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Ep 18: Olivia Granted Herself Sexual Freedom

A bi-sexual woman, Olivia Lollis did not know she could choose other love structures besides monogamy. She knew of polygamy and found the practice unfair and sexist so she practiced monogamy almost out of ignorance. With no knowledge of other forms of ethical non-monogamy, she ended up partnering with one man at a time. On this episode, she talks about discovering swinging as a single woman and exploring this form of non-monogamy on her own before meeting and marrying a man who was also interested in the practice. She was soon to learn that control of women’s sexuality was not unique just to monogamy. As a swinging couple, her husband wanted to control every aspect of who they partnered with, only consenting to an encounter when the woman fit his standards. When Olivia began to desire more than just sex with one particular woman, her husband tried to guilt her for wanting to fully practice polyamory. She began to realize that her sexuality had to be expressed through him while not threatening his ego. Olivia also talks about coming to the realization that her partnerships with heterosexual men often led to them exploiting her bisexuality for their own personal gain. It was when she decided being solo poly was best for her that she began to figure out a relationship configuration that worked. She now has multiple relationships that are separate from each other. She no longer shies away from letting a heterosexual male partner know that when she says “I am looking for a girlfriend,” it means a girlfriend for her and her alone. “I have freed myself from being sexual property,” Olivia says. “I am my primary partner and all others are secondary.” Olivia asserts that she wants her cake and to eat it, too. And she is no longer allowing men access to the recipe.

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Ep 17: Evita’s Non-Monogamous Marriage Has Made Her A Better Partner

Evita Sawyers and her husband did not drag either one into a polyamorous lifestyle. They were both curious about the love structure and experimented in some form of ethical non-monogamy together before deciding that they would pursue committed relationships outside of their marriage. On this episode, Evita shares what she has learned about herself through non-monogamy and how she has unpacked toxic narratives about love unquestioned monogamy can sometimes perpetuate. Because she has multiple partners, she has learned that she can have a huge sense of entitlement about what she is owed because of the position she holds in a relationship. She realized she had anger management issues as well and thought of her children as her property instead of their own selves separate from her. According to Evita, the most toxic notion about partnership that polyamory has helped her unpack is the concept of one person having to be all things for you. One person having to be your everything. She feels polyamory puts control of her needs back in her hands where it belongs. And she has given back the control of her partners’ needs back to them. While not one to place polyamory on any hierarchy of love structures, Evita does credit it with helping her find peace and contentment by herself. Even with a husband, a boyfriend and a girlfriend, there are still times when Evita will only have Evita’s company on any given evening. “That is the greatest gift ethical non-monogamy has given me,” Evita says. “It’s taught me that the number one person who can fulfill my needs is myself.”

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Ep 16: Nina Embraced Infertility With Gratitude

Creator of the internationally recognized Nonparents.com, Nina Steele remembers the exact day when she accepted she would not be a mother. She and her husband had been trying to conceive for years. After another failed attempt, an acute understanding of the reality of this situation washed over her. She was clear that her inability to conceive was not a sad situation over which she should grieve. “I am so lucky this has not happened for me,” she said to no one in particular. In this episode, Nina talks about how she grew up seeing the impact of unquestioned pronatalism on the lives of women. From a poor village in Ivory Coast, she witnessed many women giving birth to babies they could not feed because it was just tradition for African women to keep having babies as long as their bodies were able to produce them. She talks about how her own attempts to conceive a child were not really rooted in any concrete reason for wanting to be a mother. “I was married so I figured I should have a baby.” Though she and her husband live a comfortable life in England and could afford to raise a child, Nina is unapologetic when stating their infertility issue has granted them the freedom of expendable income and the chance to work on their own personal growth and creative pursuits. Through Nonparents.com, she has encountered other women who are childless by circumstance. She admits that she had to learn to be more compassionate towards those who did not come to acceptance of their non-motherhood as quickly and wholly as she did. Initially, it annoyed Nina when western women who had been born into lives of so much abundance, so much privilege droned on about how incomplete they felt because they had everything else – except children. She learned to be more compassionate towards them because she understood how not coming from a place of rampant poverty informed their view of the world. “My experiences growing up in Ivory Coast taught me to be grateful for whatever I had,” Nina explains. “I operate from a place of gratitude in every part of my life. It is why I am so grateful that I know I can live a fulfilling and joyful life without having children.”

