KNIA & CARESE
What term would you use to describe your sexual identity?
CARESE: That is a very hard question. I definitely looked it up on the internet and there’s a term I think it’s called, “homo-flexible”. So basically it means most of the time, pretty much 99% of the time I want to only be with a woman, but there are rare occasions where I can still find pleasure in having sex with a man. For a while I was just going with lesbian because I thought it was easier, but then I thought well, there are definitely guys that I like. Now I just go by queer because sometimes when I say homo-flexible people look at me like it’s a fake word. They’re kinda like, “Well that’s a not a letter (as in LGBTQ) so therefore it doesn’t exist.” I’m kind of at the point now where I’m like, you know what? Fine. Whatever you think I am, I guess that’s what I’ll be.
KNIA: Pan? I like girls. I like guys. Sexuality and gender identity don’t really matter to me at all when it comes to interest in another person. I say pan because it’s an all encompassing term, but in the even that for some reason that doesn’t cover it all, queer is also fine. I don’t care. People also just assume I’m a lesbian. People kind of just define my sexuality by my relationship.
where did your understanding of your sexuality begin?
CARESE: I wanna say maybe when I was in my very early 20’s, possibly. When I was 16 I thought I was bi-sexual, but then I went through this thing when I was around 18 and thought I was only lesbian. I remember it was National Coming Out Day when I was 18 and I had come out as bi. With Facebook it got out to my mother that I said that and she asked me about it. She thought I was joking or may that I was just bored. I know that sounds terrible, but she said it in a very casual way like “lol” type of way. It was never malicious. We had a discussion about it and she asked me what everyone else asked me at that time, “Well you’ve only been with guys up until now, so how do you know for sure you like them?” I told her it’s just something I know, like I don’t need to be with a girl to know I like boobs. She thought it was a phase at first, but then I started dating Knia and she was like “YAY!” and now my mother is our number one fan. It wasn’t until my early 20s where I realized I just realized maybe I’m just under the umbrella term queer because I like girls most of the time but some guys are okay too. I will say it definitely takes a lot for a guy to peak my interest than it does for a girl. Now, being in my mid-twenties I can confidently say I understand what I like and don’t like.
KNIA: I don’t think it was at a particular age, I just sort of knew all the time and I don’t think I even knew words for it until I was around 12. To my understanding at that age, I thought I was bi-sexual, because there was only straight, gay, or bi and those were the only options. As I got older it was like, “Addendum…addendum…Addendum…” basically just changing [these terms] to encompass everything. To answer the question though, it’s definitely just something I’ve known about myself forever. What took me a long time to understand was that what I feel it not considered normal to most of society because to me it made perfect sense. My mom is very religious and I grew up going to Catholic school, so from a very early age it was “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve”.
What has been the highest point in your journey so far?
CARESE: For me it would just be that I’ve accepted that I don’t know 100% how to label myself and I’m okay with that. I know what I like, I know what I don’t like and if someone has a problem with it, sucks to suck. It’s definitely a lot easier, I was very set on putting a label on it and needing to know what to call myself. I need to know what to mark off on a survey, I need to know what I am. I’ve reached a point now where there’s different terms I throw around but that’s fine.
KNIA: I don’t know if there’s a marked highest point. For the last couple of years, pretty much since we moved out here (Phoenix). We was poor. We was going through the true shitty transplant experience, but least, I have this figured out. At that time, I didn’t have a job that paid a lot of money BUT I’m in a relationship with somebody that I love and that I’m very comfortable with, I can see a future with this person, and it just felt nice to have to not worry about that aspect of my life for once. I just felt very secure in that part of my being.
What has been the lowest point in your journey so far?
