suppressing sexuality

August ’02, Los Angeles, California

I’ve told people for years that my first kiss was on the 21st August of 2002, the day after my eighteenth birthday, top of the Griffith Observatory. I’ve even believed it, because it’s the more romantic story, the ‘one that counted’.

But that’s not actually true.

My first kiss was at a club in LA when I was about 17, in a washroom. It was someone I was courting at the time, and terribly at that.

Why does this even matter?

Because the subject of the Official First Kiss Story is a man, and the subject of the unofficial story is a woman.

There are still some who will not understand why this is significant, other than it being a first for me. Those who know me personally likely see me as someone who is fairly open with her goings-on, so again, why the big reveal?

 

 

Let’s backtrack a bit.

I came out to one of my parents when I was 15. Not having ever talked at length about anything other than heterosexuality (unless we’re counting “____ is gay, didn’t you know that?”), I fretted over doing so for a while. The few friends I had at school at the time knew before the parent did. The reaction?

“Oh, I went through that stage too.”

Perhaps this was said to assuage me of my worries, and it certainly didn’t add to my anxiety, but I was confused and disappointed simultaneously. Weren’t we supposed to have a conversation about it, like the sex conversation and the puberty conversation in my earlier years?

I went on with my brave efforts. I was convinced that somehow I wasn’t being taken seriously, and I would simply hint at my attractions. However, this seemed to have the converse of the desired effect: my saying that Angeline Jolie in Hackers was cute got absolutely nothing in response. Edgy hairstyles and music (or ones seen as such) had no place in the household.

I wasn’t aware of it then, but I took that as ‘it’s not okay to date women’, without even knowing why it wasn’t.

So I didn’t.

 

 

Of course I bloody well did.

I saw someone in bits and pieces. We’d go to a restaurant, a coffee shop, or the occasional club (which I abhorred) – anywhere we believed allowed for a bit of anonymity.

I got kisses that felt stolen in washrooms, the rare holding of hands. Then I got the brush-off because I found out she not only had a boyfriend, but one with an anger problem to boot.

 

 

I spent a lot of time writing Open Diaries. One account was personal but I didn’t have much going on, so I wrote several others that were based on fictional characters of mine in my written stories. Eventually to spice things up, I blended the accounts so that they had interactions with one another.

Not long after that, I explored meeting more people online for the first time. Mel was colourful and vivacious, and we had a blast making the most mundane tasks interesting (ex: cavorting in grocery stores, making up songs while schlepping round town). Feelings were definitely stirring in me, but Those Feelings Were Verboten. How could I deal with this?

I used one of the Open Diary personalities to interact with her, passed along messages, dropped hints. Eventually that caught up with me, so I fessed up. Unfortunately, I scared her away for good. Hell, she probably still thinks I’m nutters at this rate.

 

 

I lied about so many things as a teenager, but the Open Diary stuff is probably what I regret most. There isn’t a whole lot I can do about that lonely 17-year-old me, especially feeling so far removed from that person at 28.

July ’08, Los Angeles, California

It would take me some years later to let the honesty speak for itself and see and enjoy being with women romantically. I never told my parent about any of it, which likely perpetuated the “it’s a stage” comment. I shudder to think that I had much to do with keeping that idea alive.

 

Sometimes I still sit and wonder what to do, how to properly communicate that not being heterosexual is a key part of me that I cannot and will not ignore. Perhaps I have done so by writing this blog — I do find it easier to have words with others when it’s in text.

It doesn’t matter the subject of the first kiss really, and it shouldn’t matter at all.

What I’ve told you doesn’t discount the Official Kiss Story in any way, shape or form for me, but it does allow me to tell what I feel is the whole truth, at the risk of compromising my relationship with some of my family.

twisted and tangible

It’s been a little over a year since I jotted down some stray thoughts and observations regarding the voluntary changes in my hair’s appearance.

The impetus to write came from someone I once knew, who found the photos I was sharing of my hair at that time to be remarkable. He felt that I was more in touch with myself when I ditched the straightening comb and hair dye.

I had some reservations about the message I received from that person, but have not voiced them until now. While I’d be hard-pressed to deny the striking physical shift, not much else changed beyond the surface. Not immediately, anyway.

March ’11, Seattle Center – photo by Gary Kornheiser

about five months of new hair growth

I’ve had the natural hair on top of my head ever since I can remember, save for a couple of experimental chemical relaxer incidents in my preteens that went sour without delay. My hair was often unkempt and dirty. It was considered an afterthought, because my mum was a single businesswoman with a single kid. There was only so much ground she could cover.