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Ep 15: Damia Created a Space That Celebrates Single Women

Like many young girls, Damia Jackson assumed she would be married one day. Though she never focused exclusively on finding a husband, she assumed somewhere in her 30s, there’d be one living in her home. Now, as a 46-year-old woman who has never married, Damia sees a great need for the blog she created, Single Girls Rock. In this episode, she talks about realizing there were no spaces that spoke to single women from a place of normalcy. Much of what she encountered seemed to come from the premise of: Here is what is wrong with you and what you need to do to get a man. For Damia, these spaces were not very helpful. She had come to see her life as a conscious choice even though marriage had been an institution she once desired. By her mid-30s, she had decided to stop waiting on a spouse in order to have certain experiences like buying a house or traveling to her dream destinations. Through Single Girls Rock, Damia has connected with women all around the world who share her story of choosing singlehood and finding joy in their lives. “I have freed myself from the notion that a romantic relationship is the most important one I should focus on,” Damia says. “I also have freed myself from the belief that to be single is to be completely alone and never need anyone.” Aside from showing vulnerability to friends, lovers and family members, Damia believes seeking the help of the people in her life is key to being a woman who is healthy and happy.

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Ep 14: Princess Shaw is Working on Being Free

When she was approached about participating in a documentary about You Tube performers, Princess Shaw thought nothing of it. She had been singing on You Tube for years and had built up a respectable following. The documentary, Introducing Princess Shaw, found its way to Netflix. In this episode, Shaw opens up about how excited she was when her You Tube videos were noticed by an Israeli music producer and then his filmmaker friend. She admits that she was going through a deep depression during the taping of the documentary, but still recorded because she saw it as important to her career. She also trusted the filmmaker and music producer to present her story in a way that would inspire others. Shaw is unabashed when she talks about revealing on film that she was a survivor of sexual abuse. She tells the truth about her mother’s involvement in the abuse and denial of how she allowed Shaw and her siblings to suffer under the hands of her boyfriend. She says music and her other creative expressions were not what helped her work through her trauma. Speaking out as she did with family and then on camera released some of the silence and secrecy that surrounded the abuse. When she was not talking about it, she was giving it more power. “I am free sometimes,” Shaw reports. “There are times when I sing on stage and I feel like nothing can stop me, like I have let everything go. Then sometimes I get off the stage and that feeling leaves. It’s a process. It’s work I have to do.”

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Ep 13: Ms. West Found A Better Life Outside the USA

Kimberly West is unafraid of transition because she is well versed in reinvention. In her 50 brief years on this planet, she has transitioned from a corporate worker to a management consultant to a restaurant owner to a farm owner to a globally minded entrepreneur. In this episode, Kimberly talks about her decision to leave the United States for Mexico. The impetus for her relocation was realizing just how tainted the food supply in America is and wanting an all around healthier lifestyle. Given the toxicity of the political climate and the cost of living, remaining in the United States seemed counter productive to her goal of holistic happiness. Ms. West talks about how much better she eats now because she has greater access to clean foods. She also is able to invest in her businesses because her dollar goes so much farther than it ever had in America. Another big advantage of living outside of America is the lessened anxiety of being dehumanized because of her blackness. Kimberly speaks honestly about not worrying about being a statistic now that she has left the United States and hypothesizes on why more Black Americans won’t follow her (and many others) lead. In addition to the joys of living abroad, she shares the assumptions people make about her as an unmarried, childless woman who spends more time traveling and building her businesses than trying to find a good man. She chuckles at this cross cultural concern that no man will want her because she is too independent and is making no effort to correct this character flaw that makes her less desirable to eligible men. “I am much happier than many of my friends who have done what they were supposed to do, who have the white picket fence, the good man and kids,” Kimberly states. “At any rate,” she continues, “the lesson from my story is not about whether to take the traditional route or not. It is simply none of us are bound to the country of our birth. No matter which country that is or what we envision as our life goals.”

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Ep 12: Phyllis Evolves in Her Role as A Wife

When she was 19 years old, Phyllis Brown began dating her husband because she wanted to lose her virginity to this fun and charismatic guy with whom she connected immediately. The man she had chosen to “pop my cherry” became her boyfriend of ten years and has been her husband for another ten. In this episode, she shares how the last twenty years with her husband have seen her grow in her own identity and evolve from the young woman who believed the only way to be a partner was to take care of the king of the house and honor his every word. Given this partner prototype by the women in her family, Phyllis had no idea that a wife could have an identity outside of her husband. Because she was so young when she met her husband, her naiveté allowed his powerful personae to overshadow her. As they have both grown in the relationship, she has had several discussions with him about what makes her happy and how she needs the marriage to progress in order to still be his wife and herself at the same time. Phyllis and her husband identify as polyamorous so they both maintain relationships outside of their marriage. She credits the support of her husband and the guidance of her two other partners in helping her reclaim herself and redefine happiness as she reaches the other side of forty. “It is important to learn how to be selfish,” Phyllis says. “I still have to work through guilt when I choose myself over my husband and home, but I am getting better at it.”