CARESE: Just being very afraid. I guess I still kind of am afraid sometimes because at the end of the day, there are still so many people that have a problem with anyone that’s not straight. There are some situations where I’m still very nervous to just hold my fiancé’s hand in public. You also get those guys that say “You’re too pretty to be gay.” I’m a very feminine person. I like pink, I like flowers, I like makeup. I’m a very “unassuming” gay, so everyone is surprised that I like girls. It’s something something I think about a lot. Maybe it’s because I have pretty bad anxiety and so I think about the smallest and most trivial details of every situation, but I wish these were just things I didn’t have to think about. Unfortunately this is just the world we live in. Maybe it’ll be different someday, but right now it just sucks in that way.
OH! I don’t know how I blocked this out: When I was in middle school and just realizing that I didn’t always like boys, I was also fiercely against gays. I hated myself but I think it’s because I didn’t really know myself and I didn’t have anyone to talk to about who I was. I had no frame of reference. I had a friend at that time who I had known from elementary school, and I remember I would sleep over at her house quite often and we would go to church a lot. Her family was super bible-thumper. Very, very Jesus. So we would go to church, and unfortunately there were times where they would say gay is bad. At that time I really didn’t have any knowledge. There was about a year and a half to two years where I hated myself that I like woman because I thought it was bad. I was sure I was just committing a sin and I was going to hell. I was so influenced by that idea of thinking at the time and I would think to myself, “Gays are bad” or “Gays are horrible people” but over time I realized that it was just the hatred I had for myself being projected outwards. That was pretty rough. My friend and I laugh about it now though. She’ll say things like, “Yo, do you remember when you were a terrible person and really homophobic?” Laughs. Yeah that was a rough time.
KNIA: My teenage years, cumulatively. That’s just a bad take for everybody. You’re going through puberty and you ask yourself “Why does my skin suck?” or “Why does my body suck?” or “Why do I like more than one gender and what is that about?” “Is that okay?” “Am I okay?” It’s just too much! To have to even think or worry about my sexuality was just the icing on the shitty puberty cake. I’m just really glad to not be a teenager anymore. I think it was especially hard then because we didn’t have the kinds of resources that are available today. I think Degrassi was the only frame of reference I had but even that show, as progressive as it was, didn’t have anyone that looked like me. I’m so glad that the current generation has gay role models and pop culture to reference, but coming up I didn’t have anything like that. Nobody in my family, nobody in the media, you didn’t hear about it in music, like there wasn’t shit. It was hard enough to find gay, but black gay? There wasn’t anything.
do you think there is still room for you to grow in terms of your journey toward self acceptance?
CARESE: I think I’m good! Laughs. No matter how much that 1 in like 50 men will catch my eye, I could never marry a man. I just can’t. Just the thought of marrying a man just causes me great distress to be very dramatic about it. Even before I met Knia, I always thought “Cool, I don’t really know what I’m doing or where I am but I don’t think I could ever marry a guy.” It’s just something about it that I don’t think could be for me. I mean, I could have sex with a guy that I like, sure. Fine. But I’m not marrying a man. If I wasn’t marrying Knia, I would absolutely end up another woman.
KNIA: I feel like the gay experience can be very well summed up with “Ehhhh?”. Shrugs. I’m good too. I did so much questioning and exploring between my teens and my early twenties and I know what I like and I know what I don’t like very comfortably. I’m getting married, so we’re good. I mean, we’re not paying all this money not be…gay or straight, weddings ain’t cheap.
How do you feel about the current societal conversation about gender & sexual identity today?
CARESE: I think it’s definitely a lot better than it was. It actually exists now. Back in my day, it was so taboo. No one really talked about it and if they did it was kind of a secret. And again, there are always going to be that handful of homophobic people, but I think it’s so much better now. I’m so happy for the kids who are coming up and realizing who they are. At my age, the kids now would probably feel safer and have more resources. I can be better, absolutely, but it is better than when I was growing up in the late 90s to early 2000’s. Very different.
