February 1, 2010

Interracial Lesbian Relationships: A Swell Endeavor

Hey yall! I'm Veronica Ray, the newest addition to the roster of bloggers at Our Lives. I play rugby, do HIV counseling and aspire to be a power lesbian when I grow up. My future posts will probably deal with race, economics, business, international news, fashion and art.

“Wouldn’t it be cool to have interracial friendship cards? Like a little white girl kissing a little black girl on the cheek and inside it says something like “Thanks for being such a great friend!” ?

Race is a popular topic at Duke. I feel like any post about race can quickly fall into the trap of rehashing the same ideas and grievances without really getting anywhere. With that disclaimer I hope I can begin an article that offers a personal perspective on my experience with race in the gay community.

My preference for black women has become a running joke with my friends both in and outside of the center. If I innocently tell a friend that I met a cool girl named Chantel, chances are she’ll reply “Oh….you WOULD be friends with a girl named Chantel.” If I tell you I’ve met a girl “of the hue that I seek” it means I’ve met a special African-American and I won’t be surprised if you joke that I’m mess for getting so worked-up. Though I am currently flamboyant about my love of black women, I didn’t acknowledge my preference till after I graduated from high school. I never wanted my interest in black women to be simply “jungle fever”- objectifying women as exotic objects who I thought fulfilled certain sexual stereotypes.

The first time I told someone that I was interested in black girls she replied “Hmm…I can’t exactly agree…black girls are so ghetto.” I found this comment strange because I have always been interested in educated, accomplished women regardless of their ethnicity. Where I grew up many people, including me, were mired in ignorance of the black community. Some friends in high school would throw around the N word in an attempt taunt my best friend, who is part black. After she went off on me for asking what part black she was when we were 14 I considered race an off limits topic. I secretly looked down on her for not fighting back against racist comments. I felt like I could tell her anything about my sexuality and I hoped she wasn’t keeping any of her thoughts from me. I realized after telling my best friend about my preferences that race was never an off limits topic for us. When I described race relations at Duke to her, she revealed that she identified with white culture. It was then I realized that our whole life I had put her in a box she never felt comfortable in.

Though I had “come-out” to myself about my preferences, I was still intimidated by the prospect of approaching an actual black woman. Before I left for college a friend scared the shit out of me by saying that she didn’t think black lesbians dated white lesbians. It seems ridiculous now, but I spent a lot of time finding examples of interracial lesbian relationships to prove my friend wrong. I thought no black girl I met would want to date me. I now know that some people are equally worried that I wouldn’t be interested in them because of their race! The many revelations I’ve experienced are a testament to how na├»ve I was when I entered Duke. Even after growing up among Mexican Catholics and with a family full of different ethnicities black America was still a dark continent. After being at Duke for a few months my interest in black woman remained theoretical. It wasn’t until I started telling the queer black women I met that I was interested in black women that I started getting the attention I was looking for. It was not as difficult as my friends back home led me to believe! I don’t think indicating my preferences was necessary, but it took away the lack of confidence and tension I felt due to the myths I heard growing up.

I am still sometimes amazed at my own ignorance. I read the book Hair Story at my girlfriend’s recommendation and afterwards we watched the hilarious Chris Rock documentary Good Hair. When it comes to black hair, instead of a dark continent I now see a dimly lit path. I don’t need to be a black hair expert to know that doing my girlfriend’s hair is bonding time that I look forward to each week. It’s not like my girlfriend and I talk about race all the time (though we might talk more than usual due to my academic interest in ethnic conflict, international relations, and urban studies); she just can’t help noticing things that I don’t. We joke about how a PDA-loving interracial lesbian couple is a unique sight on Duke’s campus and a rare one in the media. In addition to making interracial friendship cards, I’ll expand my business to interracial relationship cards. A simple drawing of a short white girl kissing a tall black girl is all I need. So I can say “Look! That’s us!” and mean it. As I like to say: when it comes to people, ghosts, chocolate, clothing and tea, black makes everything better. The only thing that black doesn’t improve is tenting.

15 comments:

  1. Good post Veronica!!! Congratulations on your first one. =) I think this is a really interesting writing because you're reflecting on what it's like to be a minority in a minority, in a minority. (Female, interracial, same-sex relationship.) Duke needs more people like you! If for anything, just to show that there is more than one way to be a woman at Duke.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ummm I loved reading this. I think about race so much, probably at unhealthy levels at this point. I don't know anything about your family situation, or if you feel comfortable talking about this on the blog (we can talk more later in person if that is better) but I was just curious about your family's acceptance of different races, or same-sex for that matter?

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is Veronica Ray.

