The Right’s Dangerous War Against Black Children

I find it fascinating that humans need love to survive. Do any other species suffer from a host of maladies associated with absolute and total emotional neglect as greatly as we do? I don’t know. But what I do know is that love is not optional. And we, family, must fight against any force, real or imagined, that attempts to extinguish something so vital. When people ignore, spit upon, denigrate and hate us for who we are and who we love, I think about what they are really fighting against–love–and wonder what is wrong with them.Image

And then I put it in the context of LGBT families who want to share their love by adopting or fostering a child who has no consistent source of love, these roadblocks, in my opinion, become a crime. Today I read with interest Mia Springer’s story on Huffington Post. Mia is a 19-year-old black, college student, who shares what it is like being adopted by two white lesbians*:

“I couldn’t ask for better parents but then again who could when they have given me so much? And the craziest part? They chose me. Yep, picked me out of a group of small children with big, hopeful eyes and white gleaming smiles. They took me into their home and into their hearts, and loved and cherished me, and to this day spoil me beyond compare.”

We don’t know Mia’s entire story as she didn’t tell us how she ended up in the system. However, we do know the stories and unfortunate endings for many of our black children. According to the U.S. Health and Human Services, only 23 percent of black children get adopted compared to 37 percent of white children. What happens to the other 77 percent of black children who remain in the foster care system or who age out of the system? I think anyone who watches the news knows. That’s why I wonder about the sanity of people who fight against the little girl or boy stuck in the foster care system who is most certainly headed for a downward spiral of drug, physical or emotional abuse and most likely a life of crime. That child could have been placed in the home of a black lesbian couple or a black gay couple, a queer family of color or even a white queer family like Mia’s.

After all, we are human beings and without consistent love, support and a permanent home, we are doomed to a life of despair. I think often about little black boys who will grow up to believe that the only thing that makes him a man is holding guns, accomplishing little and intimidating people. These are the true victims of the marriage equality ban. The religious right claim their opposition to gay marriage is all about the children. But how cruel is it to deny children access to parents who have the means and room in their hearts to give them the greatest gift of all–love. Actions against love should be a crime. Our laws are ass backward. And we will/are pay (ing) for this with a generation children who are simply funneled into a broken system.

I’m not naive. I don’t believe that lifting the gay marriage ban nationally will magically flood more LGBT homes with children as not all us have the means or interest in raising children. (As a matter of fact, Census data shows a decline in the percentage of same-sex couples raising children–from 19 percent in 2006 to 16 percent in 2009.) But, I think we can give some of these children who never even had a choice or chance a better lease on life. If we want a better generation of leaders, we have to set an example of what passionate, bold, love looks like by making it real in their everyday lives. Love is bigger than a concept. Bigger than words. We are quicker to believe in real love when we see and hear it and from where I sit/stand, religious right comes from a place that is absolutely devoid of love.

And yes, we have made significant gains in the fight for marriage equality in the past few weeks and that is something to celebrate. However, the following paragraph from Mia’s story really sums up for me the ridiculousness of the slow dismantling of the same-sex marriage ban state by state: “Why should my parents have had to wait until 2014 to get married in the eyes of the law, simply because of the form of their love? People didn’t see the need to understand this type of love and bonding or maybe they weren’t ready to understand. I have been with my family for fifteen years and as far as I can see there is no crime done here, only your average people making more than average lives for themselves. Filling it to the brim with sunlight and the most precious gems life has to offer.”

Are you a black lesbian family with children who would like to share your story here? Send me an email at bllovelab@gmail.com and I will happily share your story!

*According to U.S. Health and Human Services, four out of 10 children are adopted by parents of a different race than themselves.

Who is Responsible for Telling Black LGBT Stories?

Today I saw an interesting rant/media analysis written by Helen McDonald for Autostraddle. In the piece, Loving the Women Who Look Like Me: Queer Black Women in Love, she talks about the dearth of healthy black lesbian relationships portrayed in media and discusses the prevalence of interracial lesbian relationships in media.

