I am a lesbian.
God, it feels so weird to say that! It even sounds weird to say, "Hey, I'm a lesbian," but it's true; I am. I've always known it.
For most of my life I've known it. Even before I knew what a lesbian was . . . before I knew that being cheerful, lighthearted and merry wasn't the only definition of the word gay. I knew that I was attracted to women for as long as I can remember.
I don't know how it is for other people that are gay, but for me there wasn't any one particular, defining moment where I realized one day, "Hey, I'm gay! I am a lesbian!" However, if I did have to pick a particular experience it would be the time that I got turned out.
For those of you who aren't familiar with gay and lesbian terminology, here's a little definition: being turned out simply means engaging with that one special person who made it all clear for you. The person who released all doubt from your mind in regards to your sexual orientation. It doesn't matter if it was a one-night stand or a serious, long-term relationship, so long as the experience was significant enough to open your mind and your senses. This person walks you across an invisible line and ties you in a knot that can never be undone.
Many gay people, when first coming out (or coming in, as I like to call it) go through a great deal of confusion, which isn't so surprising. Society teaches us to be a certain way, depending on what gender you're born into. But when you are gay your mind, body, heart, and soul are pulling you in a totally different direction . . . away from what is considered normal. Sort of like an internal tug of war.
This can also be terrifying because you constantly wonder why you are so different from everyone else. Sometimes it feels like you've been cursed. But once you get turned out, the confusion ceases. At least it did for me. The tormenting tug of war game ended and I was no longer unsure of myself. It was actually quite liberating for me.
As you already know, I was born a female. Society teaches us to conform to our assigned gender roles. So, for me, that meant I was supposed to date guys and eventually pick one and get married. Then we, as husband and wife, are supposed to strive for The American Dream: a house with a picket fence, a dog, 2.5 kids and an annual trip to Disney Land.
But, gay or straight, I've always thought the concept of The American Dream was bullshit. Something the government came up with to make people forget about what's really important in life: the freedom to be yourself and subsequently finding true happiness. People with that much freedom . . . that much empowerment cannot be so easily controlled.
Today's ever-growing population of homosexuals have one of two choices: either conform to the unspoken laws of society and spend the rest of your life living a miserable lie or be yourself and risk possible persecution, even from those closest to you.
I've always been defiant by nature, but these unspoken rules of society were deeply embedded in my mind, on a very subconscious level. It wasn't until I met Valerie Foster that I chose persecution . . . in fact, I welcomed it.
My relationship with Val became that one defining experience, even though the relationship was in no way ideal. By the time it was over I was 100% sure that I was a dyke.
I met Val when I was living at The Brooklyn Women's Shelter, in Brooklyn of course. (How I ended up there is a long drawn out story to be told on another day.) I was twenty-one years old and hoping to obtain affordable housing. I lived in this shelter for approximately eight months.
Most people would think of living in a shelter as some horrible misfortune, but for me it was like living on a college campus. This was the first time I'd had complete and total freedom from everyone who'd ever tried to control me throughout my life. My mother, old boyfriends, my ex-husband (another story . . . another day). This was the first time in my life I was literally on my own.
My mother had moved to Boston with my younger sisters and gotten remarried. I refused to allow her to talk me into moving there. To be honest, it probably would have been better for me to be under my mother's watchful eye, but I needed to live my own life. I needed to find my own way. I was a very strong-minded, independent person. I still am. The only difference is I have more common sense today than I did at twenty one.
I had more fun than I knew was possible when I lived at the shelter. I met all kinds of interesting people. Some of them were really scary but they were all interesting. I partied like there was no tomorrow because I had this freedom and there was nothing like it. I was determined to take full advantage of it. I did all the things that a freshman college student living on campus would do. All the wrong things . . . all the fun things.
My relationship with Val lasted for about three years. It had all the typical elements one might expect in your average fucked up relationship. Everyone experiences at least one dysfunctional relationship in their lifetimes. For me, this was one of many.
There was nothing significant about us. The only significance of my involvement with Val was that it was my first real . . . no that's the wrong word ... it was my first long-term relationship with a woman . . . a butch woman. Prior to that I'd had various, purely sexual encounters with other girls . . . all femmes.
