its national girlfriend day and i just wanna express some feelings:
if you’re a straight girl, PLEASE don’t make jokes about your best friend being your ‘girlfriend’, asking if people want to be your girlfriend as a joke, etc. i’m not sure if this is just a me problem, but ive been seeing it ALL DAY. it makes wlw feel so invalidated when straight women treat romantic relationships with other females as a joke. the whole idea that straight girls can grab their friends’ butts and kiss them on the cheeks and joke about being in a relationship is so messed up and makes queer women afraid to publicly say they’re in relationships with other girls because it can be taken as a joke. lesbian relationships aren’t something you can pretend to be in to be funny or cool.
on this day, 28 years ago, the legendary janet jackson released her iconic “janet jackson’s rhythm nation:1814” album. the album was released during the peak of my mother’s crack addiction. here is the LONG story through “rhythm nation: 1814” music videos of how that album and my childhood best friend, robert, saved my life.
it was mid-august of 1989 when my life would change. i lived in north philadelphia with my mother and my five brothers in a one bed-room apartment. well it was sorta of an apartment. my grand mother has transformed her two-story house into two living quarters. we lived downstairs while grand mother lived upstairs. this meant that the “living room” was our bedroom. the “dining room” was everything but a “dinning room” because we never had meals in that room because didn’t even have a table. it was dark and empty room for the most part but it was where i spent most of my time dancing and avoiding the world. it was also the room where i first heard janet’s “miss you much.“
the song premiered on Q-102 fm in philadelphia and i waited till the top of the next hour to hear it again so that i could record it on my cassette. because we didn’t have cable, i had to wait until the weekly syndicated show "friday night videos” premiered the video. and hunty, once i saw the video - it was a wrap! the imagery and the fuckin’ choreography provided my lungs with oxygen!
my mother’s crack addiction was its peak during the time. i found solace in learning choreography from music videos. i found peace in imagining myself in those music videos. “miss you much” amplified those fantasies! it was the first music video that had a fuckin’ plot twist. when she said “is that the end?” and her dancers said “no!” and she started that ICONIC chair routine! bitch, whatever life i lived before that moment no longer mattered. i needed a hat and a chair to dance with!
i would practice the choreography in the dinning room while my younger brother nicholas watched. he was a great sport because he would sit on the floor until he fell asleep watching me dance. but i tell ya this - i mastered that routine and by the time my 7th grade school year started, i was showing off my skills to my fellow students in the lunch room.
although it had been just a few weeks since the release of the album, i already memorized every word by the time i started the grade started. i hated school and dreaded the start of a new year. i wasn’t sure if i could deal with the name calling but i was also inspired to getting my education because janet herself said it was important.
it was the first day of the 7th grade when i met robert. i knew as soon as i walked into the classroom him commanding space with his beautiful spirit that my life was about to not be as fucked as it was at that time. i remember exhaling when i saw him and thinking to myself, “finally i am not the only one.” for years, i was always the only “out” student in school and seeing another unapologetic femme dude provided me a safe place land after being in limbo for what felt like a millions years.
i sat near him and his crew waiting for an opportunity to connect. the moment he said “i love janet jackson!” i knew this was my chance to connect. i said “ooh honey chyle, i love me some miss janet too!” we were best friends from that moment. before robert, i had to survive lunch in the cafeteria on my own. being called “faggot” sliced me open but when i was with robert, i didn’t care. we laughed at the students who called us faggots. we laughed at them because they didn’t know janet’s “miss you much” and “rhythm nation” choreography. we did! a-ha!
i remember on some days we were bold enough to do the choreography in the lunch room. of course, we had to do it without music so we just sang the songs while we danced. most students laughed but some others were quite impressed. those were the students that would eventually help to make survival in the cafeteria a little easier.
one day, while in science class, miss harrison approached me and robert as we walked into the classroom and asked if robert and i could do our janet routines because it will quiet the kids down. miss harrison was a young teacher and the students always gave her a hard time. i remember feeling so affirmed and yet so very shocked that: 1. miss harrsion knew we could dance and 2. she was asking us to dance. usually, robert and i danced cuz we wanted to. now here we were in a classroom where the teacher is asking us to dance to help her get “control” (you see what i just did? lol) of the class. we didn’t dance that day. mainly because unlike the cafeteria, her classroom only had one exit and we weren’t trying to risk it. lol
by the time the “escapade” music video was released in january of 1990, robert was sent away to a group home. i remember feeling immense pain and heartache because i wasn’t sure if we would ever see each other again. my family didn’t have a house phone. we wouldn’t get a land line until 1995.
i had to learn the choreography alone. i had to survive school alone. i had to fuckin’ survive my mother’s addiction. but i had my rhythm nation cassette. well, i had the cassette but no radio to play it on because one of my mother’s friends stole my damn radio and sold it. lawd, how the hell did i survive!? i tell ya know.
by this time, i spent every monday and wednesday afternoon in miss wilson’s english club. granted, i was the only student who showed up but i loved miss wilson. she had been my 6th grade teacher and she was always welcoming. we didn’t do anything related to english studies, she and i just sat and gossip about the other teachers. this is how i knew that my social studies teacher, who loved to laugh whenever i was teased, was getting a divorced after finding out her husband was having an affair. this information would prove useful one day when she laughed at me after a boy called me a “faggot.”. chyle, i said “you laugh all you want but i know when you go home tonight, you’re husband won’t be there.” chyle, her face cracked! she never laughed at me again.
anywho, during my afternoons with miss wilson, i would tell her about my life. she would remind me of how special i was and how one day janet will pick me to dance for her. when i told miss wilson about my radio being stolen, she went out and bought me a new one - the next damn day! as a token of my appreciation, i danced to “escapade” for her. also, i wanted to show off the choreography.