    I already sent you a message about this on facebook, but just for full-disclosure race is a completely non issue in my family. I have relatives who are Asian, Hispanic and Middle-eastern. My parents are in full support of my sexuality though some members of my extended family don't know yet. I would love to write more blog posts about race but I'll have to find a way to link it to the LGBT community. Tiffany and I plan to watch a movie about black stud lesbians soon so I might write about that. I think it also might be cool to interview queer people of different backgrounds (Muslim, Asian-American, international, Hispanic, ect) about how their race relates to their experiences as a queer person. I appreciate all the feedback I can get :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. this is great! i'm looking forward to your future posts!

    ReplyDelete
  5. i love it! thanks for sharing! and just something i was curious about - do you get any surprised reactions to being in a relationship with someone outside of your own ethnicity? versus only expressing a preference?

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is Veronica Ray

    Katrice: I haven't gotten many surprise reactions at Duke, but then again most everyone is aware of my preference so they're more happy for me than surprised. I haven't noticed any reactions from strangers. My black lezbro was really surprised and said it was "hot" that I was dating a black girl. A Pakastani friend of mine sarcasticly said "If that's what you're into" when I described my girl friend "as tall, black, and boyish." Back home (I'm from San Antonio, TX) I would probably get more insensetive responses- jokes about sexual stereotypes, refrences to my "jungle fever", or disbelief that I would be with someone "ghetto."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey Veronica. First off, I think you're pretty brave for talking about this subject, and not being afraid to get personal about your preferences. But I'm still curious- why black women? What about them especially draws your interest, if you can even pin that down? And is that question an uncomfortable one for you?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I don't think it's an uncomfortable question, but I do think people can pose it in a way that puts me on my guard. Some people don't think black woman are a legit object of desire and think there's something wrong with me for liking them. I don't want to be tricked into admitting that I'm only attracted to stereotypes or that I have an insidious motive.
    Here's a short list of things I like that can be atrributed to some black women. There's no way I can avoid putting some stereotypes:
    Dark skin (I also like South Asian women for this reason)
    The texture of natural black hair
    The texture of relaxed black hair
    Full lips
    Beautiful dark eyes
    The way they speak
    Our differences
    Their strength
    Their history

    It's important to note that while I may have a well-known preference for black womoen, I have dated people of many diffferent backgrounds and will countinue to do so. Intelligence and compassion will always be the most important qualities in someone I date.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Speaking of people who get shit for their preferences: white men who prefer Asian women. Many people assume that white men are solely interested in Asian women who fulfill certain sexual stereotypes. If that is true, the "preference" has racist undertones, but in the majority of cases it is just a preference. As Chantel hinted at, preferences are irrational and difficult to articulate.
    The excellent graphic novel Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine addresses the double standard between white man/asian woman relationships and asian man/white woman relationships.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you for your post Veronica! I am 23 year old an African-American counseling grad student and I date a White woman. Some situations you mentioned are conversations me and my girlfriend have had. I used to wear braids and she’d help me take them out and I appreciated the time we spent together doing that as did she. I have met ghetto Black people and I have also met ghetto White people, unfortunately “ghettoness” crosses all racial lines. I think your friends may be a problem. Generally Black people, well I’ll use myself, I know when my girlfriends friends are suspicious of me due to unflattering stereotypes about my race. When you get a chance read White privilege by P. McIntosh. Racial identity among the Black race is a serious issue (also read Cross’s Nigrescence theory- expanded) that I am working on personally and socially. I too love black women because historically all the women in my life have been strong, smart, beautiful and Black. My girlfriend is White and she is just as smart, beautiful, and strong, maybe even more than the African-American women I have admired growing up. I dare say interracial relationships are harder for White women because it’s a intentional decision to choose a partner of that race but being Black, gay, female and in an interracial relationship is difficult because we are born into a society that automatically oppresses that group. Black women are great, I agree wholeheartedly but why do you feel the need to proclaim your love for this demographic so much? For me it just seems suspicious and I don’t even know you! I wish you all the best and hope you find what you need!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm 14 n I'm black n I'm dating a white girl n it's this article makes me realli happi cuz u don't hear about this alot not to mention most blck girls my age look dwn upon lesbians no matter wat I'm In the closet still....jessica my gf she's surpriseing ok with it but I'm jus worried n a lil scared cuz I've been taught gays n lesbians r bad n I'm worried of wat ppl will thnk of us bein different races lik we look so different we have differ hair types n everythng I'm her first blck gf nshes my first GF ever!!! How do ppl react wen they c u n ur gf??

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great topic and view. As an African American woman, I find that it's not likely to see an interracial relationship in terms of black/white very often. They exist, obviously, but it seems as though it's still this taboo like thing. I can see why, because its still something strange to see in the heterosexual world (and that's supposed to be the "normal" world.)

