When you are Black and queer, there is the racism of the wider LGBTQ community and society at large, and the fact that women who love women are, in general, a miniscule piece of the population. But what happens when there are things, even beyond the aforementioned characteristics, about YOU that makes dating even harder? I know that story all too well.
Hi everyone, I’m Shannon and I’m a Black lesbian. That is likely nothing too unusual for anyone reading this, but these things might be: I am also polyamorous and an atheistic Satanist.
For obvious reasons, these traits make dating very difficult. Even in the Black LGBTQ community, in my dating experience, I have been met with a tendency to monogamy and traditional Black Church Christianity. This comes despite the fact that many Black churches frown upon homosexuality, to put it generously. But that was how many of us were raised. I was no different.
I grew up in a traditional Southern Baptist Black church in South Carolina. I was that kid who got in trouble in Sunday school for questioning the details of the Bible and being super logical and inquisitive. By the time I was nine years old, I was pretty much completely agnostic. By seventeen, I was an atheist.
I decided to research the history of world religion myself with an open mind, from a scholarly perspective. I focused on Christianity, since that is the religion I had been raised to believe was the truth. I visited seminaries, talked to religious scholars, and even spoke with a priest who had lost his belief in any sort of higher power through his own scholarly pursuits, but remained in the church because he believed he could do more good on the inside than he could on the outside. The entire endeavor took about four years, and I came out of it believing that none of it was true. I was an atheist for life.
I had, since then, dabbled in atheistic paganism and other paths. I love gothic architecture and the ritual of things like witchcraft, but I never believed in anything supernatural again. Then, in 2014, I discovered the Satanic Temple. Instantly, I knew I was home. They rejected the tyranny of traditional organized religion, fought for reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and did everything they could to uphold the wall of separation between church and state. The closest thing they had to a holy book was Anatole France’s The Revolt of the Angels, a book that paints Satan as nothing more than a figure that rejected the jealousy, genocide, and authoritarianism of a tyrannical god. There are no theistic beliefs in this religion. Everything they believed, I believed. I was finally happy in a religious community.
Needless to say, this path is not one many Black folks take, or even find acceptable. That includes LGBTQ Black people. Most hear the word “Satanist” and assume I am evil and that I worship the devil and leave it at that. At the very least, I am mocked. It is an obvious deal breaker for many.
On top of that, I am polyamorous. I discovered this about myself around the age of 23. I did not have a word for the emptiness I would often feel when the honeymoon period of every monogamous relationship I had ever been in was over. I always found myself wanting for the ability to create other connections. It had nothing to do with my partner not being enough, which is the argument many poly people hear from partners who assume monogamy will be the structure the relationship will take. However, I was searching online in forums and articles relating to relationship advice and came across morethantwo.com. Just as the light bulb had gone on when I discovered the Satanic Temple, I knew that I finally had a word for what I am: I am polyamorous. That is my relationship orientation.
It was difficult getting poly right. It is a much more complicated relationship set up than a monogamous one. However, that is not the real kicker. I tell people I am interested in, or who have shown interest in me, that I am polyamorous by nature right out of the gate. It goes into the same category of “you have to know these things about me” facts: being a Satanist, being childfree for life, being out of the closet, and being politically progressive. Those are things that must match up with potential partners. I even put my ideal situation on my OKCupid profile:
“My dream life is living in a big, old, charming house on the bluffs in Massachusetts, Maine, California, or Oregon, right by the sea, where I can see the waves crash against the rocks. Think the house on that old movie “Practical Magic.” I would be in a non-hierarchial, egalitarian, polyamorous quad with 3 other childfree, atheist/Satanist/Pagan/heathen/witchy lesbians. We’d have a greenhouse and an herb garden that we tinkered with, and we’d go get fresh veggies and fruits from the market every day…oh, it would be heaven. Think “The Golden Girls,” living in harmony, loving one another, sharing our lives, only with polyamorous lesbians.
(Obviously, this is only a dream and will likely never materialize, but it sure feels nice to write it out!)”
The problem is, though, no matter how explicitly I explain this to people, many women believe that they can change me. They will say they are willing to learn, that it is not a deal breaker, only to do all they can to rope me into a “just the two of us” situation. When I tell them I am about to make other connections, they act victimized and say things like, “Am I not enough for you?” or “What can someone else give you that I can’t?” I wind up having to calmly remind them that I told them this from the beginning, and that it was a fact about me that I cannot change and would not if I could. It is not about them. Polyamory is my relationship orientation just like gay is my sexual orientation. What they are saying to me in these situations is no different from a man trying to make a lesbian straight.
So, yes, those two traits make for some pretty interesting dating situations. People don’t often accept what they don’t understand. However, hopefully stories like mine will show people that there is more than one way to live, worship, and love. Being LGBTQ, it would seem that more people would realize that, but often that is simply not the case. However, there is someone – or in my case, several someones! – out there for everyone. We all just have to move forward positively and fearlessly, all while being true to ourselves.