Written by Zamara Perri
Closeted black lesbians exist because being out and proud is not an option for every member of the queer or LGBT community. The fact is that being out by choice is an absolute privilege.
Because society automatically assumes that feminine women are straight, we can often pass more easily than butch women.
In the queer community closeted women are often looked at with suspicion and disrespect. But being closeted doesn’t mean she’s not great dating material. There are many reasons why some women stay in the closet and those reasons are all valid.
Some women remain in the closet because they don’t want to deal with custody issues with their exes, or they need the support of family or they could lose their jobs if they were to ever come out.
I completely understand many of the reasons why a woman would choose to stay in the closet. Why? Because I’ve been in the closet. For 10 years I worked for a homophobic organization, went to a homophobic church and was surrounded by a conservative, Jamaican family.
While I always knew that I loved women, I was too afraid to share that information with everyone.
During my first relationship with a woman, I was terrified of being found out. I spent YEARS lying to everyone about who I was because I was afraid of losing my job, afraid of losing my church friends, afraid of going to hell, afraid of losing my family and even afraid of being assaulted by random men who were angry that I wasn’t interested in them.
Living a double life was torture. But fear of loss was more powerful than my desire for freedom. I only came out when I felt safe.
In a way I was lucky because my girlfriend at the time was very understanding and very committed to our relationship. She didn’t push me to come out of the closet because she herself was half in the closet. She didn’t talk about our relationship with her family and her co-workers, but she was very active in the lesbian community.
Most of us don’t get to choose who we fall in love with, but we do get to choose whether we want to stick around. So before you hook up, cuddle buddy with or fall in love with a closeted femme, you need to know these 9 things:
1. Black women are very community oriented.
We tend to be big on church and family. It is more difficult for religious black women to feel comfortable coming out after spending decades reading a book and belonging to an organization that preaches against same-sex relationships every chance they get. And because our families tend to be religious too, we fear their judgment and isolation.
2. Be patient and don’t pressure her.
Undoing painful teachings and misinformation takes time. The person she needs the most support from is the woman who claims to love her.
3. Know that she is in pain.
Shame and fear are two powerful emotions and have been effectively used to shackle black people as a whole. A supportive partner tries to remember that. And honestly, when she feels supported and respected by her partner, she will feel safer coming out.
4. Live your truth and respect her journey.
If your partner is committed to you and treats you with respect, her being closeted does not necessarily have to affect you authentically living your truth. All relationships involve negotiation. Do your best to respect each other’s boundaries and fulfill each other’s needs.
5. Even if you’re out and proud, you are not always out.
Unless you are 110 percent butch, none of us are out 100 percent of the time. Sometimes it’s easier and safer to pass than having to explain yourself to random strangers. And sometimes your relationship situation is just not relevant to every situation.
6. Living a double life is exhausting.
When talk of romance came up at work or at family gatherings, it was easier for me to say I was single than dating a fictional boyfriend. Lying didn’t feel good. Understand that it is so much work keeping up a fictional life. Eventually she will get tired of it.
7. Being closeted shouldn’t rule her out as a girlfriend/partner/wife potential.
Just like anything else in life, judge people by the entirety of her character not by her fears. If she honors your relationship in every other way, she may be worth the wait.
8. Celebrate her small steps.
While it would be nice to always be out to all the people who matter to her, it’s not always possible. Be encouraging and supportive of the areas of her life where she feels free to be “out.” Before I came out to my family, I felt safer being out to our friends and my partner was okay with that.
9. She chose you for a reason.
It is a big deal for a closeted woman to date an out person. That means she is choosing to deal with all the challenges that comes along with that. Dating you is not easy for her either. All relationships have their challenges, and we can learn and gain so much from them if we learn to accept each other where we are.
Photo by @nickwoolleyphotography (IG)
Follow the models on IG @kassalaholdsclaw & @thesheenashow