Then there was Sandy who was very aggressive but not quite a butch. She was someone us lesbians would refer to as a femme aggressor: very tomboyish, but clearly not butch. I wouldn't have even considered her to be a soft butch. None the less, Sandy was the closest I'd gotten to being with a stud before Val.
Like so many narrow-minded people in the world, I once thought all butches were just male wanna-bes. I didn't understand why a woman seeking another woman would be interested in one who looked and acted like a man. And before going to the shelter I had never once come across any butch whom I found even remotely attractive.
I met Sandy at the shelter first. She was fuckin' gorgeous. A tall, dark, and handsome Haitian girl who read poetry to me in french. She had silky, curly, jet-black hair. Her skin was very dark and velvety-smooth like chocolate and she had a sly, mischievous smile. Sandy was, most definitely, a pretty boy. She spent more time in the mirror than anyone I knew.
Unfortunately, Sandy was a major bitch . . . a cocky, extremely arrogant bitch with an ego bigger than my ass. Anyone who's ever seen my ass would understand the magnitude of this comparison. Regardless, Sandy was really, really sexy and I think that's why I liked her so much. Her arrogance, narcissism, and huge ego drove me crazy, but her beauty overruled that . . . at least for a short while.
We had a good time with each other for a couple of months. She was a blast to hang out with and was always down to party. In fact, I spent my 21st birthday with her and let me tell you, I wouldn't have planned it any other way. It was one of the best nights in my life.
But for us, the party was short-lived. Not long after Sandy and I started dating I found out that she was strung out on drugs. She turned out to be this major cokehead and would disappear for days at a time. I wouldn't know anything about where she went or if she was dead or alive. Some people can overlook things like that but I couldn't. People are fucked up enough as it is. The last thing I needed was an already fucked up person who was even more fucked up because of drugs. So I confronted her one day after she returned from one of her excursions and told her it was over.
About a month before I broke up with Sandy, I befriended a 36-year old woman named Valerie. Now she was a stone butch. My friend Rita used to call her Mr. Magoo because she was short and she wore glasses and her eyes were really small and squinty. But Rita was just a wise-ass. Val really wasn't that bad looking at all. I thought she was pretty cute . . . for a butch. She was stocky like a boxer with pretty brown skin like coffee with just the right amount of cream. But the most attractive thing about her was her hair. She had a long, thick, bushy mane of kinky hair that she always wore cornrowed back like some kind of female thug. She had this sexy-ugly thing goin' on with her.
Being around Val made me realize that there was something incredibly sexy about a girl who looked like a boy but still looked like a girl. There are certain feminine qualities that can never be erased from a woman no matter how butch she is.
Val was a former resident of BWS. She continued to work there, after moving out, as a volunteer for a program called Project REACH. The program was composed of a group of current and former shelter residents who acted as mentors and provided outreach services to other homeless shelter residents. They did everything from counseling to handing out condoms, which was very important since many of the women were drug addicts and prostitutes.
Val herself was a recovering addict. Initially, it was hard for me to believe that she used to be a crackhead. I'd seen plenty of crackheads, but I'd never personally known one. She had been clean for about eight years when we met.
The more I learned about Val's past, the more interesting she seemed to me. I had great respect and admiration for this woman who found the strength to pull herself out of such a deep hole. To be strung out on a drug like crack and be able to pry yourself out of the grips of Hell . . . to survive such a thing and subsequently stay free of it was, to me, an absolutely amazing feat.
I was fascinated by her life and all her struggles, but it made me realize just how sheltered I had been up until that point. I desperately wanted to be opened up and she was my gateway to an unsheltered existence.
Val had two kids . . . two sons. Christopher was about sixteen and lived in Louisiana with his grandmother. Jonathan was about eleven and lived with his mother in Bed Stuy.
Val also had a wife named Linda. Of course they weren't really married. Gay marriage just became legal (as of May 17, 2004), but back then there was no such thing. However, they had been domestic partners for several years before I came along. Fuck that piece of government-issued paper...as far as I'm concerned they were married.
Social work seemed to be Val's calling. She had plenty of life experience, which made it very easy for her to relate to and communicate with many of the troubled souls at BWS. She genuinely seemed to enjoy helping people. In fact, I think she used this as a means to prey on women who were needy, either emotionally, physically, or financially. Looking back on it, I think she purposely sought out women who were needy because she needed to be needed. I was a woman in need . . . in need of a new experience . . . in need of a new kind of love, and Val being the predator that she was could smell me a mile away.
