I was always a tomboy but was also a bit boy crazy as a child, so I never thought of myself as gay. I grew up in Jamaica and although my parents taught me and my brother that it was okay to be gay, I was swayed by mainstream Jamaican culture, which dictated the exact opposite.
People who know me now as an unapologetic openly gay Jamaican lesbian can’t imagine it, but yes, there was a time when I was homophobic and mostly disturbed by anything gay. It was an utter nightmare when I realized I was gay! I can speak about it very lightly now, but as a young homophobic woman in a marriage to a man and the mother of a little boy—I was stricken with fear. The thought of being attracted to women would cross my mind and I would literally be sick to my stomach. I recall the waves of nausea hitting me as I worked to shift my thoughts away from women. I felt cursed and prayed for it to go away.
It didn’t go away.
I was faced with the reality that I am not a heterosexual person. I remember the chorus of Bob Marley’s song, “You running and you running and you running away but you can’t run away from yourself…” haunting me. Bob was right, I couldn’t continue to run away from myself. I gathered the courage to face myself. I was terrified and terribly disappointed and even a bit disgusted. It feels strange for me to say this today, because now I’m so excited about who I am and extremely proud, but it has been such a long journey for me to get to where I am today.
Once I “came out” to myself I knew I had to come out to my then husband. We were both pained and shocked, but he was so supportive and actually helped me to get over the feelings of shame. He helped me to really accept what my parents had taught me in the first place—there is nothing wrong with being gay. I recount this now in a few paragraphs but this all occurred over many years and with much greater depth than this blog can share.
My former husband and I lived for years with this knowledge, sharing it with no one, but overtime I was unable to feel fully comfortable with friends and colleagues if they didn’t know who I really was. So over a period of years—I came out to my family and friends. We first shared with my brother—he was excited and so proud—and when I shared with my sister she was relieved because she thought I was preparing to tell her bad news. I remember calling my best friend from college and she said, “I know.” I was stunned. She knew apparently before I did. I sat in a group session for bi-sexual people at a Pride Center in Fort Lauderdale and as I shared my life with these strangers I thought OMG my own parents don’t know.
My parents had been married 19 years and divorced about 19 years but thankfully remained great friends. My now late father was visiting from Jamaica and staying with my mom. It was late at night when I was compelled to walk to my mom’s and tell my parents. When I told my parents I had to tell them something, my mother excitedly said, “You’re pregnant!” I already had two sons in my 20s but there was this anticipation for more—perhaps a little girl. It lightened the moment for me and then I told them. They were both very shocked but supportive. My dad passed about a year or so after I told him, but we did have a few conversations about women that I greatly appreciate. My mom and I had many many conversations to help her come to terms with me in this realm.
After telling my parents, I intermittently told friends and colleagues as I grew close to them. Then I decided I need to tell my sons. How could the world know their mom but not them? That was the most intimidating for me. How will my teenage sons take this news? Telling my sons was a bit anti-climatic—they both took the news like it was not news at all; it was as if I was telling them what was for dinner. But I still felt great relief that they knew the true, authentic me and were so nonchalant and accepting.
Soon after telling my kids, I thought I’d finally tell the whole world the best way that I could. I had planned a big birthday bash for a milestone birthday and planned a fun choreographed dance with a few of friends. The dance routine started with “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross and flowed into a Beyonce song and I appeared before my 100-plus guests dressed as “Beyonce” very feminine—contrary to my masculine style of dressing. And after the performance, I returned to audience dressed dapper in a white fedora, vest and tie. I remember feeling elated—on top of the world in finally being able to be my full authentic self.
As that milestone birthday approached I was relentlessly inspired to be myself, I thought how dare I not be myself and decided it was time for me to finally be fully out and visible as a member of the LGBT Community. I would no longer hide any part of myself. My husband had long consented to me being intimate with women, but I was living a double-life which got exhausting. So I finally got to the point where I no longer had to pretend that a girlfriend was just a “friend” and that was such a great relief and incredibly empowering. I felt so good with a girlfriend that I could hold hands with publicly, go on dates with. I had that experience first with a woman in another state that I was dating and then with a woman right in my community who joined me at events with great confidence.
At some point, my marriage to this amazing and incredibly supportive man ended. He could no longer handle me as a woman loving women and we had to part as husband and wife. Thankfully, we continue as friends and as parents of our beautiful sons. I then had the experience of being single for the first time for decades and really learned so much more about myself. I took the time to date myself—and a few other women as well … lol. And then I got the chance for the first time to partner with a woman in a monogamous relationship and this is where I lovingly and proudly stand today.