Ep 11: Gabrielle, An Atheist Living in the Bible Belt South

A retired member of the military, Gabrielle Tolliver began questioning what she was taught in Sunday school early into her childhood. While the adults in her family were not frequent attenders of church, they did require the children go to service as often as possible. When Gabrielle challenged the inconsistencies and cruelties taught in Sunday School lessons, she was chided with: “You are just too young to understand.” In this episode, she talks about being a nonbeliever in North Carolina, where church and god are as deeply woven into the culture as speaking to strangers and asking after a casual acquaintance’s Mama. From missionaries knocking on her door offering her salvation through Christ to grocery store clerks wishing her God’s blessings, Gabrielle often has to “out” herself as an atheist even when she’d rather just sit at home and watch television with her wife or buy broccoli at the supermarket for that night’s dinner. Gabrielle dismisses the suggestion that because she does not believe in a supernatural deity, she does not have a solid moral code. She finds it insulting to imply a person needs some force outside themselves to influence their decision to be a decent human being. “I don’t need a sky pappy to tell me when I’ve wronged another person or harmed a defenseless animal,” Gabrielle explains. “I don’t need the god gap to fill in the blanks about the world for me.”

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Ep 10: Kimberly is a Minister Who No Longer Needs Religion

A professor and performer, Dr. Kimberly Chandler has a long history with the Christian church. When she organized a family reunion and there was a requisite Sunday church service planned, she did not have to corral her people to a house of worship. Between the licensed ministers, choir directors, lead sopranos, ushers and first ladies among her family members, the Chandlers had their own church service right where they had their barbecue the day before. In this episode, she reveals why she no longer has a place for “manmade” religion in her life. A licensed minister, she experienced firsthand the sexism and commitment to rigid gender roles that keep many forward-thinking women away from churches. She maintains that the sexist pushback she felt as a woman active in the church has nothing to do with scripture. It is more about how men relate to women and the stain of toxic masculinity. Her own father – a minister himself – discouraged her from responding to the call she received from God. Dr. Chandler does not resent her father and faithful Christians who truly believe that it is God’s will to abdicate leadership to males who then serve as overseers to the women doing most of the work on these religious “plantations.” She knows the “black church” is a diverse entity and in today’s world, she believes one can find a church home that matches one’s progressive ideals. As she articulates where she is on her spiritual journey, she talks about freeing herself from the image of the Angry God who rules with punishment. Having overcome mental breakdowns in the past, Kimberly decided, “I had no choice but to to free myself from the belief that God was out to get me. I had to take care of myself spiritually and emotionally.”

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Ep 9: Kyndra’s God Accepts Her Sexuality (And So Does She)

A clinical social worker and Associate Pastor at First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC) in New York City, Kyndra Frazier felt called to ministry while still a child. She was very active in youth activities and felt comfortable sitting in the pews at the Church of God. In this episode, she shares how she spent years doing everything but formally ministering to fellow Christians. When the opportunity to serve presented itself at FCBC, she accepted it with no hesitation. At FCBC, Kyndra has been charged with spearheading and serving as executive director of the church’s free mental wellness clinic, The Hope Center. Equally important, she has shown the LGBTQ community that it is possible to be a disciple of Christ while living in the fullness of your sexuality – even if it that sexuality does not conform to the heteronormative narrative. From the pulpit, she has shared her story of trying to pray her same-sex attraction away and sitting silently as a family member shamed her for being unsuccessful at faking heterosexuality. Kyndra’s message of God-Has-No-Problem-With-Who-You-Are has made the LGBTQ congregants feel accepted and included when they come through the doors of FCBC to worship. A trained theologian with a Masters of Divinity degree from Emory University, Kyndra discusses why many black churches are not ready to move (en masse) to progressive theologies. She believes that not enough church leaders have the courage to preach progressive interpretations of the Bible. Though their training and own critical thinking skills have brought them to new ways of looking at the Bible, fear causes them to continue teaching theology that is accepted as truth. “I find it odd when people say, ‘The Bible says this’ because the Bible doesn’t really say anything. It just reads a certain way,” Kyndra states. It is through her work with FCBC and her forthcoming documentary, A Love Supreme: Black, Queer and Christian in the South, that Kyndra does the noble work of Jesus by reading the Christian holy book as a document that includes all.

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