By Teneile Warren
"You absorb the light; I reflect it." It's a joke my wife recently made after several failed attempts at taking an "usie" outdoors while the sun shined down on us. It was too hard to find an angle that could balance our contrasting skin tones. Rebecca is white and I am black. In several of our photos, (that don't make it to social media) she can be seen glowing. We laugh about it. I tease her. It is simply the nature of things. In 2015, interracial relationships should be the nature of things.
"There are good black women out there you know," she says to me.
This is the beginning of a short conversation I have with a stranger on the train after my wife kisses me goodbye and exits at her stop. These are the moments that have been a constant since we first met. Not just with strangers but with friends. Well, former friends.
Last Pride, I was showing a picture of Rebecca to one of these former friends. Her response, "Why does she have to be white? There are so many great black girls and they like you." That was our last conversation and heralded the end of our friendship. It was only the beginning of a rollercoaster of change in my life. Since falling in love with the woman who would become my wife, there has been an inexplicable beauty in the world. Unfortunately, I have also been reminded that the beauty is visible because of all that is ugly.
1. Gay friends. The safe thing to assume is these were never your friends, but that doesn't change that it hurts. I have lost gay and straight friends since meeting and marrying the love of my life. The gay ones hurt more. When you belong to a small community that has fought for visibility, for freedom, for the right to love and be loved, one doesn't expect division. But the truth is, my community isn't any different from the straight community. We have racism, homophobia, cultural privilege, sexism and it goes on. One friend accused me of undermining the struggle of the black gay community by even considering to date a white woman, least of all marrying her. My name has slowly been removed from several invite lists. Not to mention those who barely acknowledge my wife if we are unfortunate enough to encounter each other in public. I feel equally stared at walking down Church St. in the Village as I do walking through a small Canadian town that doesn't have a pride parade.
2. Black straight friends. There are people in this world that will tolerate you on their terms. You want to be gay. OK, we will tolerate that. You want to be gay and marry a white woman. We draw the line here. It changes the anonymity of the relationship. If I am with a black woman, I still belong. I still uphold principles that the community holds dear. But, to go completely to the left and marry a white woman is to prove that I really am gay, I truly am the "other". As it has been said to me more than once in my life: "To be gay is a white people thing. Black people aren't gay." This makes me nothing more than a traitor to my race.
3. The feeling of equality. I am not sure I ever had this. I have been the subject of stares and whispers my entire life. But stares, whispers and rumours feel different when you are brooding than when you are happy and at peace with life. They hurt like something awful. Wherever we go, there is a collective stare of disapproval burning a hole into the back of our necks. Even though I deal with racist comments, homophobic slurs and a general apathy for my masculine-identified appearance on an almost daily basis, I have never felt as inferior as I do on some days when I am standing in a crowded streetcar, sitting in a romantic restaurant or lying on the grass in the park smiling at my wife. Because the truth is more people are staring at me than her; I married up. If ever I wanted to dispel this moment with a bout of sweeping self-confidence, I can always depend on a customer service rep. (any will do) to prioritize speaking to my wife, completely ignoring me even if I broke the proverbial ice.
4. My body image. There is a special group of men out there. White gym-bodied men that feel their sweat and "Gold's gym" t-shirt gives them the right to hit on my wife in front of me. We were at a bar once and a gentleman actually asked me to step aside, so he could speak to my wife. One of these same white men also asked me, "How did a fat black woman land a hot piece like that?"
5. My mother. I probably lost my mother before I married a white woman. I lost her the day I decided to live life on my own terms. But I think we simply stopped pretending when I married Rebecca. We stopped pretending that I wasn't working really hard to do the one thing that would make being me acceptable in her eyes. She has never been in agreement with my lifestyle, and she has always been open about that. She always said mean, derogatory things about the women I have been with. Yet, the racialized slurs physically hurt. When I married Rebecca, we had the final say.
It was a week ago that I asked my wife if she would be interested in joining an interracial couples meet up group. "Hopefully, we can find one for queer women," she said. "I don't think it needs to be that specific. I just want to know we are not alone," I replied.
We're still looking. The one we found hasn't been active since 2013.
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