with men, thinking about fluid bonding, birth control, what it could be like waaay down the road to have a child with a lover who is not Papi, integrating a new lover, trying to figure out how best to deal with wimmin in a patriarchally oppressed world that pits us against each other for the love and attentions and resources of men.
Nothing about that panel helped me figure out the stuff I'm struggling with. I didn't expect it to. But there's only so much time and energy I'm willing to spend in spaces where people need to struggle, learn and grow, where our paths so radically diverge. It just doesn't serve me. And yes, I'm self serving. I have to think about my own needs, especially in spaces where uncritiqued privilege and power do not allow others to see that I need support, attention, care and that this can only happen if those who would ally with me are conscientized to a certain extent.
I told Papi that these are his people not mine. These are conservatives raised by "nice" parents struggling to stay together because that's just what you do. Their families are religious. They hide things and avoid dealing with issues. They value propriety and silence. They avoid discussions about fucking and sexual health. They have nice homes and participate in Black community functions.
They're Papi's people. And I'm glad, that as his brother said repeatedly years back, foaming at the mouth, trying to warn people about what I would do to Papi if I got my "claws" into him, that I have fully "ruined" Papi. :)
Although he is from these people and although he still smells right to them, his vision and consciousness are massively removed in some ways from where they stubbornly sit.
He is an ally. In that space, Papi, educated among privileged children, took up massive space that night. He took up space consciously as moderator with an agenda. :)
Privileged, male, middle class, educated and one of their own, he was able to take the space he was offered, that he could feel entitled to and shift it, work it, transform it so that a christian minister sat huddled, quiet, silenced. So that people in the audience who would take this kind of environment and poison it, poison conversation, poison possibility, poison our collective future with their stunted ways had such very little space to toxify and destroy possibility.
Sweet, Papi. You done good.
Now I have to track down the lovely, powerFULL proprietress of the salon. I...am not sure what I want to say to her...but I know I need to say something more than I could after the event was over. I was too overwhelmed in that moment. I wasn't grounded. I'm better now. I've had time to think.
I want to give her something. Part of it will most likely include this...
I wrote this as part of a visual art exhibition I did in 2000...
Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water
[I’m] gon’ trouble the water
Mangled excerpt from an old spiritual
“An orifice, an opening through which I will ENTER. One of MANY such daughters. A Black and truly precious thang...”
(Excerpt from It Takes Ballz – Reflections Of A Black Femme Vixen In Tha Makin’, T.J. Bryan © 1999)
Bearing images of community and family, images of SELF, a renaissance, queer femme cums with her thoughts, her intensity, her knowledge, her words, her views.
Vulnerable yet powerFULL, this daughta of the Diaspora cums not to be tolerated or given permission by those with heterosexual and class privilege, but to take up the space that is her right by BIRTH.
Wrapped in her Blackness, the presence of ALL colours, an ebony dark beauty, your mirrored reflection cums laughing, marching, cussing, questioning, dancing.
Seas and lands you recognize flow rhythmic ‘round her hips even as she moves to her own beat.
An Ashanti Amazonian whose weapons of choice are images and words, I cum OUT in/to spaces of potential, yet, sadly unrealized resistance. Spaces of Diasporic African(ness) where same-sex lovin’ and sexin’ have always BEEN present.
My face, my body defiantly visible queer injections...
A wombed rainbow ejaculating creativity and self-knowledge in/to shadowy places previously (mis)construed as hegemonically male, middle class and straight.
Without compromise or shame, having traveled/immigrated/wander
Cumin’ OUT demanding change...
I speak with the power of one bolstered by the sacrifice of many. My stance is not about courage or controversy. This is about necessity and survival.
My allies are NOT my allies ‘less they can deal with ALL of who I am. ‘Less they can witness ALL of me and survive to tell the tale.
Fearlessly walking. A nomad. Clanless yet connected by histories with links stronger than the chains that bound middle passage ancestors but never their souls or their dreams.
Fearlessly facing retribution and attempted domination this Black conscious, pro sex HOO/chee is playful, in-your-face and resistant as she visually and verbally explores what it means to make love to other wimmin and through them to herself.
My work, my art, my revolutionary mode of expression is often deemed unpalatable or pornographic by those who choose NOT to include critiques of sexuality and sexual practice as part of a viable Black, African politic.
