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The Proud, Lesbian Woman

 
Who are you?
I am 38 years old. I am an attorney, living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and about to start my own law practice. I was born in Guyana and left in 1990 for the US to live with my father. I have one son who is 8 years old. I am a lesbian and I've been openly gay for the past 5 years.
 
How was your childhood?
I grew up very sheltered. I was aware of my same-sex desires but did not know what to make of them. The word 'lesbian' entered my consciousness at 21, when I was in college. I'd just gotten my mind blown by reading the Temple of My Familiar, a novel written by Alice Walker. It opened me up to the idea that I was in control of my sexuality, that it was something that was organic to me and that I did not have to conform to other people's views. I did not act on what was awakened in me immediately though. In fact, I married a man.
 
What about your relationships?
My marriage was actually great. I was married to a man who was emotionally mature and open and allowed me to be as much of myself as I wanted. Today, we are very good friends – which is great, because there is less stress on our son. Since I've been out, I've been in 2 relationships. While they were both great, they were not without their challenges. To begin with, relationships are not easy – add to that the pressure of being in a same-sex relationship and you can have the makings of a very difficult time. With respect to what I like in women – emotional maturity, intelligence, genuineness and spiritual groundedness.
 
What has been your experience being Guyanese in the US?
I still retain some aspects of Guyanese identity - the culture, the accent, the food, the wider perspective with respect to politics and the world in general. I don't feel that close to Guyanese because I find some of them very traditional in their views. Living in the US has been good for me mainly because the experience of living in a society as an adult that is so different from the one that I was raised in, has allowed me to grow in ways I never imagined.
 
How is your relationship with your son?
I love my son and I'm totally in awe of the person that he is becoming. I came out to him as soon as I thought that he could understand what it meant – he was 4 years old. He is very understanding and does not have a problem with my sexual orientation. At times he expresses that he wishes that his Dad and I were together – in response, I've told him that although I love his Dad, I don't love husbands and didn't want one. That's worked as an explanation so far. He goes to a progressive school where there's an LGBT parents' association and he speaks quite openly about his home life - in fact, he was just interviewed for a piece on the experience of children of LGBT parents at his school for a conference.
 
How do you express your spiritual side?
I'm working on that: I am starting on the path of the Buddha - I meditate more or less everyday and I've started doing yoga. I'm on the verge of being a vegetarian, but not quite there yet because I don't have the time to plan my meals properly and my son LOVES meat. At this point, I'm not doing any specific type of yoga, but as I continue to practice, I will find the type that's right for me. What I like about buddhism is how much like common sense it is and how much it focuses on making us look inside ourselves for the answers to everything that ails us, instead of to other folk or the outside world and how it requires that you not bullshit yourself, but embrace your truth. From my perspective, being grounded spiritually is one of the most important things - it makes for a happy life and healthy relationships and I'm all about healthy relationships and interactions with our world and with other people.
 
How is your relationship with your family?
My family has been very supportive – in fact, when I came out to them, I was told that I was not the first, I already had 2 family members who identified as gay. They want to see me happy. I think if we had stayed in Guyana, it would have been more difficult for me to live in a way that felt real and true to me.
 
You worked for the Obama campaign?
I loved it. I worked on his campaign ... it was a study in efficiency and of a situation where finally, the person that needed to win, did. I am still feeling good, but watching him to make sure that he's staying true to his values - so far he is. I worked on his campaign because the alternative was well ... "Ugh": Leading up to the primary when he was trying to get the democratic nomination, I worked as an election court lawyer for his campaign making sure that the election board in my county followed its own rules  and then on election day I worked at the polling station in my neighborhood and in election court, ensuring that people who needed emergency ballots were able to get them.
About Iraq - he does seem to be acquiescing to the troops staying there a bit longer - but they're supposed to be coming back sooner rather than later. About LGBT folk: I think that he could do more here - the test will come with this new challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act by some couples from Massachusetts. I am neither for or against marriage for same-sex couples, just for our relationships to be treated equally under all laws. I would like for the Obama administration to end the discrimination against lesbians and gays in the military and to make sexual orientation a protected category under the relevant federal laws.
 
What sort of work would like to do for the LGBT community?
In the US: I would like to work with LGBT youth, many of whom are displaced and homeless, as well as with people who are HIV positive. In Guyana: one thing that I think I would like to do, is have a frank conversation with young people about the importance pf being able to define their lives for themselves and to live life doing what makes them happy. In many instances, I imagine that this would include a conversation about sexuality and sexual orientation and I would encourage them to try to think through the ideas on sexuality and sexual orientation and make an informed decision about their own sexuality. To be able to do this, I would have to somehow gain the trust and respect of young folk ... admittedly a difficult task … but even in the face of scorn and ridicule, if one person gains the courage to embrace his or herself, it would've been worth it.
 
Do you think you will come back to Guyana in the future?
I would have to feel safe, which would require a combination of me loosening up a bit and Guyana enacting and enforcing laws that protect LGBT folk. I would have to let go of whatever fears that I have around being physically hurt by living openly in Georgetown. My immediate plans are to build a successful law practice; raise an emotionally responsible son; stay on my spiritual path; and find long-lasting love.