I recently received an email regarding femmenoir.net, the infamous Black lesbian website hosted by my friend Angela Odom. Needless to say, I was very sad but understand perfectly the strains and struggles of having a popular website.
Femmenoir.net was the first lesbian website that I knew of dedicated to us Black lesbians. It has been a constant source of information for me since 2001 and has connected lesbians from around the world.
In Angela’s own words, “when I created the site in 2001, it was done as a way to disseminate information to a larger group of women, women who are a little too timid or afraid to go to clubs or sign up with organizations. These women, I knew, would not go to a gay or lesbian organization to receive this sort of information. Fears, real or imagined, happen whether we agree with them or not. A website not requiring a lot of personal information from its visitors is best because women can choose and get their courage up, to go or not go, read about it, or just feel close to a community they would not ordinarily have access to for whatever reasons. I know because I was once there myself.”
I met Angela within the past two years and we stuck up a friendship that continues to this day. Never one for the limelight, Angela is seldom at functions around town but always contributes to the community though her wonderful website and by profiling powerful Black lesbians making a difference in the world.
In addition to hosting femmenoir.net, Angela is a world class videographer and photographer having recently recorded the National Black Justice Coalition’s State of Black LGBT America symposium during L.A.’s Black Pride and Out and About’s Women of Color Music Festival.
Having had her share of tragedy, losing her partner Christine Tripp to cancer several years ago, Angela always managed to keep the site going even on days when I know her heart wasn’t completely into it.
Over the years, I have made dear friends through femmenoir.net, including one in Angela and so I am wishing her all the best in her future endeavors.
Continue reading to read Angela Odom’s post on the ending of femmenoir.net
The End of An Era by Angela Odom
Some may have noticed FemmeNoir is no longer. I took it down as I sat and faced another 12-13 hour updating job and realized, on my only day off, I would not finish until late in the evening. When you find yourself wishing you had a life, it is time to give up whatever prevents you from having a life. As such, I’ve thrown in the towel and will now pass the baton on to those who are not as inept as I to continue on. Swirl and Sable both are creating new sites and it is time for FemmeNoir to turn off the lights so that I can move on.
When I created the site in 2001, it was done as a way to disseminate information to a larger group of women, women who are a little too timid or afraid to go to clubs or sign up with organizations. These women, I knew, would not go to a gay or lesbian organization to receive this sort of information. Fears, real or imagined, happen whether we agree with them or not. A website not requiring a lot of personal information from its visitors is best because women can choose and get their courage up, to go or not go, read about it, or just feel close to a community they would not ordinarily have access to for whatever reasons. I know because I was once there myself.
Prior to meeting Christine Tripp, I knew nothing about the Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum, Zami, ULOAH, and other organizations for lesbians of color. These organizations had been in existence long before meeting Christine and yet, I knew nothing of them. I figured a website and a downloadable online newsletter was a better shot at reaching more women. I truly had no concept of the depth and scope of what this work would entail.
Christine initially tried to muster some support for the site and her attempts were unsuccessful. Instead, she turned to me and said “do it and your help will come.” It did come but not from where I thought it would. It came from straight sistahs who saw I had a problem and jumped in to help me. I’ll never forget the email and subsequent phone calls I received from one such sistah who saw the navigational structure on FemmeNoir was just not working. She pitched in and walked me through the process until it was back up and then gave me beneficial information to ensure it would never happen again. I was truly grateful.
Recently, another sistah helped me with coding for video. She saw I had a problem getting video to play for both Internet Explorer and other browsers. She jumped in and flew off an email with her phone number and sent code for me to use. She was instrumental in instructing me on how to generate code to work in IE, Netscape and Mozilla. Later, she sent a link to a website that would generate any code I want. I could not stop thanking her.
Yes, my help came from straight sistahs and those who were not out, told me up front they could not be out, didn’t want to come out or, for whatever reason, could not come out. Some of these decided to do letter writing campaigns to their congressmen, senators, and state and local reps to tell of their support for marriage equality. I so appreciated their efforts and one woman said “if I cannot help within the community, I can certainly help from outside.” She did by writing a number of OpEd pieces and numerous letters to elected officials.
I believe a lot of this support came as a result of my putting my life out there for everyone to see. I did this because I wanted all to know two women can love each other and it ain’t about sex, it is about love. There is a beauty that comes from love; I don’t care what two people are in love, as long as they love. However, so much exposure can tire a person and the need to remove oneself from the public eye, for much needed repose, is a necessary evil and something I must now do.
