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HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
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Boundless Connections, Family, Home

June 23, 2013

Shawn and Jaz Smith-Cruz

Shawn(ta) and Jaz Smith-Cruz

I have often thought of relationships that included one person to another as a stifling act of anti-community -- primarily because I had been involved in relationships that were all-consuming, often prioritizing time with that person over time spent on personal projects and community work. It was difficult to make connections that were real and tangible and boundless when in a relationship. And yet, there was real love to share too; I wanted the flexibility to do all of these things -- have substantial and meaningful boundless connections, both romantic and platonic, while still being open to receiving love and offering love in sustainable ways.

Jasmine has always been my true life partner. Perhaps because she and I have been through tumultuous times together, have fled the law, ex-lovers with guns, rivaled campaigns, organized community together, conducted art projects, or have worked together on the Rivers of Honey Cabaret, successfully promoting a team of women of color, mostly queer, who were living passionately and with integrity. Jaz was there for me when I graduated college; I was there for her when she was diagnosed with a life-long disease that changed both of our lives forever.

Since I was 18 years old, and she 20, we took care of each other. We were in love with each other and still are. Yet does this love mean that we were to never have wild sexual rampages? Are we to never fall in love with other women? Are we to never experience our bodies in the nude amidst lesbian land? Are we to not embrace our ancestral spirits and their connections to other spirits near and far? On the contrary, it is the bond that I have with Jaz, our strength and security with each other, that has led us to embrace the possibilities of stronger connections with others.

For a long time, I'd say we were "best friends" and Jaz would disagree and say we were "ex-wives." Whether we could come up with useful terminology or not (I identify as poly while Jaz says she is a monogamous person in a poly relationship), we do believe in home. I also manage a queer housing listserv called Queer Housing Nacional, where I believe all homes look differently queer, and it is up to us to build those homes as we see fit. Jaz and I chose each other as home. As long as I have Jaz, I am always home.

We chose marriage because we were already connected for life, have a home life together, work together, but finally, want to have a child together. That will mean merging our home with our community and our families. As we begin this expansion of our home life, we felt it important to publicly express our union. This move toward marriage is not just for an extension of community, it is also and primarily for our families. For our grandmothers and mothers and fathers and siblings and our future child, to know and appreciate our love, as much as we do.

Shawn(ta) Smith is an archivist, librarian and writer. She is an archivette and coordinator at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and a producer of theater at the WOW Cafe Theater where she is proud to contribute to Rivers of Honey, a space highlighting the art of womyn of color.

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