I was raised Christian, not just any Christian but the God fearing, never miss a Sunday dancing in the pews, attended every Sunday school and prayer meeting type. I was raised in Kingston, Jamaica and immigrated here on my own at 18 years old with enough money for my first year’s tuition at University and $500 to start a new life. Like any “good” girl I found a church, three jobs, finished school and got married at 21 years old.
Several years later I found myself fleeing the house I bought, with my baby and all the material things I thought made a home. Forced to re-define love and re-evaluate my life, my desires, my politics and even my sexuality I felt betrayed by religion, heteronormative societal pressures for what love should be like, should look like and feel like.
Then I met her, and she made me feel whole so I ignored the controlling ways and discovered what an orgasm should feel like. When I gathered enough strength to move on, I met this smooth talking, tall drink of butch in the streets, basketball playing, two-timing lover. Shortly after this was over and while recouping from mental health trauma, I found myself entangled in a love affair with a serious catch: this beautiful mother of two with a passion for children’s rights. Of course I was in no way ready for this and squandered her love in favour of a sexy and confident gender queer person I met at a play party. They were this intense radicalized fag/femme who was down for the cause and knew my body better than even I did; so naturally I was hooked. I learnt everything about grassroots community organizing from them and even picked up a few blood vessels popping, pinky toe crossing techniques of my own.
Yet here I am: willfully single, married only to the revolution and no closer to finding that elusive sex, love and desire killer combination in a partner. Maybe the secret lies in exploring polyamory (consensual, honest non-monogamy) & open marriages like Andre Shakti and her partners, or in sologamy (marrying myself) like Kyisha Williams; or it's back where I started in monogamy like Aisha Fairclough and Jill Anderson.
One thing’s for sure: the revolution isn’t unfaithful, controlling or intimately violent. But it doesn’t keep me warm at night; for that I have central heat, a warm blanket and these good friends to lend us their wisdom.
These powerful first person accounts have been edited for clarity
Merlin and Helen Hargreaves
For me, being queer means that activism and desire are inextricably bound up together. Merlin and I both came out when we were teenagers in the late nineties. Activism was necessary for us to engage in the sweetness of young love. Holding hands with our sweethearts required political organizing. Then through the early 2000s things rapidly improved so that by the time we met in 2009, we could walk through our city safely. We were both out at work. We could get married and we did, in 2009. We tried to make the wedding radically queer. It included a flash mob of our friends singing 'A Short History of Gay Marriage In Canada"
The next few years brought a lot of joy, like the birth of our daughter, but also some big hard struggles that rocked and challenged our relationship. I think activism is a key part of what has kept us together though these hard times. Being politically engaged has always given us things to talk about, but activism gives us projects, goals and hopes. The more we connect with people doing the work (rather than people talking about the work), the more we understand where we can pitch in. All of this working together increases our connection to each other and our sense of optimism. Having big important goals outside of our family helps us come together with more appreciation and sweetness.
I was at a conference this weekend, organizing with an anti-racist lens. People kept asking me what organization I was with. Eventually, after not really knowing how to articulate what my activism and organizing is like, I started introducing myself as "I'm Merlin from Me-And-My-Wife" and explaining what we do.
Helen and I just do the things that are needed. When someone has an ask, a need, we try to fill it. It's like micro organizing in that we try to look around for who needs us. As two white women, our voices are actually quite well represented, so we try to do the things required to lift up the voices of those who aren't; specifically Black and trans* folks. Sometimes, that's holding babies, sometimes that's feeding people, sometimes it's sewing banners, other times it means standing up physically for people. It's part of our marriage and our lives.
On January 3, 2014 I committed to loving myself fully and completely. In a loving environment that was carefully curated, five very close friends witnessed this wonderful revolutionary act of self-love. Together, we committed to holding each other accountable in loving ourselves. Funny thing is I had no idea how beautiful and happy my wife (meaning I) was until I saw her in our wedding pictures.