KNIA: For me, I’m glad the conversation is here. It is not even close to being enough. For me, I can’t separate my own personal experience because I’m black and I’m queer. I’m both of these things and wouldn’t ya know, these are two things communities that people just don’t get. Somehow, some people have it in their heads that just because they don’t understand some things means that it’s not real. For example, “I don’t understand trans so that doesn’t exist” “I’m not black so racism doesn’t exist” And I’m just over here like, are you sure about that…? Because there are people all over this world, existing and telling you that this is their experience. I mean, did I miss something? We can’t share bodies, so unless you are that person, I don’t understand how you could tell someone that their struggle isn’t real.
WHAT’S SOMETHING THAT YOU WISH PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT YOU?
CARESE: Wow. Laughs. That’s a tough question. Can we come back to me?
KNIA: I’M QUEER. Do you know how often people will come up to me, like at work, and ask about my wedding but say “Who is your fiancé? What will he wear?” They see the ring and there’s always the assumption that I’m straight and I’m just like, you my friend, are deadass wrong. It gets tiring having this conversation over and over again. It’s never a discriminating conversation but there’s always that element of surprise from people. People will just say “Huh. I didn’t know that [you’re gay]” And in my mind I just think “Oh lord, please don’t make this a thing.” I just wish people just wouldn’t assume that I’m straight.
CARESE: I think I’m actually gonna steal her answer. I just feel the same way. It’s actually none of anyone’s business what my sexuality but I secretly wish did know. It just boils down to assumptions like “You’re wearing a dress and you’re all dolled up” so their first assumption about me is I’m straight. I am so the opposite of that. Or when I start to talk about my fiancé as “she” they kinda take a second and think about it for a minute. And they say “she” like it’s in italics or there’s an ellipses at the end like, “she…”, and it’s just like “Yes. She. Period. Moving on.” Sometimes I’ll even say “she” first in reference to my fiancé and they’ll respond like they didn’t even hear it and respond with “he”. So when I respond the next time, I have to emphasize the fact that I said “she”. It’s like, “Sorry I had to turn the volume up in my voice from 4 to 5, but I don’t think you heard me the first time.” So yeah, I’m gonna say I wish people knew I was queer so I wouldn’t have to have this awkward conversation every time with people.
KNIA: I actually wish to add on to this. I wish that people knew there were more than just two types of lesbians. For example, if I dress casually and I happen to be qeer, it doesn’t mean that I’m a “dyke” but if I’m dolled up it also doesn’t mean that I’m dating a “dyke.” I wish that people didn’t label us as “lipstick lesbians.” I mean, maybe we’re just two people that get dressed more on some days than others like anyone else.
CARESE: Yes I agree with that because when people see me and see that I’m feminine and find out that I’m “lesbian”, they just assume that my other half is out there wearing baggy pants and has a fade, and wears polos ten times her size. And I want to be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. At all. I just want people to know that we didn’t all come out of the same fucking stock photo. People just tend to assume that because I’m feminine, that my fiancé is butch. It’s just annoying because that’s literally all people think of when they think of a same-sex female couple and so when Knia walks in and she happens to be wearing a dress that day too, god forbid their head explodes that two girls who are together are feminine women.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ANYONE THAT IS KNEW TO THEIR JOURNEY?
CARESE: It’s okay to be confused. It’s okay to not know what to label yourself or to understand. I’m sure there are a lot of people, myself included that think “I can be this and this, and may this too.” You know? It’s about learning what you like and don’t like, which I feel is a lot more important than trying trying to label yourself. Don’t ever feel pressured to figure out who you are, just go at your own pace. If you don’t know it’s totally fine.
KNIA: If could to talk to the Knia of year’s past, just take your time because let’s be real, modern medicine if fucking amazing and life is long. Life is SO long. You have so much time to figure things out, and to make bad decisions and good decisions. Life ain’t goin’ nowhere. Unless you’re in a freak accident, you’re good. What are you rushing for? Acting like you can’t get married or re-married when you’re 50? There’s no clock that you can look at. The only criteria you need to meet are your own, so why are imposing a time limit on yourself? That’s so stressful. There are so many other things in life that are stressful that you can’t control, so just give yourself this one break.