    Most people date inside their race, including the LGBT community, although we're definitely improving on that, but people do it because it's comfortable. We know our race and the stereotypes surrounding it. Why would we delve out of comfort zone and learn and experience someone else's culture? But in terms of dating outside your community, interracial relationships aren't as common between black/whites. Your more likely to see people dip their feet into the Hispanic pool or the Asian pool than the black one.

    I'm not sure if it's because African Americans seem to give off the impression that they don't date outside their community or vice versa. Other factors may be that when one thinks black, their first thought isn't sophisticated, educated, beautiful or any of that. It's ghetto, loud, hood, uneducated. The media plays a large part in that and also the countries perception of blacks due to issues with rights and slavery back in the day.

    African Americans aren't—our culture isn't often understood and people tend to group us into the same category. I have friends that call me white, because I'm educated and carry myself well. Why is that associated with whites but not blacks? Why is it that when I open my mouth people are surprised to hear "hello, how are you?" Were they expecting "oooh guuurl how you doin?" But with these types of prejudices and stereotypes surrounding African Americans its not likely that many people will want to chance a date with one. Straight, bi, lesbian or gay.

    The topic of beauty is complicated. I like to believe everyone has their own tastes and you can be attracted to whoever. But it seems as though not many people view blacks as attractive. Whether its because of our large features and not small European ones, or because of our dark skin. It might be because of our hair texture, permed, not permed, or weave filled? I don't know, but lots seems to flee to the other races. Maybe it's because they don't understand, who knows.

    Personally, I love white girls and am a full supporter of interracial relationships, especially in the LGBT community. I would love to see more of those types of relationships spring up.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am a 28 y.o. dyke Russian immigrant (obviously white) and genuinely attracted to Black women not only to the physical features - although Black women are gorgeous! - but also to the personalities and expression. Strangely, although I am white, culturally I do connect more with African Americans, somehow it feels like at home (Russia), the way people relate to each other, deal with emotions, problems and so on. I have never dated a Black woman though - I feel shy and insecure... maybe because some white women have been attracted to me, but never a single Black woman expressed any interest. Now, I have the biggest crush on one Black woman I know but somehow I don't think she is interested in me because I am white and do not share her history.
    ...Race has been on my mind recently, I am trying to educate myself more as a white person wanting to be an ally... but, then it is difficult to be Russian white and not relate to American white people at all although being perceived as one... do you have any thoughts on that one? thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Comrade I have just stumbled upon this blog. I read what you had to say and found it sweet. I hope everything has gone well for you and that you did find the courage to go after what you want.

      Delete
  14. hi all. I live on a small peninsula, very rural. the races are defined as black, white, Mexican, which to me is crazy. Over the years, the interracial relationships amongst the black men and white women have skyrocketed here, and there are lots of biracial children, most of whom are being raised in a household with grandparents who didn't like mixing races, or African Americans period, so I am glad to see that change and this area become a melting pot. This is the "Bible Belt" and gays are not really accepted here. The only gays you see here are Caucasian, mostly lesbian. The black community is so religious here, that there are lot of closeted relationships. Only the studs, or tomboyish girls come out, there are no femmes here in the black community. I think they are all either fake heterosexual relationships, and sneaking around with women. I am a rare femme AA woman who was in an interracial relationship for two years. I too was closeted because of my faith, which cost me my relationship. I still grieve it, but losing her made me come out to my mom, which was hard to do when your heart is broken. The black community still has a long way to go in rural areas, in which there is a church on every corner, and everybody knows everybody. I wish I hadn't worried about what my family would think of me. I have a cousin going through lots of anxiety now because she can't come out, and my mom has already told me she won't visit me if I get into another lesbian relationship, and I was very upset that as a religious woman she was rude, disrespectful, and racist about my interracial relationship. My girlfriend's family opened their hearts and their homes to me, they just hated to see her long to be with me in my circles, and from which I excluded her. She dated black women her whole life and lost her virginity to one, but she finally got tired of the loneliness and embarrassment of being openly gay in a closeted relationship, that she now is in her first all white lesbian relationship. She says it feels so good not to hide, told me she loved me and asked me to forgive her. I could be happy for her if she didn't cheat, and move in with another woman, someone she hardly knew, but I can't. My pain made me hate her, and I am glad she's not in the area anymore. lesbians do everything so fast, she was posting facebook pictures of her new relationship within weeks of our breakup. I am attracted to other races, mainly white women, but in this area they don't look at black women that way, and they openly say that they would sleep with a black man before they would a black woman, and that is hurtful, but again its true to this area and the ignorance the other races have about black women. I am college educated and professional, and my white girlfriend dropped out of high school, got her GED and went through a million different jobs. I never judged her, I tried to encourage her to go back to school, and to stay on a job long enough to get benefits. She has now passed that on to her new girlfriend, they both are students, and I like to thank I had something to do with her wanted to better herself. If I plan to pursue another interracial relationship, I'm going to have to leave this area or meet someone online.

    ReplyDelete