...when love feels like peace
The current generation of black lesbians definitely enjoy a freedom around our sexuality that the lesbians who came before us, and even the ones who are still standing next to us, unfortunately did not. While we’ve been able to both openly identify with and enjoy our same-sex attractions early on in our lives, older lesbians have not been as lucky. Many of whom were forced to hide their sexuality, ignore it in fear of judgment or live out loud (but continued to stay) in fear of retaliation from those who did not agree with it.
For married partners Judy and Carla, both were raised in communities that did not provide the space and understanding for either of them to fully explore their sexuality. And while Carla was able to relocate and find the community that eventually helped her become her; it wasn’t until Judy had both married and had children that she decided she was ready to live her life out loud and as a black lesbian womxn.
Today, both Judy and Carla have been able to find a true love in one another, and a true sense of community, understanding, love and acceptance among their group of fellow black lesbians.
I know it’s a faux pas to ask a womxn her age, but since most of the LBH readers are in their 20s and 30s and this love telling interview is apart of our coverage of the history of pride month, would the both of you mind sharing your age with me?
Carla: I’m 53
Judy: And I’m 52, I’ll be 53 this month.
Happy early birthday!
Judy: Thank you!
When and how did you realize that you were a lesbian? [To the both of you]
Carla: I'm originally from Barbados, [and] I’m Carribean. So, they gay thing is not as prevelant, or you know, as easy to come by [there], as it is here. [But] I always knew I was different. All the girls at school, [they would] have a crush on this guy or this boy, and it was not happening for me. (Laughter) I figured something was different but I didn't know what it was. So, then I moved to New York when I was 17 and the whole world opened up. That was when I knew, oh, that's what was different, that's what I was. And I started going to the bars and meeting women and that's when I knew.
Judy: For me, I knew probably about 12 or 13. I knew I liked girls, but I liked boys also. I knew something was different. But as I got older, and I realized that [I was either] a lesbian or bi, I knew I couldn’t come out. Because I grew up in a very Christian background and household. I knew I was expected to go to church. I knew I was expected to get married. I knew I was expected to have kids. So, I didn't come out or say anything. And I didn't act on it until after I was out of high school.
"When I was not 52, and I thought about being this age and what I wanted love to be, this is just what it feels like. This is it. This is my happy place."
Do you guys feel like this generation has it a little bit easier coming out?
Carla: A lot easier! (Laughter)
Judy: A lot. Yeah, yeah. (in agreement)
Carla: I remember last year I drove by a school on Valentine’s Day, and I saw two girls walking and holding hands with a balloon in the middle of the two of them. [And I said to myself] “OH, my god! Isn't that precious?!” I wish I had that luxury.
Judy: I think I realized they have it easier with my own kids. They had a diversified class in school and they spoke about different students being gay, lesbian and queer. They spoke about those things and I thought “that would have never ever happened with me.” But if it had, it would have made it so much easier to come out and express myself. And easier for me to express it to my parents. So, yeah, this generation definitely has it a lot easier.
How did you guys meet?
(Laughter from both)
Judy: This is going to be..
Carla: She’s going to lie. (Laughs)
Judy: (Laughs) No, I'm not. No, Okay, let me tell you my side then she's gonna say that's not it. (Laughs). But she is like well known in the lesbian community here, very well known, very popular. And she does parties and I usually follow her parties and look at the pictures from [the party] the next day.
Carla: Stalking! (Whispers and laughs)
Judy: (Laughs and continues) I was on facebook trying to see the pictures from the party and saw that she put a statement on there saying “the new single life is not as bad as I thought,” or something like that. And I said to my friend that was sitting with me “oh my god, she's single.” So I messaged her and I just straight up asked her “you and your girlfriend not together anymore?”
Carla: The first time I saw her she was a manager at this space called Funky Buddha, which is a popular brewery here. And you know we were one of the few black people there. So, I saw her and I said, “Hey!” And she looked me up and down and just walked away. I was like “You bitch, you not not all that! Get over yourself already”
[But] I left it alone. She went on to ignore our table, and tended to her other little tables and employees and stuff. And then next time I heard from her, she was in my DM trying to find out if I was single single (makes air quotes).
