This is part of the author’s LGBTQIA encounters in New York City (and beyond), where he is a State Department Fellow/Community Solutions Leader of the 2014 Community Solutions Program (CSP), a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State, and implemented by IREX.
During Fall in 2013 in California, Tina Shauf opened up to Irma Salvatierra Bajar how – after working with her to grow the movement nationally since 2011 – she already had feelings for her. “I was apprehensive, of course, as it could ruin our friendship,” Tina recalled. “But a kasama told me to just tell Irma. I said (my telling) could make things weird. She said: ‘No, it won’t.’ So I fessed up to Irma. I told her: ‘I started to have feelings for you.’ And that I don’t want anything to be weird between us (with my confession).”
“When she told me she had feelings for me, all I thought was: ‘Oh my God!’,” Irma said. “For years I was attracted to her. So I told her: ‘Tina, I’ve had feelings for you for five years now. You’re my dream girl.”
That Fall was when they became an item.
In hindsight, “we always had a special love for each other,” Tina said. “We saw each other two to three times a year (while doing national work for Gabriela USA). We’ve always had that special connection.”
“We called each other batchmates,” Irma said. “We joined the movement around the same period (in 2008).”
Being together was not in the books, though, as they were both seeing each other.
Still, “we built that friendship over time,” Tina said.
In 2013, breakups happened, and “that changed the dynamics between us,” Tina said.
Tina serves as the vice chair of campaigns of GABRIELA USA, while Irma is the vice chair of international relations (and concurrently the program coordinator for membership of Audre Lorde Project).
“Irma always has open arms for everyone,” Tina said. “People gravitate to that. I know I did. I always admired her from afar. She was always someone I look up to in the movement.”
For Irma, “Tina is a fierce leader in the community. She has a beautiful fighting spirit for our people. I’ve always been attracted to her beauty inside and out.” And it doesn’t hurt that “Tina is an amazing singer and dancer,” Irma teased.
Both Irma and Tina – not incidentally – wanted to be with someone dedicated to the movement. With each other, this was found.
Irma and Tina told members of the organization about what they felt for each other, “to get the support of the movement,” Tina said. The response has been positive.
A challenge for them for now is the distance. To deal with this, “we prioritize each other,” Tina said. Thus the frequent calls, texts, and all that.
There are also the demands of their work. “But we’re also (cognizant of times) when things are busy,” Tina said.
For Irma, “our time of knowing each other is rooted in the movement, so that’s an important part of our relationship.”
Irma is slated to move to the Bay Area (from New York) this December to “continue working with the LGBTQ community in whatever way I can,” she said, “and also to be with Tina.”
They are, in fact, already looking at forming a family. “We’ll have a ceremony. And two kids,” Irma smiled.
The plan is to raise a revolutionary family “We are committed to raising our family in the movement,” Tina said. “With values that aren’t always aligned with the values we have here. We want our kids to see our people liberated.”
The movement, Tina said, is family. As such, co-parenting is being eyed.
Irma and Tina believe that the love they have can help benefit the movement.
“Our relationship is a contribution to the movement. It can still learn,” Irma ended.