A Millennial Love Story: How This Couple Is Creating Visibility For Black Queer Love
A conversation with Tannis and Bianca.
This piece is part of a 28-day series celebrating modern black love among millennials. It was created by Chuck Marcus and Michelle Nance, exclusively distributed by Blavity.
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Relationship Status: Dating | 2.5 Years
When Bianca saw Tannis’ profile pop up on her Tinder feed she immediately thought she was accidentally being served her profile and almost didn't swipe right. But an instinct told her to do it, so she did, and a match was made.
While they began dating in New York, it was the time spent long distance that would help them grow into to the right space as individuals so that they could come together as a couple. After spending about a year in California, Bianca moved back to New York where the couple now lives together in Harlem and pride themselves on pushing the boundaries by showing up as themselves, two black women in love, everywhere they go.
What’s the hardest part about being a queer millennial in a relationship?
Bianca: Nowadays it’s almost popular to be in a transient state, just like it’s popular to be a traveling entrepreneur. It’s kind of hard to find a relationship where you know that both people are looking for longevity. And then to add LGBT to that it’s kind of difficult. Having that same sort of mindset, a lot of people don’t think long term.And then from a queer perspective, I’ve found it hard to be in a queer space and find another woman who is secure with her sexuality and interested in dating another woman long term. When I was in Michigan I found a lot of queer women who were interested but weren’t sure or they liked women but didn’t know if they could see themselves longterm with a woman so it’s just all these layers where it’s hard to find someone else who will say I want this.
Tannis: I would agree with that. I kind of have an interesting perspective because I’m still learning about the LGBT community and finding my place in it. What’s interesting for us is that there is not a lot of particularly LGBTQ aspects of our relationship that define us. There’s nothing about being with her as a woman that makes it any more difficult than being with her as a guy.
Who do you look to as an example of a successful relationship?
Tannis: In terms of relationship success, I’ve always had my parents to look at. My mom and dad have been together now for almost 35 years. I’ve always said I want exactly what my parents have. Doesn’t matter if it’s with a woman or a man I just want that connection.
Bianca: My mom is a single parent, I saw my parents together when I was younger but they separated when I was in middle school and then got divorced when I was older so I never really saw a union growing up. Even aunts and uncles were either in a long term committed relationship or dating but never married. I honestly didn’t start looking towards couples for success in terms of black love and successful relationships until I started dating her and that’s when she opened my eyes to what black love could look like. Especially her parents, I even look to them.
Tannis: I think I had so much representation of black love growing up. A lot of our family friends are judges, lawyers, doctors and the kids all grew up together and we’d get together for the holidays. So I grew up seeing black people loving on each other.
Bianca: I grew up seeing black people who created families and they lusted for each other but the love was a miss, something just wasn’t working out. So I never had that representation. If I wanted it I would have to turn on The Cosby Show or like, My Wife & Kids. I never had an actual example.
Tannis: My Wife & Kids, that’s hilarious I’ve never thought about that show as a representation of black love.
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How did you know you were ready to commit?
Bianca: I feel like we were just going with the flow to be honest. I was living in California, she was living here [New York] and we just started talking. I was living in New York for a year and a half and towards the end of that time that’s when I met her. I moved away for a job in LA and we didn’t talk for a minute and then we rekindled. It was like a long distance thing. It worked out really well because I didn’t know if I wanted a relationship yet and she was coming into her sexuality. Having that distance really allowed us to figure some shit out. After some time when I moved back to NY I still thought we were going with the flow and it wasn’t until she was like “well, this isn’t for play play” that I was like, oh we’re doing this. It’s not like I thought there would be no longevity here but we didn’t have that serious conversation.
Tannis:I never utilize these dating apps for anything but dating. My intention in getting on Tinder wasn’t to find someone for a random hookup.
Bianca: But you probably didn’t get on there thinking I’m going to find the person I’m going to marry. No one gets on there thinking that.
