It was Pride Month 2019. I was hanging out with some of my faves on a park bench on a super hot and sticky summer day by the Toronto waterfront. I was venting about all the dudes that I have dated who were steeped in toxic masculinity. “Have you tried Hinge?” a friend asked me. Though I am not an online dating-type person, I figured why not? So I downloaded the app and had to select who I was attracted to. I put “men” and “women.” After the first creepy message from a dude, I quickly changed my preference to “only women.”
I knew that I was queer but dating women always seemed impossible for me. I was not read as queer. Queer spaces in Toronto were predominately white when I was younger and I seldom saw two Black femmes together when I was older. I was still coming to terms with identifying as a Black queer femme and was stumbling along the way.
On Hinge, Nicole stood out to me. After a quick back and forth as I was walking home with a high from being surrounded by so many Black queer folks at a Blockorama Pride event, we exchanged numbers and began to text offline. I remember our first conversation perfectly. I was walking home from an appointment and she was driving home from work when we first spoke on the phone. What I thought was going to be an hour-long conversation ended up being about quadruple that, perhaps more. We talked about everything from Ontario provincial politics to Grenada Carnival. A few days later, she asked me if I wanted to go out for drinks. As I don’t really drink, I suggested that we get some food. And that was that. June 28, 2019, I went on my first date with Nicole.
At that time, I was living on the Esplanade near the waterfront, so she met me in St. Lawrence Market just around the corner. We looked around for a restaurant but couldn’t find one that we both could agree on, so we decided to walk toward Dundas Square and ended up at Jack Astor’s.
After being seated, we dove straight into small talk. I swear, I didn’t even know what she was talking about for the first little bit. All I was thinking was, “Wow. My first real ‘date’ with a woman.” But was it a date? When making arrangements, neither of us had used the word “date.” Plus, we talked about politics a lot and I was a political staffer back then, so perhaps she wanted to get into politics. Was she networking?
Nicole was so intriguing to me. She’s an introverted suburban genderqueer femme who loves anime, video games and playing the guitar. She was the opposite of me in so many ways.
I am an extroverted downtown high femme who loves soca and carnival, Black feminist theorizing, going to Jay’s games and watching How to Get Away with Murder (or pretty much any lawyer-type television show).
But I wanted to learn more about Nicole. Every conversation had me more and more intrigued.
After we finished eating, Nicole said, “I’m tired.” And I responded, “Wow.” All I kept thinking was, am I that boring? Does my makeup not look okay? Did I dress too much like it was a date?
“Okay, well it was great meeting you,” I said. She replied, “I am tired, yes. But I do not want this date to end. Do you want to get some tea?”
We headed to Page One for some tea. We spoke for hours. The person who worked there even offered us a free cheese plate. Everything seemed pretty magical, and I was so here for it!
We headed toward Berczy Park. As we were walking down Yonge Street, Nicole and I popped into a shop to buy some cookies. She walked away for a moment to go to the bathroom. I spoke to the cashier. “I think I am on a date,” I said. “How do I look?” And they were like, “Honey, you look hot!” And then Nicole came back and I played it super cool.
We finally got to the park, and it was so perfect: The night sky, the fountain lit up and glistening, couples sitting closely together by the fountain and on the park grass. “Let’s take a selfie,” she said. I was down for it. But then she couldn’t find her phone. We realized that she left it at the shop where she bought cookies. Then all of a sudden thunder, then lightning, then rain. I mean, was this a movie?
I called the shop as we lightly jogged back, but no one picked up. The store was closed, the doors were locked, but the light was on. I banged on the window when I saw the friendly cashier cleaning up. They called out, “Oh my god, she left her phone in the bathroom! I was trying to message her friends!” Nicole got her phone back. At that moment, the rain stopped (so did the lightning and thunder). We looked at each other and I said, “Okay, we are officially in a Lifetime movie.” We giggled and walked back toward the Market. I suggested a local bar, and we headed inside.
We became the life of the bar, drinks were bought for us, pizza was ordered and we made some new friends. It was probably the longest and best date that I ever had. And yes, it was a date. I finally built up the courage to ask her while at the bar and she was like, “Well yes, obviously!”
That summer, Nicole and I spent a tremendous amount of time together. She even created a playlist that documented the evolution of our relationship. She called it “This Vibe has 22 Minutes,” named after the Canadian television show, This Hour has 22 Minutes. It had songs such as “Like You” by Black queer R&B artist Asiahn, “Midnight Blues” by UMI and “At Last” by Etta James.
It took a process of growth, healing, learning and unlearning for me to say unabashedly that I am a Black queer femme. Nicole and I took some time apart around Labour Day weekend that year. I used it to reflect on our intense summer together, but also what and who I wanted to be. I always wanted to feel liberated and at ease, and that’s who I was with Nicole. And the more I got to know Nicole, the more I got to know myself. She gave me the space and freedom to be me in every sense of the word. She deeply understood the complexities and nuances of my Black queer identity. She stayed up with me into the wee hours of the morning as we explored our pronouns, gender expression, identity and its fluidity, as well as how we wanted to love, be loved and exist in this world, and what accountability and consent meant for us individually and in our lives together. There were no limits or constraints. No consequence or fear. There was safety. There was support. And there was unconditional love.
Our relationship has been liberating and transformative. I have found the words to define Black queer femme for myself in a way that feels right and affirming. My Black femme identity is not “woman” and does not subscribe to binary limitations. It is infinite and limitless. It is rooted in resistance, accountability and healing. It is both soft and fierce. It unapologetically loves my Blackness and femininity simultaneously. It is also inspired by Black lesbian feminists like Audre Lorde who forever gives a middle finger to white, hetero, cisgender, ableist patriarchy. It is political, deliberate and afraid of nothing.
Nicole and I are still together, still in love and still very happy. To be loved by a Black femme is beautiful and to grow into myself is divine. There is something deeply joyful, magical and perfect when two Black queer femmes find love in each other and a deeper love for themselves. I am forever grateful to have experienced that in this lifetime with Nicole.