What a Black Lesbian Who Never Intended to Get Married Thinks About the Recent Supreme Court Ruling

The June 26, 2015 Supreme Court ruling effectively over rules all the state bans of same-sex marriage.

The June 26, 2015 Supreme Court ruling effectively over rules all the state bans of same-sex marriage.

Written by Zamara Perri

In a 5-4 ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court justices made it legal for same-sex couples to get married in all 50 states. As a black lesbian who never intended to get married, I think it’s great news especially for black families. The financial, social and legal benefits of marriage are well known so I won’t restate them here. But I will say that for many black same-sex couples who are statistically on the bottom of the totem pole, this is a step forward.

 

Although I love black lesbian love stories, I do not personally plan to rush to the altar. My partner and I have discussed marriage quite a bit. We both agree that we want a lifelong commitment with each other, but we don’t feel that legal marriage is the only way to do so.

 

She wants to have a huge wedding ceremony and doesn’t want government involvement, while I don’t want a huge ceremony and would be fine just going to the justice of the peace. She is more concerned about the ritual and ceremony while I’m more concerned about legal protections. I’m sure in time we’ll come to an agreement, but for now we are not in a rush.

SomeFederalBenefitsofGayMarriage

Needless to say, I support the freedom to get legally married and I’m thrilled for those who take this step. I will continue to highlight legal marriages and other examples of loving, committed black lesbian relationships.

 

Some people are rightly pointing out that for black people this is a bittersweet victory. Yes, the ruling gives legally married gay couples access to hundreds of the same rights as every other married couple in this country and that’s great. However,  it’s difficult to ignore that the ruling came during a time of highly visible killings of black people. Some people are calling the new nationwide same-sex marriage law, a distraction, which has truth since we haven’t heard much about the Texas pool party or the Charleston shootings.

 

I say it is a victory for those who want it, but we must call out the mostly wealthy white powers that be, who funded the gay rights struggle while ignoring that most black people continue to be targets of an oppressive, racist power structure that benefits white people and leave many blacks disenfranchised.

 

As a black lesbian at the intersection of two minority groups, I can be happy for the marriage victory, while recognizing that we must continue to call attention to the other injustices impacting the black community at large.

11 Toxic Communication Habits That Black Lesbians Should Dump Now

Written by Zamara Perri

Communication can break or make a relationship. This is the second in a series of articles sharing how we can improve the way we communicate with the women we love.

Toxic communication habits can put your relationship in danger. Photo courtesy of MadameNoire

Toxic communication habits can put your relationship in danger. Photo courtesy of MadameNoire

I once broke up with a woman who was smart, attractive, hardworking and a homeowner. Why? She told me my reason for doing something was “stupid.” It may sound drastic, but I recommend that you break up with anyone who talks to you in a demeaning way, because it’s only going to get worse.

With this particular ex, this wasn’t the first time that she spoke to me this way. She had plenty of practice because I let her and because I didn’t know any better. I say I didn’t know any better because whenever she said something nasty, I fired right back with my own nasty comments. One day I just got real tired of feeling shitty about our relationship and I was done.

Looking back, I realize that people do what they know and say what they know. And if you never call them out on their bad behavior, how can you expect them to change? Good and bad habits are learned. That also means they can be unlearned.

If you think that the way you talk to your sweetheart needs some work, then you may be right. Pay attention to the things that you think may not be a big deal because every word has consequences. You don’t have to be angry and shouting at each other for you to have an obvious communication problem. All it takes is honest self-evaluation and conversation.

If you want to make your relationship stronger, keep an eye out for the following toxic conversation habits and get rid of them, pronto:

 

  1. Not apologizing. It can be really hard to admit that you’re wrong, but do it anyway. Practice doing it and you’ll get better at it. When you apologize, you are acknowledging your role in whatever breakdown you both had. It means that you are listening to her and want to improve your relationship. When you don’t apologize, you are telling her that you don’t care that your words or actions caused her harm.
  1. Criticism. How often do you tell her that she didn’t do a good job cooking a meal or dressing to your specifications? Sometimes we don’t even realize the things that you think of as helpful are actually hurtful. It’s not that you can’t give her suggestions for improvement, but think twice about the message that you’re sending. When you criticize her, you’re telling her that she’s not good enough.

