While in high school, I met two young ladies I then thought were my friends. One day, we were talking about our future plans, and I mentioned that I wanted to go to college, to have a career in higher education, and to get married.
I will never forget the looks on their faces.
They were stunned silent. One of them finally ended the painfully long silence by saying, “Tameeka do you really think you can do all that? You are handicapped, you are female, and you are black!”
Her statement left me reeling. This was the first time I realized that my identities – the things that made me, me, could be seen as negative. I also realized that people may accept one of my identities, but not the others. What then?
By the time I realized that I was also attracted to women, I felt like going away and hiding forever. I had a difficult time accepting my sexual orientation. I felt it was the one identity I had a choice in revealing. After all, when people look at me, it is obvious that I am of African descent, a woman, and have a physical disability. However, as a cisgender woman, people would not necessarily be able to detect my sexual orientation. For this, I was grateful.
To be clear, I love all my identities, but I was not sure how others would receive them, especially since they were all together in one package – me.
I initially identified as bisexual as I recognized my attraction to both men and women. It felt like I was between two worlds. My straight friends told me that being bisexual wasn’t a real thing ,and that it was a simply a stop on the road to being “gay.” My lesbian friends told me that they would never date a bisexual woman because in their minds, my being bisexual meant I was concurrently sleeping with men.
There was one thing both groups agreed on though: bisexuality equals promiscuity, so I began to use the phrase, “monogamous bisexual” to describe my sexual orientation.
I then met an intriguing woman, Rebecca. Rebecca was not entirely sure about dating someone who was bisexual either. Also, on the surface, we appear to be so different from one another. She is white and I am black, she is Jewish and I’m Christian, I have a physical disability and she does not.
Interestingly, despite all of our obvious differences, our respective families only had a problem with the fact that we were in a same-sex relationship. Rebecca’s mother once asked her, “Have you tried dating men? How do you know you don’t like it?” Rebecca retorted, “How do you know you don’t like women, mom? Have you ever tried it?”
My mother tried a different tact. She said if Rebecca and I dated, we needed to “keep it within our group,” which translates to keeping our relationship a secret. Neither of us were willing to do that.
I later began to reject the gender binary and to see gender, gender identity and expression as on a continuum. As a result, I began to identify as pansexual. Gender and gender identity, and gengder expression, are not important to me in romantic relationships.
The most common reaction I get is: “Pansexual?! What even is that?” So I’m back to an identity that greatly confuses people or has them wondering if it actually exists. Those who recognize that pansexuality exists still seem to perceive it as something that is synonymous with promiscuity
Fast forward, I have been with Rebecca for 15 years, and we have been happily (and legally) married for over five years. Better still, both of our families were at the wedding, so a happy ending is possible, despite differences.
Tameeka L. Hunter is an intersectional social justice scholar, professional speaker, and PhD student in Atlanta. Her past experiences, though sometimes painful, fuel her work on diversity, and populations that experience multiple marginalized identities.
Aversion of this article originally appeared in Q magazine. Read it below, and pick it up wherever you find queer media in Atlanta.