Coming Out Late as a Black Lesbian: Going Through One Life Just to Spring Again in Another

For this month's EFNIKS look at the elders in our community, I was given the opportunity to interview my friend’s mother. I'm Filipinx, a lesbian raised in a Chicanx community. Mukie is a Black lesbian woman raised in San Francisco and Chicago. And she is one of the very few lesbian women I can not only look up to, but also call a friend. -Nic


NIC: Growing up in San Francisco, was the gay community present in your neighborhood?

MUKIE: Coming from my era and in an all Black community, back then, things were separated and weren’t talked about. I grew up in the Martin Luther King apartments, right in the center of Eddy, Turk, out there. I was only around it because my mom’s neighbor had two adult sons that were gay. I knew what that was, because at such a young age I knew I was different. So it wasn’t really a thing to me. At that time to be honest with you, those words weren’t even used. It was just who you were. My mom’s neighbors son was really cool with my mom, he’d come by, have his lil purse on his shoulder. It was nothing because they didn’t bother nobody. When things started getting strange was when my mom’s neighbor got the news that one of her son was killed.

NIC: Was he killed because he was gay?

MUKIE: It could have been because he was gay, but we didn’t know. We just knew he got killed. We didn’t know the reason to why, but now that I’ve gotten older I look back and it could have been.

NIC: What decade was that?

MUKIE: It was the early 70’s. They were grown, so they knew they were different even further back. We don’t know what their story was. It’s not about knowing someone’s story, it was about just accepting them for who they are.

NIC: It's interesting to me, because this seems like more of a community thats family based. It sounds very “you go about your business, you aren’t hurting anyone”.

MUKIE:  But understand, each Black family was different in terms of where you were raised because you had a lot people coming up from the South to live in California. So a lot of this stuff was new to them. I would say, the only time I would see a woman with a woman was when I’d go down to the Converse store which was on what we called “Church street” but we didn’t know it was Castro. You’d see two women in the 22 (Muni bus) sitting in the back of the bus kissing. But it was no thing because knowing that when we leave Church we are going back to the Fillmore. So like I said there was a separation of not knowing what that was and not knowing the history of how it got like that until later and understanding the Castro was never the Castro to us.

My family on the other hand, we were from the South. There’s always a story behind the story to how my generation ended up being here. We knew there were other families that may have had kids like that, but it was always a thing of non-acceptance with that in our family. We actually had someone in our family that was, but we never talked about it. It was hush hush. It was ok for other families to have it, but it was never ok for our family to have it. So this is where the closed door comes in as to, being conservative you have to live a certain way. As a kid I knew I was different. I knew there was a difference between liking boys and liking girls. Honestly at that time I liked both, but never touched a girl or anything like that because I would get my ass whooped for something like that. All through my life, I’ve had crushes but never acted upon anything like that. I always wondered to myself like what it would be like to be with a woman, would I leave that man one day? And that was the scary thing about it. Blocking things out, maybe being with a man is what I’m supposed to do.

NIC: But you did get married and you had a daughter, Dre. What was your mindset then?

MUKIE:  When I got with Dre’s dad, we were best friends. At that time, it just felt kinda right. But when I got married, I had regrets. We were at the altar and I had regrets, but I still went through with it anyways. You try and put those feelings in the back of your head about a woman, like what would it be like if I were to be with a woman, but with a child now its different. Now it’s different because I got married and now we have laws, now you are afraid about if you wanted to, how would he feel, would he get mad, would he want to take my child away from me? So unfortunately things didn’t work out and I had to tell him I didn’t love him. I didn’t tell him why, but when I told him I didn’t love him I felt a sigh of relief. Its that truth coming out, but I couldn’t tell him its because I like women.

NIC: Did he ever find out?

MUKIE:  No, he never found out because I never acted upon it. I was still in the closet. As I was raising Dre through the years, I could have went out and say you know, I’m just going to come out. But I had to not think of myself because it wasn’t just me anymore. I had to think about my daughter, I had to think about what would she go through, if anyone knew she had a gay mom. As she got older, I found out kids are cruel. Even when she was in grade school, there was this little girl in my daughter’s class named Becky, she had two gay moms, even though her mom and her partner never bothered anybody when she came up to the school to get her daughter, she was asked to not come back to the school and if she does to not bring her partner because someone complained about her.