If she asks for your opinion on something that’s one thing, but volunteering information that is hurtful, not helpful is another. Instead of criticizing her, think of all the things you sincerely love and appreciate about her and share one of those thoughts. Also, if you consistently practice speaking to her with kindness, it won’t hurt so much when you have something less than pleasant to share with her.

 

My Butch Cleans Up Good: Why We Don’t Subscribe to Gender Roles

 

I don't get too excited about mowing the lawn, but I love what it looks like afterwards.

I don’t get too excited about mowing the lawn, but I love what it looks like afterwards.

Written by Zamara Perri

 

I’m a femme in a relationship with a butch and I mow our lawn. Why? First, for medical reasons my partner is unable to use the lawn mower for more than a few minutes.

 

Second, she prefers to pay someone. In our neighborhood that’s about $40 each time. When I multiplied that to around 10 cuts for the entire summer, I decided that as an able-bodied person, I’d rather spend the $400 on pretty dresses, pretty flowers, some braids and home décor.

 

Third, we don’t believe in using masculine pronouns or subscribe to gender roles that stem from a bygone, oppressive patriarchal system.

 

Fourth, I do a damn good job mowing the lawn! I’m always happy and proud about how great it looks after I’m done.

 

Definition, Please

 

But before we go any further, let’s get an understanding of exactly what it means to play into the idea of butch-femme roles. For some femmes they are ecstatically happy about and do not deviate from the traditional roles and expectations assigned to women from a bygone era. That means that they cook, clean, dress up and look pretty, raise the children if they have any, lay on their backs and defer to their more aggressive or masculine partner in every way. Their partners expect them to “act like a lady” and get upset when their more feminine partners deviate from certain traditional roles.

 

On the masculine/butch side, the butch takes on only the traditional male roles and ideas assigned to men from the middle of the century. This often means that butch women, simply by virtue of looking more masculine, are expected to earn more money than their femme partners, mow the lawn, literally wear the pants, take care of home repairs and be more aggressive in bed.

 

That. Does. Not. Work. For. Me. And. My. Partner. I laugh now because even though I mostly dated aggressive femmes in the past, I adhered to strict gender roles. I remembered buying a house with my first love. She was an aggressive, power femme. She brought home the bacon and I resentfully cooked it.

 

I didn’t like feeling like I had to do something because I was the softer femme or made less money. I remembered how it was her job to mow the lawn, but it was my job to plant pretty flowers.

 

Washington, D.C., winters soon made me realize just how ridiculous we were being to adhere to gender roles. We had two driveways and a long sidewalk. That meant that whenever it snowed it would take hours for one person to clear the snow, but if we both worked together we’d be able to clear it in half the time.

 

Five Reasons Black Lesbian Relationships Fail

Written by Zamara Perri

Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson married last month.

Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson married last month.

I’ve never met WNBA superstars Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson, but I can tell you why their marriage failed after only 28 days. No, I’m not psychic and don’t have some inside track on their relationship. I just know a lot about failed lesbian relationships from personal experience. I can tell you that whatever the reason for this young couple’s split, it is most likely one of the five most common reasons why some black lesbian relationships don’t last:

Anger. In the past couple weeks my honey and I have struggled with anger issues. My honey is by nature a happy-go-lucky person while I am serious and always thinking about the injustices in the world. And when I start thinking about all that’s wrong with the world, I get angry and give her the silent treatment as if she did something to me. So then she gets mad. And when she gets angry, she yells, stomps around the house and even leaves.

How can a home environment like that be a setting for peace and love? It’s not.

If we treat our partners like our enemies, then why should they want to stick around?

We need to know how to diffuse our anger and turn it into something valuable instead of using it against our lovers. Brittney and Glory’s domestic violence arrest record clearly points to trouble controlling anger.

One of the things my partner and I love about each other is how much we make each other laugh. When we realized that we had stopped laughing and started letting anger dominate our relationship, we knew we had to do something to stop it in its tracks.

One of the rules we made was that first thing in the morning, I wouldn’t start railing about what’s wrong with this country and the harsh injustices that black people face. Not because she doesn’t care about these issues, but because she prefers to start her morning with positive thoughts and meditation. Now when I’m angry, I meditate, journal, talk to my honey, exercise or spend time alone.

