Updated: Jun 10
“Soul is about authenticity. Soul is about finding the things in your life that are real and pure.” – John Legend
Our souls are always searching for happiness. Success and happiness require authenticity. Authenticity is also required to end “generational curses” (cycles of abuse, addiction, poverty, etc.). You cannot stop a negative cycle if you aren’t truthful with yourself about your own part in that cycle. The same with success and happiness. If you are not authentic to who you are, you will never truly have a lucrative and fulfilling career or find the love of your life.
However, being authentic is hard when you are not proud of your authentic self. And for a long time, I felt smothered by the life that I had woven around me to hide my authentic self from the world in hopes that the world would then, in turn, love me… or at least maybe my parents would love me.
Ok, I don’t want to go to dark and gloomy because this really is a very happy story.
I have “come out” more times than I can keep track of, especially because I’m cisgender woman (I identify as female & “act like a girl") so people never suspect that I’m anything but straight. There are a few very significant coming out stories that I will briefly get into in just a minute.
First, some context:
I graduated from both undergrad and law school magna cum laude. I am an attorney barred in New York and New Jersey. I own a boutique law firm, Ramos Law, PC, in White Plains, NY. I started my own law practice one year out of law school. I am one of 2018’s 40 under 40 Rising Stars of Westchester. I am the mother of an amazingly strong and smart young woman that has dreams of attending Julliard with her bestie.
That is who I am today – but that is not who I am completely. In fact, most days, I have a hard time believing that is me at all. It is, of course, I just never really loved myself enough to feel it in my bones. I know it intellectually, but I have a hard time feeling it emotionally. Know what I mean? All through law school I struggled with imposter syndrome. I could not understand how on earth “I” was in law school.
Why, you ask? Good question.
I couldn’t believe it because I grew up isolated in an abusive, extremely poor, very religious, dysfunctional family. I’ve had everything my family owned put out on the street in front of my house by a marshall several times before I was 15. I did not attend school like normal American kids. I did less than a year of school between grades 4 and 9. I’ve had to make sugar water bottles to calm hungry siblings. I’ve lived in a home with no running water, electricity or heat.
Then at fourteen, I unintentionally ran away because I was terrified of the punishment at home for being caught outside and so I lived on the streets of Baltimore around North Freemont and Dolphin Ave. I spent days and nights hanging out at Harlem Inner Block Park smoking pot and watching random ball games or battle rappers go at it. More things would happen in that short time on the street than any girl that age should have to go through.
Long story short, I have been through some shit. It’s no surprise that I was terrified of my own sexuality. My family believed that you should kill (by stoning) gay people to get the sin out of the family. They taught me that God was vengeful and would accept nothing less than complete obedience and submission. I wholeheartedly believed that I was going to hell and that I had done something so terrible that I was also being punished in the physical world while I am alive.
Still, I knew I was attracted to women when I was about 9 or 10 years old. Hip hop has always been my very first love and Queen Latifah to me was so damn… alluring. Then she was quickly replaced by Da Brat, who still holds my heart today (except for 1996 when Queen Latifah played Cleo). Of course, I couldn’t tell anyone that. Not even myself. Instead, I eagerly followed every magazine article, radio interview, or TV show that they appeared in.
After I ran away, my grandma and aunt scooped me up off the street and I had my first opportunity to go to high school. High school is what solidified it for me. My friend and I wanted to see what it was like and made out at a friend’s house. Once I’d kissed a girl, nothing else would ever satisfy me.
There was only one problem. I could not tell anyone. I told one of my closest friends that I liked women and she lectured me (this bit her in the ass when she told me years later that she’s gay too). Home was tense. I lived with my stepfather’s mother and sister. I was never given an opportunity to acknowledge, never mind heal, from the trauma of growing up abused and living on the streets. I repressed everything but it would later reappear with the subtlety of a bomb going off.
I joined the Navy directly after high school. I enlisted during Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, so, I “officially” absolutely could NOT be anything but straight. Didn’t stop me from daydreaming about my division’s AROC (Navy jargon for Assistant Recruit Chief Petty Officer). I used to let her read over my shoulder as I read my boyfriend’s letters that he had sprayed with cologne. I was hyper-aware of where she was in relationship to where I was. But I couldn’t tell her. For one, she was most definitely straight. I couldn’t risk telling anyone or I’d be discharged as “other than honorable.”