Judy: Whatever. I'll take it. I initiated it. As long as she was single. So that's how we started talking. As soon as I gave her my number, she called me immediately and invited me to a party.
Carla: I sure did.
Judy: I went to that party and she was standing by the door so happy to see me.
Carla: I came outside to make sure that you could see me so that you wouldn't drive by.
Judy: We kind of clicked that night. Immediately when we got to the party, it was easy to talk. We held hands as if we were already together. It just was instant. [And] I walked her to the car, did I kiss you?
Carla: Yes! I was trying to be a gentle womxn.
Judy: And I was thinking, “she's not going to kiss me?” She was being really reserved but I’m straight forward so I think I probably kissed her. And from that point on it was like okay, we’re together.
When did you know you were in love with another?
Judy: When I didn't want to be friends no more. I can still, as i'm telling you about this, feel the feeling that I had in my stomach [that day]. One day I was at a doctor's appointment and I called her and it was like “hey, what are you doing” and she said “so and so just left here.” And ‘so and so’ is a female. It hit me so hard. Like, somebody else? She's talking to somebody else? No, I love her. She can't be talking to somebody else. I called her back and was like “Look, okay, that friend thing that I talked about… no, I don't want to be just friends. This has to be all or nothing. Because, I love you.” That's all it took for me. When I heard that she was talking to somebody else, I couldn't take that. And I realized I loved her. I don't want her talking to anybody else. It should just be me. So, that was it for me. And that probably was, what? A month or two [into things]? (Carla nods her head yes).
With same-sex marriage only being legalized five years ago, did the two of you ever have reservations about getting married and being public about your relationship?
Carla: I’m in the public, and everyone who knows me knows this is the one. They can see how I look at her, how I treat her. And I still feel the same way I did the day I met her. I have no qualms about showing my feelings or my affections for her.
What are some things that make you feel valued in your marriage?
Judy: Well, I’ve had some health issues. And..this is going to make me cry.
Carla: You're going to cry on camera? (Both laugh)
Judy: Through those health issues she went out of her way to still make me feel like a womxn. She goes out of her way to make me feel worthy and to show me that she cares. She goes over and beyond to show me that she values me. And it's just a good feeling. The little things that she may not even know, it's just those little things that she does that make me feel that way. It shows she really values me just by doing that for me. And I love her.
Carla: (I love you too) I feel valued because I know that I’m her number one. She makes me feel like it's all about me. End of story. I’m easy and simple.
And how do you guys keep the romance alive in your relationship?
Carla: I’m the romantic one in the relationship. So, I'll just get up and say, we are going out, and we will go to the beach, grab a bottle of wine, and we don't even bother with the glasses, we’re going to drink from the top. We like to just get up and go. So, we are fortunate enough to travel. We do it with our friends because we have a good group of friends or we do it on our own.
Judy: I always say to her I can be my authentic self, it's always transparent. I don't have to act around her. We are just open books and I think that is like the key for romance. I'm not embarrassed about anything. We are truly best friends and it keeps the romance going.
"That's all it took for me. When I heard that she was talking to somebody else, I couldn't take that. And I realized I loved her. I don't want her talking to anybody else. It should just be me."
So, for you Judy, you spoke earlier about having an attraction to both men and women in the beginning of your life. How did it feel emotionally to go from dating and having children with men to being married to a womxn?
Judy: Like I said at 12/13, I knew that the attraction [I had for womxn] was stronger. With men, I knew I had to put on a facade for my family. So going into my marriage, I already knew. Which was very unfair to him. I knew I was not doing it for the right reasons, but I had to do it because that's what my family expected. I did love him, but it was difficult because I knew I couldn't live in this facade. It served a purpose because I got my kids and I gave my parents what they wanted. But I knew this was going to have to come out. And it was a freedom, a release, when I finally said okay, I can't do this any longer and I have to be honest about my feelings.
How did your children respond to you coming out?
Judy: I can't answer that for them. But in my conversations with them, I felt that I should have told them earlier. I tried to wait until I thought that they were of age that it wouldn't affect them as far as their friends and what not. So I waited, but I wish I had told them earlier. I think it would have been better, at least for my son, I think he was more prepared for it than I thought. I can say I thought I was hiding it, but I wasn't hiding it. [And] I wish I had came out earlier, not just for them, but for their dad too. So, that's the only thing I think I would have done differently. [But] I would say they [handled it well] because we have a very good dynamic. We always stuck together as a unit.
