Queer couple Ja’Mel Ware, 32, and Alphonso Mills, 29, avoided each other for months after they first met at The Vision Cathedral of Atlanta in 2018. The avoidance—a result of excitement, fear, and an internal knowing that the journey they were about to embark upon would be different than any relationship they’d ever experienced—was cemented during a recent Thanksgiving trip to Disney World. It would prove to be a full-circle moment for Ware, who until recently associated the “most magical place on earth” with one of his most painful childhood memories.
“All boys grow differently.” It’s a phrase that Ware, who was assigned female at birth, often heard from his late mother while growing up in Detroit, MI. “She always told me the story about the two-spirits that she felt inside of me,” said Ware.” So my mother knew who I was well before I did. She never used the language of trans but she knew that I was different and would be different,” he said.
Ware, who was born with HIV, tells The Reckoning that his mother did all that she could to prepare him for what she believed would be a difficult life ahead. Ware says he vividly recalls his first trip to Disney World as a Girl Scout being one of the most painful moments of his childhood after a troop leader disclosed his HIV status to the adult chaperones without his or his mother’s permission.
“When I got down to Florida, everything all of a sudden changed,” said Ware. “The person that I was supposed to room with…this person that I’d known since I was four-years-old, their grandmother didn’t want me in their room, and she gave no explanation. It turned into this trip where I wasn’t allowed to play with anybody and nobody wanted me around. Deep down, I knew it had something to do with me being HIV-positive,” he said.
Ware is also convinced that his status led him to be kicked out of the private school he attended during his fifth-grade year.
“I think it was my first moment of understanding that people will dislike me simply based on something that I had no control over,” he said.
So for Ware, the road trip from Atlanta to Orlando with Mills provided an opportunity for him to make new memories with the man he first crossed paths with at church through an earth-shattering embrace that could have only been divinely ordered.
“At the time, we sat on opposite sides of the church,” said Ware. “He kept turning around, but I didn’t know who he was looking at, but I kept catching his eye. He’s very attractive,” said Ware of Mills. “I was like, I wonder who this man is looking at? You know in the church service it gets to the point where you have to get up and go hug your neighbors? So now this man has gone from the front left all the way to the right middle to give me a hug [laughter]. In that moment…in that hug, I knew that this was the man that I would be with for the rest of my life. I felt it so deeply in my spirit, and I think it terrified both of us because we didn’t talk for quite a long time after that. But I never forgot that. And every Sunday I would look for him and he’d be in the same spot every Sunday, but nothing happened for months,” he said.
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