Then I discovered strip clubs. I was stationed in Goose Creek, SC and used to go into Charleston to party. I was the lone girl in a huge group of guys that would basically go off base, get a hotel room, party, drink until we passed out. Then we’d wake up the next day to piles of people and puke. I don’t remember a lot of those drunken nights, but I remember each and every one of the women that danced at the Gentleman’s Club that my friends and I frequented. Only my closest friend in the group knew about my sexuality.
After the Navy, I had a very short marriage to the same guy that used to write to me in boot camp. Then, I had relationships almost exclusively with women for a couple years. I realized then that it’s not just any woman that attracts me, but a masculine woman (aka “stud”) is what does it for me. I love a stud. Female masculinity is sooooo damn sexy. (Yep, I said it.) There is something about that perfect ratio of feminine to masculine energy. It just intoxicates me. I’m like head over heels for masculine women, specifically.
I met Cynthia at a bar in the Village. We U-Hauled it a couple weeks later and I moved in with her. Cynthia was a stud. She was also 42. I was 24.
Sometime after I’d moved in with Cynthia, I was on the phone with my grandma. She asked me about where I live, who I live with, who I’m dating, the usual 3rd degree.
“What’s his name?” she asked.
“It’s not important.” I said.
“Why don’t you want to tell me? Is it someone I know?”
“No Grandma, it’s not that.” I say with a deep sigh.
“Then what is it?” she demanded
“HER name is Cynthia, grandma. It’s Cynthia.”
“Oh, I knew you were “that way” already. I’m not surprised. Bring her by the house so I can meet her.”
My first thought was, “Was anyone gonna tell ME that I was ‘that way’?”. My next thought…. “Oh my god, she’s going to freak out when she realizes Cynthia is 18 years older than me.” She didn’t though. I think my grandma knew that it wasn’t going to last too long.
A few years later, I go through a terrible break up where I lost not just a partner but my kids. I say “my” kids because I was basically a stay-at-home mom of 4 for about a year. The situation was a lot more complicated than that of course (plain stupid is more like it), but the loss was real. I never wanted to see another woman. Especially if they had kids. I fell in love with those children. Nothing hurts more than losing a kid, specially young kids. It's a different kind of hurt to know you won't even be remembered. I couldn’t risk that kind of heartache again.
After that, I buckled down and studied hard. I got into one long-term heterosexual relationship after another and was waiting for the whole marriage, kids and career thing because that is when I was going to be happy. Well, I’d had that. I’ve been married to a man. I’ve had a kid with a man. I lived with my kid’s dad for 9 years – about 6 of those years were pretty much celibate…. Cause… you know…. I’m kinda gay. Well, not kinda gay. I’m GAY GAY. I just didn’t love myself enough to live my authentic lesbian self.
It was my daughter who forced me to love myself. I had to try to love myself. I had to model self-love for her sake. I did not want her to ever feel as stifled as I felt. I couldn’t be unhappy in a relationship with a man just because we have a kid and it’s what’s expected. But, even after leaving, I still clung to the “bi” label. I thought that maybe I just hadn’t found a man that knew what the hell he was doing in the bedroom. Turns out that’s not it either because I did meet a man that could physically do some incredible things to a woman’s body and I was STILL not satisfied. Not physically, mentally, or emotionally. I realized that this was not me loving myself either.
A couple years ago, I met a woman and we start dating. After a few months, I thought she should meet my daughter to see how the interaction went. It was perfect. They got along well. And then I did one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I came out to my 7-year-old daughter. I didn’t know what to expect. She’s around a lot of homophobia when she’s with her Jamaican family. To my surprise she wasn’t really phased by it. Her biggest concern was that her father didn’t find out because he would get mad. I assured her that he already knew about my sexuality.
Ever since then, I’ve lived fully out. And that is what birthed Ramos Law. I was drawn to helping the LGBT community through my legal advocacy. I decided to love myself enough to brand my entire firm as an “LGBT” focused law firm. There was no going back in the closet now. I know that there are certain things that LGBT POC would be more comfortable entrusting their legal matters to a firm that understands how messy life can be when you’ve lived for others. Right now, the firm only does Immigration and Estate Planning. It is my dream, however, to see Ramos Law grow into a full service general practice for the LGBT community.
I’d like to say that my journey to self-love is over, but it’s not. I’m still struggling to learn to put myself first sometimes. I’m still learning not to cross oceans for people that would not hop over a puddle for me. I’m still learning my own worth. But, for the first time in my life, I feel like I am living my life for me.