*In the following two-part post, Vann and Chunate share their how they met, fell in love and how they adjusted to Vann’s gender identity. When sharing how they first met, please be aware that Chunate uses “he” pronouns even though Vann had not yet transitioned.
Chunate was working at a McDonald’s in Baltimore in 1997 when Vann walked in with a friend. Chunate hooked them up with some food, but had no idea that Vann would later become her wife and then her husband. At the time Vann had ever dated a woman and Chunate was somewhat accustom to loving women, however neither had a clue about gender identity. Vann simply remembered thinking Chunate was very pretty. They eventually developed a close friendship and August 15, 2014, marked their 10 year anniversary. Below they share how their relationship evolved:
Black Lesbian Love Lab: How did you two become friends?
Chunate: He lived directly down the street from me. [One day] we sat on the curb and talked and talked and talked from there we built a friendship. We would talk daily. I’d go to his house sit and vibe just get to know each other. And then he would pick my daughter up from the school bus for me because I had to go to work. We had a real good friendship.
Vann: She was living with her mom and I was living by myself. We talked a lot about everything.
Chunate: And then … he abandoned me. He started hanging out with some new people and when I wanted to hang around I was the high blower. I didn’t smoke like that. Trying to talk to someone on weed was not working. We kinda drifted apart. I knew I was a lesbian. I knew that I liked women … but I hadn’t pursued anyone just yet. I liked Vann. I did.
BL3: Vann, did you know the attraction was mutual?
Vann: I had no idea she was attracted to me, I really didn’t know what was going on. I knew that I had a caring for her, a protective feeling that I had. She had a friend that did her dirty …
Chunate: That was my first [woman]. The day after we [hooked up] she acted like it never happened. I told Vann.
Vann: I was mad (smiling). Cause I liked you I guess. Even now when I look at it, I hadn’t laid claim. We were doing this tango of a dance. Part of the reason I was getting high so often was because I was fighting an internal battle around what I now know as my gender identity.
Chunate: While he was figuring out what he was trying to do, I was moving on. I started dating a girl I met while working at a nursing home. By then I knew I was a full-fledged lesbian. I knew what I was and what I wanted but still at the time I was living with my daughter’s father. I was trying to please both.
BL3: What was going on with you Vann?
Vann: Mentally I couldn’t accept the fact that I liked women, period. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it too tough. I had to get okay with it somehow. I struggled with what that would mean for my family and whether God would approve of it but at the same time I would fantasize about being with women.
At that time I’m a professional with a background in social work and didn’t know what to do. I was not in the party scene. I worked in Mount Vernon [a gay neighborhood in Baltimore] but there were no black women there at the time. And I was not a lipstick lesbian so I didn’t even know what to do. When I was high, I thought I was approaching Chunate and coming onto her. I swore I was doing mad game and then she said that I wasn’t, that I was just staring at her.
Chunate: He thought he told me he liked me. We ended up deciding to go to our first Pride festival together. We got dressed up, went downtown after dinner and caught the bus. There was an understanding that it was date in Vann’s mind.
Vann: I felt jittery on the inside. My stomach was turning. It was the first time that I was going out with a girl. She smiled like a Cheshire cat so she knew she was being courted.
Vann: The first time I ever slept in a bed with her was in 1999.
BL3: What happened?
Chunate: Nothing, nothing, nothing.
Vann: I didn’t know what to do. It was at her mom’s house. It’s Chunate and I’m thinking, “Oh my God do I kiss her?” She’s like the apple of my eyes. I didn’t know what to do, I was just scared and so I did nothing. She was waiting for me to make the first move, I was stuck in park. I left that morning and went home.
Chunate: We didn’t see each other for another couple of years.