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What I've Learned From My Romantic Relationships as a Queer Black Woman1/30/2015
by C. Imani Williams I've acquired quite the portfolio of memories from years of dating, as well as three marriages. The lesson...
I've acquired quite the portfolio of memories from years of dating, as well as three marriages. The lessons have been considerable. One of the most important things I've learned as a bi-attracted queer black woman is to sync my bullsh*t radar with my appreciation for stimulating conversation. I’ve written about some other important lessons learned about myself, relationships, and what I need from a partner from the men and women I’ve dated. Hopefully, these lessons will guide me when I'm ready to enter into my next relationship.
Talk to MeMy most important lessons on dating have come from establishing and utilizing interpersonal communication skills. This means, I listen and observe closely. When I've gotten sloppy about paying attention, I have wasted time and energy. People who date—whether casual, serious, or serial in nature—know that people show up with their façade, which may have nothing to do with who or what they are really about. Life and lessons have taught me to not be in such a rush to share everything about myself in one fell swoop.
Who Are You For Real?Female or male, I want to know who you are. On a real-deal level. There have been times when I enjoyed a person’s company and liked hanging out, but wasn't in the emotional space for a relationship, and I've said that. The favor has not always been returned. I've had to give the side-eye more than a few times. I could have sworn we had an understanding. What the hell was that four-hour conversation about anyway? I thought we were on the same page, crystal clear. We both wanted to take things to the next level. Who knew I was supposed to unravel coded information that really meant we were going to hang out only when it was convenient for the other person and even then, with various limitations.
Real Deal or Bullsh*tter?Learning about people requires spending quality time together. Only then are we able to see if they are a bullsh*itter or if they are real with the truths they purport to present. As a Gemini I have learned the hard way to feel a situation out before jumping in with both feet and an available (if not totally open) heart. I have managed more than a few times to get in my own way. By virtue of my awesome Twinness, I love to talk just as much as I enjoy learning about a person’s character and what makes them tick. A major lesson has been to incorporate balance into the process. Note: All that glitters ain't gold.
The Three C'sThe criteria I use for deciding if I will spend time with someone is actually quite short. I require consistency, compassion, and creativity. Three things that are not hard to give and things one can do a lot with, if they are really interested in getting to know me. Good conversation and a walk on the beach work for me. I am impressed more with how a person treats their family and strangers, than with the amount of money they have.
On Money MattersI believe if you are interested in getting to know someone, money should not be the main factor. Interested parties needn't feel threatened that I'm gauging their worthiness by the number of zeros in their checking account. I wouldn't be that shallow. Plus fair is fair: On many days I'm hustling to pay bills. I'm a working artist, so who am I to judge?
Communication Is KeyI expect and express that interested parties step to me with an open mind and that they communicate. Of course I have some pet peeves—the first being a person who only communicates through text messages and/or texts in shorthand. What the heck is that about? It makes me feel like I'm not worth their time. You can send a text while doing other things which means, I may or may not have your full attention. And when text is in shorthand and abbreviations, I don't know if you can spell. That's a real problem for me. Lesson: If texting is all a person can do, they aren't ready to handle my communication needs. I believe that communication is key. I'm not a teenager; when I date I need a grown up. Less texting, more face time. The old fashion kind. Please and thank you.
Who Yo' People?Nice girls get invites home to meet mama. I do recall that Troy invited Robin home to meet his mama in Waiting to Exhale, so there are exceptions to this being a deal-breaker or deal-maker. In general, hook-ups and side chicks don't get an invite. I looked back into my dating past and there were surely people who took me home and there were those who didn't. If I wasn't serious about the person, they were not meeting my folks or my kids.
Gender GamesAs I identify as queer and have had relationships with both men and women, I have been asked often, “Which gender is more on the up and up?” The answer is: It depends on the person. I had it twisted before I started dating women. I thought that because we were both women, there would be fewer games played and more soulful connections. Don't believe the hype. People are people, and we all come with our share of baggage.
I Admit to My ImperfectionI have shared deeper and more intimately with women. However, I feel badly for my first girlfriend. I was new to being out as a Same Gender Loving (SGL) woman. She caught hell from my family. It was a long, hard haul for them to overcome their homophobia, my children included. What I learned from that situation is I have no desire to be the first for someone questioning or tip-toeing into the SGL world. There is too much to work out on a personal level—especially for Black women, where we are at-risk of losing our family and support networks. Even though I stood up for my first girlfriend and what we had going, it was very hard. I had no idea when we started dating that fifteen years later, I would reclaim my affinity and attraction for men. Gemini Duality. Bi-Attracted. (I don't say bi-sexual because even though I am a sexual being, I am currently celibate.
Best LessonThe best lesson I have learned on my dating journey is to be true to myself. I don't place myself in situations where sex can become an issue. I'm celibate and not currently dating. I needed the time—five years and counting—to get to know me without being responsible for nurturing another person in a relationship. Sex is good and I miss it, but my journey continues. I take note of all of the dating lessons I have learned and I feel stronger and better equipped to present my best self while demanding the best in return, when the time comes.
What lessons have you learned from being your previous relationships?
C. Imani Williams, is a freelance writer and human justice activist. She holds an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and a Masters in Guidance and Counseling from Eastern Michigan University. Her work has been published in Between the Lines, Tucson Weekly, The Michigan Citizen, The Harlem Times, and with various popular culture, health, news blogs and magazines.