How does it feel being black queer parents raising[ed] a black queer child?
Carla: Right now [one of our children] is gay. But I've also had other experiences in former relationships where that child was gay. I can laugh and joke and everything, but I still want them to know that there are boundaries. I still talk to them about serious issues and [want them to] feel comfortable coming to me about something serious. Its not always a gay ole party, you still have to be parental. Any kids that I have raised within my relationships, they still call me to this day, ya know, because its important that they see someone who is also serious about them. It doesn't matter the sexuality, it matters about how you interact with them.
Judy: And that’s whether the kid is gay or straight, because we have two. One being gay, one being straight, the same thing applies. We are teaching them, just like we would in a regular heterosexual relationships. And we lead by example, we want them to see us in a healthy relationship so that they would [also] get into healthy relationships.
Do you all feeling being queer is prominent part of your identities as black womxn? Because sometimes people say you’re Black before you are gay or you’re gay before you are Black. What’s your perspective around that?
Carla: I think with a couple, especially where one is aggressive and one is fem, if I walk into a room, they see gay. If she walks into a room, they see Black. So it's all from a different perspective. I’d never say I’m Black before I’m gay. It’s obvious I’m Black, but it’s really obvious, when I walk into a room with straight people, that I’m gay (laughs). So, it depends. My sexuality has been open for so long, because I’ve been doing parties for so long and apart of the gay community for so long, it is what it is. Being gay is a big part of me.
Judy: Yeah, I would say the same thing. I agree with her 100%. Like she said, when we walk in a room and if I dont open my mouth and say I’m gay, you dont know that im gay. But with her it's obvious. It's a conversation. Her gay would come first because of the way she dresses and the way she looks. But with me, they see me as being black first. But I won’t say im defined by being gay. I’m a Black womxn regardless gay or straight.
"They can see how I look at her, how I treat her. And I still feel the same way I did the day I met her. I have no qualms about showing my feelings or my affections for her. "
Have you all ever been to Pride or celebrated it?
Judy: I think since I’ve come out, I've celebrated pride every year.
Carla: I’ve celebrated pride everywhere [for the past] 35 years. In New York, San Francisco, Paris, Amsterdam, Florida. [And] when they started having Black pride that got exciting for me.
Are you guys planning to do any type of celebration in the house since we are all kind of on lock down still?
Carla: They’re doing a lot of viral pride celebrations right now, so we [might] jump on one.
You guys mentioned having a really good group of friends earlier. What role has the black queer community played in your lives and relationship?
Judy: Like I said, I’ve had some health issues. I’ve had two brain surgeries. And I’ve got a range of friends, straight friends, church friends and gay friends. But when I went through those health issues, the gay community, more than any of my [other] friends, completely stepped up. The hospital I was in was probably like an hour away from where we live, but they were there everyday doing shifts. So that she (Carla) could get some rest, and so that my kids could get some rest. If she (Carla) has to travel, the gay community is always coming by asking if I want something to eat or asking if I want to go somewhere. The friends I have in the straight community, they talk more [about] friendship, but the friends I have in the gay community, are really about the action kind of friends.
Carla: They are there for us.
Okay last question, what does loving her feel like?
Judy: It feels like peace. Safety, harmony and happiness. When I was not 52, and I thought about being this age and what I wanted love to be, this is just what it feels like. This is it. This is my happy place. If you asked me: who do I want to spend my life with? It's her. Who do i want to go to the movies with? It's her. Who do I want to go to church with? It's her. Who do I want to laugh with? It's her. If I go somewhere and I'm not with her, I'm constantly saying, gosh i wish Carla was here. This is my best friend.
Carla: She’s my happy. She's my center. We spend a lot of time together. I think the only times that we were not together is when I had to go to Barbados, for my mom. But other than that we are pretty much together everyday. You've got to really like somebody to spend everyday with them.
Written by: Kee Simone, LBH Editor-in-Chief (@thebaddiegalore)