Lack of self love is another dangerous weapon against black lesbian love. Some of us get into relationships without understanding how important it is to love ourselves well. We criticize ourselves, downplay our successes, ignore our pain, and overall treat ourselves terribly. If we had a friend that treated us the way we treated ourselves, I guarantee you that person wouldn’t be a friend for long. Negative self-talk has a dangerous effect on the self image, which means it impacts your relationship. How can you love someone else if you can’t love yourself? Most of us have never been taught how to do that.

I grew up being told in many ways that I didn’t deserve happiness. As I got older, I simply told myself some of that same negativity. If you grew up like I did, then you know that it is a battle to teach yourself differently. For years I’ve struggled to believe that long-lasting love was something I deserved. And of course that showed up my relationships. I bet it shows up in your relationship too.

We’ve got to love ourselves the way Kanye loves Kanye. And I’m serious. Any kind of success–relationship or otherwise–begins with believing that you deserve it. So, go easy on yourself.

Try this, every time you get ready to tell yourself that you’re “fat” “not cute enough” or “not smart enough,” replace that thought with “I’m a beautiful, loving woman who deserves phenomenal love.” Repeat it until you believe it and then repeat it some more. For those of you who say you love yourself, take a look at your own actions toward yourself. Do you treat yourself like the amazing, divine woman that you are?

Have a Grown-Woman Relationship With Mindful Communication

Written by Zamara Perri 

Communication can break or make a relationship. This is the first in a series of articles sharing how we can improve the way we communicate with the women we love.

 

The healthy black lesbian relationship involves lots of mindful communication.

The healthy black lesbian relationship involves lots of mindful communication.

 

A couple nights ago before I went to bed, my honey and I exchanged some heated words. I said something smart to her and she was not having it. Instead of falling asleep in each other’s arms like we usually do, we slept on opposite sides of the bed.

Yesterday morning I woke her up with kisses. She made me breakfast and drove me to the train station. But she was still mad and no amount of sweet kisses was going to make her forget that we hadn’t addressed the issue.

The issue is that when it comes to communication, I’m a work in progress. I admit that a recurring relationship challenge I have is diarrhea of the mouth. I’m admittedly a smart ass. I’m that chick that always got something to say. I think I’m funny or think what I say is not a big deal, but my partner doesn’t often agree. This can lead to upset.

 

When I’m upset with anyone, my communication style is to get angry, withdraw and give the other person the silent treatment. For my honey, when she gets angry, she yells.

 

I realized really early on in our relationship that the way we related when we got angry, was NOT a recipe for long lasting love. In fact it was a recipe for building resentment.

 

So, we made a commitment to improve the way we speak to each other. We also had to improve the way we ended our fights. To know me is to know that little fights become the setting for days of pouting, arguing and acrimony. But now instead of pouting, I take a time out, put on my big girl panties and work with my partner to squash the issue instead of letting it fester into World War III. That old strategy of pouting for days only ended up creating distance, which impacted our intimacy and created cracks in the foundation of the relationship I said I wanted.

So when I got home from work, we sat down and talked. She told me that when I spoke to her a certain way, she felt disrespected and unloved. And instead of being too proud to admit I was wrong, I apologized and promised to do better. She forgave me but also admitted that she was still pissed.

 

Mindful Communication 101: Speak With Kindness

This relationship is one in which I plan to practice mindful communication, which means purposefully speaking to my partner with kindness and love. As someone who is uber sensitive (as most smart asses are), I don’t want her saying something mean or nasty to me, so why should I do that to her? Even if it’s supposed to be funny or meant to be harmless, there’s nothing funny about hurting the one you love.

 

It recently occurred to me that we are actually happy. It has been a long time since either of us had simply been happy in a relationship that has low-drama. This is definitely unusual to me.

I know the reason  I’m happy is because I’ve decided that I want a grown-woman relationship.

And the key to that is being mindful about the way I spoke to the woman I love.

 

I’m learning as I go along and plan to share the communication tips I’ve learned over the next few weeks. I’d love your feedback! Please comment below with tips on what works for you and your love.