For a lot of LGBTQ people, coming out of the closet is hard. In fact, it’s more than hard, it can be dangerous and traumatic.
It often involves distinguishing ourselves from our peers and loved ones when most of us desperately just want nothing more than to fit in. We find ourselves needing to be brave and strong at a time when we are actually most vulnerable. A lot of us grow up surrounded by really well-meaning straight people who just don’t know how to deal with non-straight family members. Many more of us grow up around people who are less well-meaning and judge us harshly for the way we were born or who we chose to love.
These truths make lot of our “firsts” intricately complicated. Our first loves, our first sexual experiences, our first heart break, and our first encounters with bigotry are all heightened when we throw race and gender into the mix.
Not only do we have to deal with a sexuality that wasn’t normalized and openly discussed during our childhoods and puberty, but we also have to navigate a whole different system of oppression in order to find that thing most people are so desperate to find…Love.
Finding representations that show how joyous and simultaneously devastating same sex love can be is difficult. Despite the difficulty in finding these love stories, we must search for them none the less, and uplift these representations when we do find them so that Black female love is not only normalized but eventually celebrated just as much as heteronormative love.
The codification of coming out stories is vitally important. They help connect us through shared experiences and emotions in compelling and recognizable ways. Bingo Love is a recently released graphic novel written by Tee Franklin. The novel tells the story of two high school aged girls, Hazel and Mari, who meet in the 1960’s.
At first, they are unsure of what to call their feelings for one another, but eventually they come to realize that they are deeply in love with each other. Their romance is short lived however, when their families find out and forbid the girls from seeing each other. Their love is met with fear, anger, and distress. In order to appease their outraged and distraught loved ones and quite frankly seeing no other way to fit into their community, the women eventually end up marrying men. They spend the next forty years raising families and pretending to be happily fulfilled.
When they see each other by chance at a church bingo game they realize that their love for each other never wavered and they rekindle their relationship. Their love was true, their feelings were real and undeniable, and eventually their families realize that these women deserve to finally feel the undeniable fulfillment of true love and devotion.
This comic is a wonderful, kind, thoughtful, and accessible testament to the power of love over misunderstanding and prejudice.
Franklin shows the elation and wonder surrounding two girls who move from best friends to lovers to soul mates in a beautiful and memorable way. In a world where all the love is straight, and all the options are oppressive, these women had to write their own story. They found freedom in bravery and took a chance to find the love they knew they deserved. This book made me examine what my own relationship with love was, and just how that relationship was shaped.
Black lesbian love is one of the bravest loves in existence.
Under the weight of social and sexual oppression, Black women who love each other do whatever it takes to make their love work. It is a constant struggle and fight to be seen for who we are, instead of the fears and prejudices they represent in the eyes of a heteronormative and puritanical society.
This story is an inspiration for those of us who still struggle to find a balance between wanting to fit into a community that misunderstands us and the need to find a love that fulfills us. It is a testament to how confusing finding love can be when there is not even a hint of a blueprint to guide us. It’s important that we have stories like this in print. It’s important that we own stories like this and people see these stories as normal.
The more we tell our stories, the more we see our stories, the easier it is for the generations who come after us to live their truths from the start.