I came to this revolutionary idea through self-reflection, and the realization that society places a lot of pressure on the external presentations of love. The only way for me to access that external role was by myself, working from the inside out.
As a Black woman I keenly understand the politics of desirability
"The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.
The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.
The most neglected person in America is the black woman."
It is not only revolutionary but necessary to to focus on myself. Black women—Black femmes especially—are so very hard on ourselves, and it’s the polar opposite of where I needed to be. By marrying myself, I gave myself permission to accept some kindness, some gentleness and to make sure my needs are met on a microcosmic level.
My activism and my desire bleed into each other. I want to heal and love all people. Because of my life experiences, I know that I must center Black people and Black communities I desire to love upon myself and my community; because we are intrinsically tied to each other. The only to move forward is through love. Love for myself and love for each other.
I want to deepen my love for myself. I want our communities to do the same. I think that everything comes from this: there's a clip by Eartha Kitt where she says “she wants someone to love her with her and she wants a partner to fall in love with her, like she is in love with herself.” This really speaks to me. My hope is that we can share this type of love for ourselves, with each other. To share this kind of love from a place of abundance, where we can build together, love together and not fight each other; because we would anchor ourselves from a place of emotional and spiritual wealth.
In a world like this we would know that Black Lives Matter, Indigenous Lives Matter, and would appreciate the beauty that Sex Workers bring into the world. Consent culture would be integral and we wouldn’t need prisons, war or capitalism because all of this comes from a model of scarcity.
Aisha Fairclough and Jill Andrew
We were friends first.
I remember meeting Jill at the bus terminal. She was wearing a black leather moto jacket and jeans. She was strikingly beautiful. I know it sounds corny but I love her more every day.
Sometimes she drives me bananas, but what drew me to her immediately were her strength, larger than life personality and her energy that literally fills an entire room.
We got here through hard work! We play a lot (like kids), laugh like best friends and love like we're the only people in the room. Relationships take a lot of work. But you have to respect one another, be kind and speak with love. We also try not to go to bed angry. We've failed many times, but we try.
When you see your partner working so hard for visibility (Black visibility, fat visibility, queer visibility) it inspires and drives you to do more. We are both inspired by each other’s aspirations. We see each other for who we are, who we are not, and who we are becoming. And most importantly we recognize that it's a lifelong journey. Our activism drives our desire because we are so passionate about representation.
Representation matters for us both. If you don't see yourself then it's very easy to begin to internalize your own invisibility. It's important to see yourself in the media (i.e. advertising and television), along with other institutions so that you know that you matter—and not as a token but as an integral part of the fabric.
Showing multiple types of love in the various "skins" they are in lets us know that our love matters.
What are your hopes for your love life and the revolution?
Our hope for our love and the revolution is to grow our family with a couple of kids and more cats. Jill wants 10 cats—but we've settled on 4 max.
The revolution is in our bodies. We are dedicated to not only surviving but thriving in the skin we're in. Thriving entails working for and celebrating our love - Black love, Queer love, Fat love and all the intersecting threads we carry in and with that love. We strive to be able to look at each other and always remember why we are here—together.
Akio Maroon is a dedicated Single Mother, an Educator, and an International Human Rights Advocate who identifies as a queer, gender-fluid Black Womxn. Akio has spent over 14 years in Human Rights advocacy.
Akio is a passionate Community Organizer who has been a powerful and consistent voice on the topics of Consent Culture, Black Liberation, Equality, Workers & Sex Professionals Rights and Violence Against Women. Akio currently sits on Ontario's Permanent Roundtable on Violence Against Women providing innovative policy advice to the government on ongoing and emerging gender-based violence issues and assisting in the implementation of the It's Never Ok Action Plan
Akio Maroon is a Executive Board member at Pride Toronto and Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, the founding Director of the Toronto Childcare Collective (TCC) an organization that supports the participation of parents, in racial socioeconomic and justice work, and the founding Director of Grind Toronto - Toronto’s only sex positive movement for Black, Indigenous folks and People of Colour that celebrates safer sex and promotes consent culture.