There are other reasons as well. In truth, Christine, through her actions, did a lot to block me. I was often angry with her for this. She would call me from events just to tell me she told me about them when in fact, she did not. Eventually, I learned to stop arguing with her and went along with her insistence. I initially thought it was something about me that was unappealing and tried, on many levels, to conform. That turned out to be a fatal error on my part. I changed who I was to become what I thought was more acceptable. In truth, I cannot change who I am to be something else. People will see through the masquerade and will actually think you more fake than real. Yes, this was a fatal error on my part.
At the end of Christine’s life, when she was in a state of being downright honest because the mental gymnastics some of us take to sugar-coat things was not on her menu, she asked me “why you wanna be like them? You’re trying to be like them. Why you wanna be like them?” The question was haunting. In fact, it still haunts me and it has haunted me into the realization that it is now time for me to stop.
I knew the night Christine died; after all of the mornings I walked into that hospital at 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m.—the night Christine died was the first night I re-entered the hospital to be stopped by security. I knew then that act marked the end of an era.
I was a totally different woman when I first met Christine and I changed considerably after our meeting. The change, however, was not meant for me. I was to learn, yes. Change? No.
Prior to Christine’s death I had a three-part dream. In it, I watched Christine pack to leave, I said my goodbyes along with everyone else, I returned to my large suite and from there I walked into a community of women and we discussed doing similar meetings like this in Los Angeles. In that dream I had transformed from the woman I had become while with Christine to the woman I was prior to meeting Christine. Even I was shocked when I saw myself.
Another dream I had after Christine’s death placed her in the seat next to me as I left her home. In that dream Christine told me “once you leave don’t look back.” When I did try to look back, the scenery changed and she then said “this is where you need to be.” That dream, another three-part dream, held much for me to see.
The last three-part dream I had, one year after Christine’s death, told me Christine wanted me to move on. In that dream, Christine sat next to me on a bus and as the bus moved she called out to stop the bus, left the seat next to me, got off the bus, walked to the corner, turned around and then waived the bus on. The bus left with me on it and I watched as Christine watched me from the corner as I continued on. These three dreams told me to move on. Not with her life, but my life and that is what I must do now—move on.
It is hard to give up something you’ve been doing for a long time. However, when what was once a labor of love becomes a burden, it is time to move on. Everything happens for a reason and I truly believe that which is meant for you to do will be laid out for you to see and do. Last week, my mother sent a very innocent parable. Within it, however, there were some powerful words that basically said one must be able to give up something they believe is valuable in order to receive that which is most valuable. I knew, after reading that parable, what I needed to give up.
Again, everything happens for a reason, and people, quite unknowingly, will be blocked from entering your life while others will have greater access to you and such has been the case with me. Situations like these happen in order to fulfill prophecy. Since Christine’s death, I have not seen or talked much with those women who were Christine’s close friends. At first I was a little hurt by this and did not understand why I was shut out from their lives. Today, I realize it was the way nature planned it. I don’t blame them and cannot be angry about it when in actuality, it was meant to be. What did happen, however, I was reunited with my old bunch—friends I’ve known for many years who represented, on various levels, members of what I’ve termed the “secret society.”
My purpose with them was to bring back, if you will, the good news. My purpose was to dispel rumors, stereotypes, false images and beliefs about what we once thought of butch/femme, women who are out and political versus those who are not. I have, in some small way, removed the darkness their ignorance sat in and shed light on what is true. That was my purpose.
Now, I move on. My two beautiful friends are gone—Sergio and Christine—and they taught me so much. For them, I am grateful. My life must now return to what was. I am a little smarter, a little wiser, and ready for whatever is meant for me to do. As soon as I turn my head in the direction meant for me to go, I will no longer have difficulty speaking and I will find my voice and my heart. It is time.
To all those who were instrumental in helping me with FemmeNoir, I thank you wholeheartedly. For those who have sent so many emails of support, big hugs and kisses to you.
And now, to my friends—remember, y’all said it was okay—Caroline, Marsha, Steph, Alana, Maryland, Rebbe, Star Woman (I hear you), Jamilah, Castille (I could not remember one L or two), Robert, Tracy, Mil, and my three angels (you know who you are) thank you for bringing the balm to heal this broken heart. You guys have been my rock.
Now, I must trip, skip and hop off into the sunset for a while to get me together. In the next few weeks I will be moving off these drugs and into a healthier and better life. I thank you all for being there and now, it’s time for this sistah to grow. FemmeNoir will return, but not the way it was.