Years of being teased by other black kids got old quickly, and I developed a thick skin. High school came round, though, and that dramatically changed things for a solid while. I was in a new area of town where no one knew me. I got made up like a little princess, my hair in carefully pressed curls and sealed under a headband. A little darling for show.

From the last good drops of high school ’til college and a bit beyond, the straightening of my hair endured. I’d fallen into a pattern with it, as most would, and it seemed to placate the folks in the neighbourhood where I lived (which was predominantly black).

January ’06, Los Angeles

To be honest, I don’t know why all of that mattered so much, because I never really interacted with anyone around there. I was usually somewhere else – schlepping around with gamer friends or lovers, or lost in any Douglas Adams book I could get my hands on.

I didn’t start considering ‘going natural’ to be A Thing until about summer 2009. My roommate’s sister had these artistic wonders in the form of hair on her head. She took good care of it each day. The texture was ever so tempting to touch, but I never did, nor did I dare to ask. It had a delightful amount of thickness, yet appeared light and fluffy. It defied anything my hair ever was, and I believed I had done everything under the sun!

There was a sense of culture and confidence that was positively bubbling, and I’d been blind to it. It came as a real shock. I couldn’t have imagined that not only were there people out in the world who were comfortable with the natural look and feel of their hair, they were celebrating it, and sharing it online. I gobbled up personal stories, photos and videos.

April ’10, Ballard Locks, Seattle – photo by Greg Stonebraker

six months prior to chopping off & starting fresh

Seattle became my home in the fall of 2009. It didn’t take me long to acclimate to the cooler weather, the many bodies of water, the mountains and the trees. The new, wet environment was perfect. I put some serious amount of time and consideration into not only returning to my nappy roots, but toying around with items with few to no chemically altering ingredients.

I had to transform the idea into action. This took a year; I’d grown attached to my fun, loud hair dyes. I managed to whittle down the use of them to absolutely nothing, got my head shaved (which wasn’t my first time), and went right to work on my first manageable ‘fro. I had support from my partner and friends, which I credit in part for my going forward.

December ’10, Skagit County, Washington

two months of new hair growth

It’s been a worthwhile learning experience thus far. I have attended natural hair workshops, purchased homemade natural hair care materials, and have even created my own. I can achieve an amazing amount of length when I remove harsh elements from the mix. I have returned to a mode that I grew up in, with a higher level of understanding and satisfaction.

keep in touch: black hair, representation & question marks

I’ve been dabbling in different hairstyles and colours ever since I felt I could safely get away with it. For me, the start of the experimentation began several years ago, long after I’d moved away from living with parental figures in the ‘burbs, and during college studies in a big city. I also happened to work in an environment that allowed for me to explore various hair dyes and lengths without being fearful of losing my position.


As I am living out the last few years of my twenties, I decided to go in a new direction – that of natural promotion of hair growth, and no more breaking down of hair via chemical straighteners such as relaxers. (I am undecided on hair straightening combs.)


Early last fall, I hacked off most of the hair I’d dyed purple previously and since then have been developing a small afro. I shop around for different conditioners suited to curly hair, various earthy balms and oils to massage into my scalp, etc. Only recently have I decided to share my progress in picture form on some of the more known social networking sites. It yielded a rather interesting message from someone dear to me in the past:

for much of the time I knew you (especially the earlier years) I always sorta had this feeling like you were somehow repressing/ignoring/whatever your race/ethnicity/heritage. I get the feeling these days that you’re more in touch with yourself (and, for better or worse, that tends to be a part of it), and I’m happy for you for that.

My initial reaction was to smile about it and say thank you. Days later I still feel as though that was the proper action to take, while also admitting that there were some elements of me that I was hiding within the jars of Manic Panic/squeeze bottles of Special Effects dye.


To be honest, it’s difficult for me to attempt to represent what my nationality seems outwardly because I don’t truly know it. I’ve been so curious about it at times I made up stories to suit me, which understandably led to a bit of trouble.


I was adopted at age six. I’ve no clue about the people who contributed to my birth, nor the alleged siblings. Usually, tackling serious life constraints have taken precedent over finding out any of this information, but now that things seem to be ironing out again, perhaps I can trudge forward with at least obtaining papers on medical information.




Back on point to the note I received. I DO feel I am more in touch with who I am as a person. I am definitely less introverted, but I have a long way to go before anyone will call me outgoing.


I don’t think I need funky hair colours to represent anything or get people to pay attention to me, but I still think of dyed hair as a lot of fun (and like most hair decisions, a pain in the arse to maintain)! Perhaps I’ll return to it in a while; I don’t pretend to know. I enjoy where I am now, and that’s enough.