Tannis: I definitely went into it with a hope for something more than one night and so from there if you’re a normal human being and I’m a normal human being and we both like talking to each other there’s no reason why we can’t continue this. The idea of frivolously doing things never really crossed my mind.
What does black love mean to the black community?
Bianca: It’s really important, representation matters. Growing up I didn’t see examples of black love IRL. And then to have queer black love. I had the aunties who had a friend and that was their best friend for years but not to be outright being themselves in their true entity and loving one another without holding back. I think it’s really important that whoever it is, young or old, that they see black love can also be queer love. We shouldn’t have to hide our love just because we’re two women.
Tannis: I don’t think I realized the importance of that sort of representation until I got in a relationship with her. We would say, “who else looks like us?” We’d find couples online who are both sort of feminine and they’re not feeding into a stereotype that people have of lesbians and for me that was something that I grappled with because I wasn’t looking to fit someone’s stereotype. I don’t want to immerse myself in something just because. I’m going to do it if it makes sense. One thing I’ve realized is being visible, being happy, just existing is important. I never realized that for women like me who think the same as me how important it was to see me in love with someone and just be myself.
All relationships require compromise, how do you avoid losing yourself yet maintain and keep your partner happy in the process?
Tannis: One thing I've always talked about is that you’ve been living your life the way you want for twenty five plus years now, so here we are together and I’m supposed to expect you to do the things that I like? You have to realized that people have been who they are for so long and compromise takes more than one fight to change something. We’re going to have to fight about this for a couple years for me to realize that I really do have to change something and work on accepting our differences and figuring out how to work through a change or a compromise. We can’t just say alright, you’re right I’m just gonna change what I’ve been doing my whole life that easily. We know there are things we have to compromise on we may not have gotten there yet but at least we know we’re going to figure it out.
Bianca: Compromise is hard, I’m not a patient person. If I asked her of something and she didn’t do it right away I’d be like well why isn’t she changing or I shouldn’t have to ask multiple times. But, we’re all human and habits take time to break and it takes time to learn new ones.
Tannis: To truly change something because you want to and because you realize it’s better. If you were to change yourself just to appease someone that’s when you’re changing yourself for the wrong reason, and losing yourself. But if you say I want to change a behavior because it doesn’t benefit my partner or it isn’t conducive to the unit and if I care more about this unit than this one habit I’ll find a way to change it.
Bianca: She taught me [to work through things]. I didn’t realize that. I used to tell her all the time when we would get into fights in the beginning like “is this the end?”. We got into an argument so I would assume we were going to break up. That goes to show you from my perspective, I didn’t grow up in a two-parent household so I didn’t see that relationship when they were pushing through hard times. And like you said, as millennials, instant gratification says that if we can’t fix it now it’s not going to get fixed.
Tannis: Have you ever built a friendship? How are we supposed to build a relationship that way if you just nix all your friends? I think people spend so much time finding issues and not finding solutions. So we got into an argument, maybe we just don’t talk for a couple of days.
If you could describe love in one word, what would it be and why?
Bianca: Compromise. Love is never black and white, it’s always gray. I say that because when I was younger, right before I fell in love the first time, I said to my mom “why doesn’t she just leave her boyfriend”. And my mom said, “love is never black and white, it’s gray”. And then you fall in love and you’re like, wow, love is gray. You can’t say I’m going to do these things and expect the other person so do what you want. You can’t fall in love without being vulnerable, without compromising, without meeting that person halfway. You can’t say I’m going to stay in my black bubble while you’re stuck in your white bubble and hope we find love. You have to break some walls down and get vulnerable, it gets messy.
Tannis: I feel like love is a choice, I know it’s such a great quotable that people like but it’s so true. You can love someone, but love is not a feeling love is a choice it’s a decision to come back over and over again. It has nothing to do with how you feel. I can feel something for you and not want to argue with you ever again. But deciding to be committed to someone, choosing to do those things intentionally and with a purpose is what love is.