NIC: Thats crazy, and this was in San Francisco?

MUKIE:  It was, it was sorta towards the avenues, up there by USF. So I kind of thought about that. It took me a long time to want to come out. Sometimes I would get sad and I would say, “Well what am I going to do, by the time I come out I’m going to be old.” You have this new generation coming today, you hear things they be saying like, “If you weren’t so old to come out then you’re really not gay.” And hearing that I was like whoa, maybe I shouldn’t come out because I haven’t been on the scene all this time.

NIC: And that’s the problem, there’s people that don’t understand what it was like before and why the older generations couldn’t come out.

MUKIE:  There were a lot of women who had to stay in that heteronormativity which they didn’t like, but they had to like it and love it. And a lot of women died that way, I had to ask myself, do I want to die that way? I don’t!

NIC: So when did you finally come out?

MUKIE:  Well by the time Dre was 13 she hinted to me she was a lesbian. I mean I had always known there was something different. For myself, I remember on her 21st birthday and I told her I was a lesbian. She asked, “Is this the reason why you’re not with my dad?” and I said “Honestly, I’m not with your dad because things didn’t go right. I did love him, but I knew at some point in my life I would end up leaving him. But I did have the courage to tell him I didn’t love him.

NIC: So Dre was the first person you told?

MUKIE:  She was the first person I told. It took me 20 something years to come out and mostly I still feel like I’m alone. Its like I have to relearn all over again. How to even start a conversation with a woman. How to ask a woman out on a date. And sometimes I often wonder if I’ll just end up alone which is sad because I want to be in a relationship. Now, honestly would I even wanted to get married again, I don’t know. I’ve done it, you know what I’m saying. I’m pretty much a free spirited person, but being able to find someone who’s in acceptance of me having to wait that long to wait that long to come out of the closet, do you feel I’m inexperienced, do you feel like I don’t know what it’s like to be with a woman, to know what it’s like to love. Because to me love is love.

NIC: What do you find difficult coming from your perspective versus what a younger QTPoC generation may not encounter?

MUKIE:  I feel like there aren’t as many support groups out there for older women who are just now coming out. Its like, if you’re coming out now, there ain’t nothing we can do for you. It’s the young people we are more concerned about. Well guess what, if you’re not as old as me, if you’re not as old as the ones that came before me, that had no type of representation, what type of representation do you think you’re going to give the young ones? They haven’t been through what we’ve been through. That means, not being able to talk about it. Living a life that is acceptable to others, but not acceptable to you. What kind of advice do you think you can really give them?

To me, the best advice you could give someone is to let them know that there may be some things they may not want to do but have to do. Because what happens, some young kids don’t have nowhere else to go because they might get kicked out of their house. Some of these media people, its like “You gotta come out to your parents”, but they ain’t thinking about, where is this child going to stay? If you don’t have a place ready for them to stay, and when I say place I mean a safe place, not just a place you put them in and then they are on their own. The worst thing to do is do that and they get used and abused by someone else. You may think their living situation is bad, sure, but it’s not ok to put them from one hostile environment into an even worse hostile environment.

NIC: What are some other issues that you notice with the younger generations coming up?

MUKIE:  There’s a lot of insecurity that they see as expectations. Some of them see things and think, this is how I gotta be. Even for the young women, oh this is how I gotta be, this is how I keep my woman in check, to act like a dude, this what it’s all about. Its sad to say but there are a lot of women that like it like that. They want someone to put them in check, because that’s how they feel the way it is and to me it’s like well then go get you a man. I feel that, a woman shouldn’t even have to do that. This is not what it’s all about. Thats a big thing that bothers me, so much has turn upside down. The true point that’s being missed, of being gay and being free to do what you want, is all of what we had to go through. The isolation and fighting, you know what I’m saying.


Follow Nic on Twitter @peralesnic and Instagram @thatswhatnicsaid


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