in other related “escapade” stories, i seldom danced in front of my mother. while she was hella supportive of me as a queer kid, she did struggle with my being unapologetically fem. she hated that i lip synced to songs by women. which is why i was so surprised when one day while drinking with friends in our “living room” which was also our bedroom, she asked me to dance to a janet jackson song. i chose “escapade” because it was the current single. although looking back now, i wished i had chosen “rhythm nation.” she smiled the entire time and after i was done her friend said, “you dance just like michael jackson.” i knew what he “meant” but was more irritated that he chose to say michael and not janet. i was sad that i wasn’t dancing with robert.
by the time “alright”, RN1814’s fourth single was released, i was living with my aunt janet. i had fallen into a deep depression so i janet invited me to come live with her.
it was the spring of 1990 and robert was still away at his group home. i was transferred to a different school. i tried to reinvent myself as “straight” but that didn’t work. i wasn’t committed enough. lol it was in this school that i got into a fight with a dude who called me a faggot in english class - seriously, english classes sucked! also, they called the cops on me cuz i whipped that boy’s ass! i wasn’t arrested but school fucked with my mental health and decided that i would rather cut class that sit in a class that cut me.
i used to sneak back home to my aunt’s house and watch music videos while she and her husband were at work. this is how i managed to catch the world premiere of the music video on mtv. i remember my aunt watching mtv later that night and telling me that they were about to show janet’s new video. i was like “oh really? that’s cool because i have never seen it.” i think she knew i was lying.
by the spring of 1990, robert managed to run away from his group home. i was still living with janet but somehow word got to me that robert was home and looking for me. i immediately rushed to his mom’s house but he left moments before i arrived. i am sure all of this would have been easier had we had phones but we didn’t. it was the 90s and we were poor as hell.
anywho, i waited on his mom’s steps for hours before he finally returned! we hugged hard and he said “you still remember the steps?” we spent the next few hours talking about janet and life and boys and our dreams.
it was a school night so i had to get back to my aunt janet’s house. i didn’t want to leave robert. i was scared that he would disappear again. “hey. you want to go to the mall tomorrow? i can cut school."the next morning, i met up with robert and attempted to catch the bus but as soon as we got on, i saw my uncle jose sitting right by the damn driver. so we immediately jumped off the bus and decided to walk the five miles to the mall. i remember us taking a picture in the photo booth. i remember being hot as hell because i wore my burgundy turtleneck and it was fuckin’ june!
on our way back from the mall, we stopped by save-a-lot. we had just under 5 dollars. enough to buy a few sodas, some cookies and a bag of chips. we found a playground nearby and sat on the swings killing time before i had to head back home. while we were there we met a girl about our age, who by today’s standard would be considered sex-positive but back then she was a girl who didn’t give a fuck what people thought. we shared our sodas and treats with her and laughed until our heads hurt.
robert walked me half way home that night. right as we were saying good-bye and planning our next outing, he said "you won.” i replied, “what?” he said, “remember our bet. i said that ‘lonely’ would have a video and you said that ‘come back to me’ would have a video. you won.
in late june of 1990, i was the saddest i had ever been. robert was returned to his group home and my aunt janet sent me back to live with my mother. she was fed up with my cutting school. the kicker is that i had just one more week of school.
i remember leaving her house and dreading going back to my mother’s house. by this time, my mother lived in a two bedroom house. it was definitely a come-up from our usual one-bedroom apartment. but i didn’t want to deal with her addiction. but i had no choice.
i spent the entire summer locked in a room that i shared with my brothers. i just watched tv shows and music videos all. damn. day. this is why i can still remember the timeslots of many forgotten tv shows.
sometime in july, robert showed up at my house. he had not run away but was given a weekend pass to visit family. we did what we had always done - danced to janet songs. i don’t remember us talking about our dreams. i think we became aware of that dreams for boys like us don’t come true. but we could still dance our asses off.
that sunday, my aunt blanca and i drove him back to his group home. it was about a 45-minute drive and i counted every minute. he said if he was good, he would be given another weekend pass. i told him to be good. "black cat” premiered on a sunday in august. this i will always remember because i hated sundays. some days i still do. robert hated this song.
in the winter of 1990, robert came to live with us after he ranaway yet again from the group home. i told my mother that he was dischagred but had no place to go. she said, “then he will stay here."
"love will never do (without you)” was released during this time. it is not only my fave song from the rhythm nation 1814 album, but it is my all-time-fave janet song. it is also one of me and robert’s fave janet video. the hair. the smile. the walk. antonio. everything.
i remember us walking to the record store on germantown avenue - the same store i purchased the rhythm nation album in september of ‘89 - to buy the 12” single. mind you, i didn’t have a record player. we just had to have it! we would wind up buying all of the rhythm nation singles on 12" and then nail them to my wall (see pic in comment section.)
robert was already my brother but he became a brother to my brothers. my brother nicholas, who once watched me dance to “miss you much,” now watched as me and robert danced to everything.when janet released “janet.” in 1993, robert and i would perform “if” for all the drug dealers on the block. they would block traffic and turn the car lights on to provide us a spot light.
robert lived with my mother years long after i moved out. he even moved to florida with her. he would provide my mother the same magical gift he provided me for many years - his love and friendship. robert, love will never do without you.
In this video I share how I discovered I was gay, coming out to my parents, and how I felt when I came out. I hope that by sharing my story, I will maybe help someone else feel a little more okay about who they are. Happy to be an out and proud lesbian!
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love.
The decision is a historic victory for gay rights activists who have fought for years in the lower courts. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia already recognize marriage equality. The remaining 13 states ban same-sex marriages, even as public support has reached record levels nationwide.