By De Bajan Feminist
DISCLAIMER: This is a hard story for me to tell as it involves my ex partner, who from now on we will call X.This story took two years to make and one year to process enough to write. Within this piece I am not trying to advocate that queers and religious people can never have working relationships. I'm also not insinuating queer religious folks don't exist either. I am just exorcising an experience I am coming to grips with. Hopefully it can offer insights to help others avoid the mistakes made and ultimately save someone from all kinds of pain.
In my country we torch cane fields. Sometimes it's rebellious youngsters exploring their pyromanic compulsions. Sometimes it's landowners replenishing the soil. Sometimes it's the duppies of enslaved people enacting their final revenge on the crop that buried them. No matter who started it the flames leap,the barks crack, and the billowing black smoke blindfolds the open night sky.
The love X and I shared was like that.
We had no real business being together in the first place.
Like tall, dry grass ain't got no business playing with splint.
But we were troublemakers from the get go. The danger in the other made us like being together a little too much.
In nature dry grass never gets to know that it has a similar sense of humour to fire rock.
Or that they both love writing and performing.
Or that they both fight against social oppression.
Or that they both long to taste the bonfires on each other's lips.
But we were young and foolish and had a quota of disastrous choices to make. .
Just like the bush, neither of us knew we were burning until we were almost gone.
Weeks after we broke up we walked around like scorched land. Singed in places people couldn't see.If anyone was to ever ask a blackened cane field how it felt, it would’ve pointed to us and said: "Like them."
Megara from Disney’s Hercules said these sage words as she died due to the self-sacrifice she made for a demi-god: “People do crazy stuff when they are in love”. Now I’m pretty certain this truth isn’t absolute but I’ve seen people who love supreme beings and mere mortals, do some crazy shit in the name of that love. Even I must have internalised the “love” thing as an excuse to descend into lapsed judgement. Some of the actions I committed in the name of love were like maggots to the carcass of my common sense. For example: initiating a relationship with someone, despite the red flags flapping away like Donald Trump’s toupee, even before we held hands in public.
X was a Christian.
I was, and still am, not.
He would walk hours with Jesus in his heart. I grew to respect that, which was no small feat for a heathen like me. In secondary school I was told I had demons by my French teacher - I have always had a lot of trouble with religion.
As someone who grew up in the Caribbean and listened to historians preach more than pastors, I developed a dislike for how the faith was introduced to the populace and why.
The weaponising of a faith system strikes me as too problematic to reconcile, so I just just left it out of my life. He didn't like that. Even when he first found himself staring at my goofy smile, or doing silly things to make me laugh, he kept room between the two of us for the Holy Ghost when we touched.
Eventually I finally confessed my own spiritual understanding; based in ancient ancestral worship. It was fun breaking down my rituals and discussing how my practice had been demonised. There were some contentions but overall he understood. That was enough. But there was one sin in particular he could not forgive this pagan for.
I am a whole lot of queer. On my C.V I list under my skills, “rainbows shoot from every orifice”.
I have been with several women in the biblical sense.
I have been with several men in the biblical sense.
The Holy Book doesn’t like either very much.
Apparently the homosexuality thing is a little worse.
X knew this. X knew I was a queer queen since we were just friends who hung out at coffee shops. Yet once we were well in the capital of Relationship City it was my queerness that started the embers to leave us charred.
June 26th, 2015. SCOTUS had just passed the bill legalising same-sex marriage in all 50 states in the U.S.
I read it in England as I was prepping the peppers for Escovitch fish at the restaurant we both worked at. I smiled fiercely to myself. Thought the progress in the US could potentially lead to progress of the same kind in the Caribbean. There would hopefully be more pressure to dismantle more intolerant laws in the wake of such a massive human rights victory. Things were looking up!
I told X. He was unimpressed. “I can’t celebrate with you.” He said walking away.
My world imploded.
The man that I loved, the man I was willing to build a life with could not celebrate with a part of my identity. Even though he knew the stories. He knew of the ridicule and shame I had endured. Knew how I had seen my queer brothers,sisters and non-binaries suffer.
Yet he still looked at me, jaw hardened and eyes disgusted. I was disappointed with him and myself.
The fight that ensued that night was the fight that destroyed us.
No matter who started it the flames leap,the barks crack, and the billowing black smoke blindfolds the open night sky.
Love The Sinner Not The Sin
This whole idea of “Love the sinner not the sin” echoed as we battled to make it work. Yet every time I heard it I could hear the rifts breaking our solidity. This was a weak premise to build love on. By seeing me as a sinner I immediately felt judged by the person I was supposed to be most vulnerable with.
X was by no means the antagonist to this story, he was and undoubtedly still is, a great man. I just don’t think he was able to empathise with how painful the phrase was. I ended up likening it to someone saying “I love you, but not your skin colour” as both race and sexuality are heavily politicised aspects of our identities no one gets to choose. Additionally due to the oppressions both aspects strive to overcome in general society, they should not be parts you ever have to apologise for. Especially not to the one you hope to cause trouble in a seniors home with.
I found myself conflicted. After years of trying not to change his mind or wanting to erase aspects of his identity, apart of me really wanted to make him empathise with me. Even if it was just so he could accept me holistically.
I knew X loved and cared for me. I knew it couldn’t have been easy for him either. Deep inside himself he believed I was going to burn with Lucifer while he ate chakalaka with black Jesus.
That is a heavy burden to carry alone, but yet, whether as a form of preservation or not, I just let him bare it. Harshly thinking, “He’ll get over it” instead of wondering how do we work through this together.
The whole experience reinstated how paramount acceptance is in a relationship. We must properly accept who we are as individuals first. Then, in knowing ourselves attempt to truly accept who the other person is and what their individuality brings to the relationship. In retrospect, my adoration for him let my mind compromise on what that acceptance looked like.
I subconsciously filtered out the relationships I had with women when we spoke to preserve his comfortability. He filtered out how the words in the Bible granted him solace on the harder days. He walked to church rather than let me drive him, I got frustrated.
I spoke of queer discriminatory events to my best friend instead, he got frustrated.
Our conversations could never be as honest as they needed to be. Throughout the process X and I stopped saying how we really felt though we never stopped feeling it. He led me to believe he was more at peace with this topic than he was. I led him to believe I didn’t feel burdened to change on his behalf. In all this silence we neglected to be attentive of the effects it had on the other person.
It was this silence between us, and repetition of harmful rhetoric that turned all we had built into ash. And even though enough years have passed, and new, healthier lives have sprouted for us since, I still reflect on how naked, alone and yet free I felt when our field was set on fire.