For me speaking of my OWN sexuality and incorporating it into my visual and written work IS political. It IS about the decolonization of my Black female body.
Remember...the colonizer took the fruits of Black wimmin’s labour. YES. But they also colonized our foremothers by attacking the very source of their most intimate pleasure. By raping, brutalizing, utilizing their genitals.
But, you say: We got free. They let us go.
As far as I can see, many Black wimmin, the descendants of these violated and disrespected slave wimmin are writhing in the grip of some serious erotophobia (scared of tha nasty). Struggling with an unwanted inheritance – the aftermath of our foremother’s historically used, bruised and damaged erotic. Struggling to reconnect with our sexualities. Struggling with ourselves and our desires. Struggling with our lovers. Struggling with artificial community standards applied to Black wimmin but never to Black men. Struggling to keep our heads above water. Struggling hard just so we can figure out what to do with the padlocks the massa put on our bizness.
This is especially true in a world where we are sexualized everyday. Where so many of us react to the lies told about us by distancing ourselves from the healing power of our erotic.
Very often in community Black wimmin’s disassociation from our sexual selves is not identified as a mark of our continued oppression or as something that needs to be named, examined and made whole. It is instead worn like a badge of pride, perceived as evidence of supreme consciousness and purity.
Caught up in the grip of masculinist, classist, sexually oppressive value systems that run like the threads of a malignant tapestry through the hearts of our Black communities, so many sistas leave it up to others, often men, to decide when, why, how, sometimes even IF we will be sexual or show evidence of any sexuality at all.
Black wimmin’s possession, the ownership of our flesh by others, the determination of the limits of our very psyches by others continues...
“If you are worried ‘bout where...I been or who I saw or...what club I went to with my homies...baby don’t worry, you know that you GOT me...”
The Roots with Erykah Badu
Or should I be sayin’: F**k DAT!
I need to ask:
Does the brotha referred to in this song have this woman because she gives herself to him and only him of her own free will? Or has she been coerced? Cleaving to him monogamously, heterosexually because she fears the ramifications of possible alternatives? Fears the power of sexual agency in her life? Cuz she knows that men, who (rightly) view wild wimmin’s/queer wimmin’s connection to their own desires as a threat to continued male dominance, will seek to regain power (over her) by repudiating and undermining her strength? Should she be worried that they will try to shun her or call her out of her name by labeling her dangerous, evil, promiscuous, slut, phreak, hoo/chee, skettle, a bitch to be destroyed?
And what about her sistren?
If this woman sets out on her own path toward recovery/discovery, will patriarchally identified wimmin, sensing the implicit critique of their own stagnant sexualities and oppressed realities, withdraw their support, their love, their presence? Will they instead opt to ally themselves with the sources of male dominance in their lives by questioning her politic, her truth, her integrity, her sanity, her spirituality, her consciousness, her right to exist?
Baby, don’t worry. He knows that he’s got you.
A sexually self-actualized woman who takes and gives pleasure without being owned is a revolutionary, a weapon. SHE is dangerous to the powers that be. Even as she cums loudly, proudly, screaming with orgiastic and orgasmic release she inherently rocks the roots of white/male/heterosexual/cl
This flesh is possessed by NO colonizer, by NO man...or woman.
This body, this ‘nani is MINE to envision, to draw, to describe, to give or to take b(l)ack. Not to be defined or commoditized by the rules and regs of well-mannered, middle-class (identified) Black community or by society at large.
My queer flesh struggles to be free of limited sexual identities. My Black spirit longs to be done with false consciousness and oppressive, white, western, conservative, nuclear family values. My woman-centric desires will eventually be let loose on Black community, for that matter, on the whole dyam world.
I fight to remain unconstrained by the discomfort of others. By those who have not done their work. By those who have not assimilated the full significance of the readings they claim to have done. By those who choose to not make the links. By those who make the conscious choice not to seek TRUE revolution in ALL its many forms.
This darkly, queer gyal wants NO part of any one dimensional, (a)political, urban, surface glitter, fifteen minutes of fame seeking, trendy, empty word playin’, (counter)revolution.
This daughta of the African Diaspora will continue to be a Black, queer, female, common-class force of devastating change in and of her/SELF.
What about you?
Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water
[Let’s go] trouble the water.
excerpted from "Troublin’ Tha Waters - One Black Queer Woman’s Thoughts on Black Womanhood and Sexuality"
By T.J. Bryan © June 2000