Because of her job Val was at the shelter everyday. I would see her around all the time, but I never really paid too much attention. I probably never would have even given Val a second glance if it hadn't been for Frazier. She was Val's best friend, another stone butch who happened to have a little crush on me.
Frazier was always hangin' around me tryin' to get a date and Val was always with her. I rejected Frazier's advances but not because of Val. I simply wasn't attracted to her that way. When I first met Frazier she was all cracked out and emaciated with really fucked up teeth. By the time Val and I became friends, Frazier had gotten clean but that didn't make her any more appealing.
Shortly before I ended my so-called relationship with Sandy I started going to Val for counseling. Not in the clinical sense but more so on a personal level. I was still a new comer to the whole lesbian scene and I thought she would be the perfect person to talk to about such things. It was nice to be able to talk to someone I could relate to and who could relate to me. She was someone who could understand me, someone who was older, wiser, someone who had already been down the road I was in the process of traveling. I truly enjoyed talking to her.
Eventually we started spending more and more time together. We would go for walks or have lunch together at one of the local diners. Often times I'd sit in her office and we would talk for hours about everything and nothing in particular. As time went on, I guess Val developed an attraction to me and she wasn't shy about letting me know it.
The funny thing is, prior to revealing her attraction to me, I never even thought of Val in that way. I never thought of her as someone I might potentially date much less end up in a relationship with. It honestly never crossed my mind; maybe because of the age difference between us. I mean, she was fifteen years older than me.
One day we were sitting in her office talking as usual. I had just broken things off with Sandy a few days earlier and as I was running my mouth about that situation, Val whipped out a note pad and pen and just started writing. I thought maybe she was writing a to do' list or something like that, but I didn't really think much of it. All the while, she maintained a genuine interest in my meaningless rambling so naturally, I kept on running my mouth.
A few minutes later, Val ripped the sheet of paper from the pad and handed it to me while simultaneously gesturing for me to be discreet. Initially, I didn't know what to make of it, but I certainly wasn't expecting what came next. The note said something to the effect of: I have a wife and I don't intend on leaving her, but I like you, you turn me on, and I want you to be my girlfriend."
I'm paraphrasing, of course, but the note really wasn't much more complex or romantic than that. In fact, now that I think about it, it was actually kind of crude. Yet and still, I was completely fascinated and intrigued. I realized then what a cocky little bitch Val was, but the worst part is how much I liked it. Underneath that massive ego trip and cocky arrogance was a seductive charm that peaked my interest in a major way.
Val continued on in this hand written conversation, informing me that she'd had a side dish before meeting me. Another young girl named Marjorie, but the affair had recently ended. According to Val, her former lover had become increasingly frustrated when she refused to leave her wife. At some point, Marjorie told Linda about their affair out of spite.
Naturally, I couldn't resist asking the million dollar question: Why did she feel the need to constantly cheat on her wife?' She gave the typical answer, saying that although she did love Linda, there was no longer any passion between them. In short, the wife was boring in bed.
The written conversation was concluded with a restated invitation to be her girlfriend (on the low, of course).
So, basically, Val was on the prowl for a new mistress and was hoping to employ me. She didn't hesitate to throw in a few bonuses to sweeten the deal. As long as I was willing to be her secret lover she would take care of me. She'd make sure I had money, nice clothes, and I would never have to eat shelter food again. She would even make sure I had all the weed I could smoke. She was gonna be my bonafide suga daddy.
This was, perhaps, the strangest proposal I'd ever been offered. I felt like I was being interviewed for a damned job! I should've thrown the notes in her face and told her to go to hell for insulting me with that bullshit. But I didn't. My curiosity got the best of me. I've always had a nasty habit of getting myself into questionable situations because of sheer curiosity. Even when I knew the outcome would be potentially bad in the long run.
This was all a game to me; a great challenge that I had to conquer regardless of the possible consequences. I had to see . . . I had to know . . . what if? What if this woman whose heart belonged to someone else were to fall in love with me? Things would really get interesting then. Just like most young and stupid girls, I suffered from GPS (golden pussy syndrome). I believed that my pussy was golden and had the power to enchant all who dared get close to it.
With that said, I coyly accepted Val's offer.
Let the games begin.