She starts out by writing:

” When I first came out to myself two years ago, I didn’t know how to love the women who looked like me. I barely knew how to accept my same gender desires, but at least the TV shows, movies, and books that lauded ivory-skinned beauties with hair that grows and flows down taught me how to lust after white women. But, loving, lusting after, dating, fucking, playing with, and appreciating the women with dark(er) skin, and kinky hair (or braids, or perms, or weaves), who were taught, like me, that their curves and edges were undesirable proved a mystery to me.”

To be quite frank, I found the piece a bit tiresome and the arguments put forward a bit hackneyed. While it is true that our relationships are not prevalent in media–and that lack is the entire reason for this blog–what difference does complaining about this make? In some ways it’s like preaching to the choir in my estimation. (Or maybe not as Autostraddle seems to cater to white queer women.) We are not mainstream yet and I’m not at all sure that I’m all that worried about becoming mainstream. What I think we should all be concerned about is making respect and social justice mainstream. And in the interim I’m more interested in seeing us take control of and tell our stories. I believe Elixher, for which McDonald also writes, is doing an excellent job telling the stories of black queer women. I think Media Diversified is also doing the same. I hate to sound like Booker T. Washington here but this is a process. With numerous talented black queer women adding their voices to the blogosphere and telling our stories across various forms of media, it is only a matter of time before we get to critical mass and maybe some day mainstream ubiquity. The long and short of it is that black women have not traditionally been commercially viable and that has not changed dramatically over the years. Add to that the still strong taboo of them being in lesbian relationships and you can forget it. I’m not saying this is okay. I’m just stating a fact. Looking back at media over time one can see that indeed a certain type of womanhood (white, skinny, blonde, straight, conventionally attractive) has dominated our screens and magazines. By that token we also don’t see many fat people in loving relationships, which is why the CBS sitcom Molly and Mike was so groundbreaking. We never see Asians represented in media in non-model minority roles much less their love stories. We don’t see many older people in relationships portrayed either (The Golden Girls, also a classic and one of my favorite shows, was probably the only commercially successful program to do so. And don’t bring up Hot in Clevelandcuz the show is not hot.) By the way, we don’t see many straight, married, nuclear black families in mainstream media either.

While I believe McDonald has a point in stating that mainstream media gives us skewed and limited views of black love and to a greater extent black lesbian love, anyone who has worked in media or simply observed from the sidelines knows the deal. Media execs are not all that interested in responsible journalism or accurate portrayal of diverse groups. The average American consumer in general thrives on lazy stereotypes and is easily titilated by nonsense and drama, which is why “reality shows,” which I find interminably boring, are cluttering our screens. Let’s face it, unless a TV station has the letters PBS in it, they are not in the business of education. They are in the business of garnering viewers and ad revenue and they will only get that almighty dollar by commodifying what viewers want to see. There is a reason why Modern Family is a hit–gay white dads who play up several gay stereotypes–are a bit more palatable to mainstream America than black lesbian moms. Again I’m not saying this is acceptable.

As for McDonald’s comments about black women dating white women in media that’s neither here nor there for me. We are all entitled to our preferences. Who am I to question that preference? I’m happy for Robin Roberts that she found a loving partner. I happen to prefer dating and highlighting the lives of black women. It also may be that black women who date white women may be more comfortable with their sexuality and therefore more likely to live their lives out in the open. Just a theory. I don’t know if it holds any water.

The point that I’m making is that I don’t look toward mainstream media as my compass for all things normal. I did at one point and grew up and realized I would be holding my breath for a very long time waiting for people like me to show up in prime time. That’s when I decided that with my background in media it was up to me to tell the stories I wanted to see. After all isn’t that why most of us became writers? To tell the stories that may never get heard in mainstream outlets? And fortunately there is a willing audience out there hungry and waiting to see themselves reflected in our poetry, prose, YouTube series, etc. Admittedly some of these shows have a long way to go and because they sometimes traffic in stereotypes may not be much better than being invisible in mainstream shows. This is where plurality of voices is critical. We have to come out of the shadows and tell our own stories and share our own love stories with each other, from different angles, in different voices and in many ways. This audience, no matter how small, is why I do what I do and honestly, I really could care one iota about seeing women like myself in mainstream media. I have a voice here and I’m happy to share it with those who are searching. And while McDonald reiterates valid arguments, I think we cannot keep making these arguments without acknowledging the work that many queer people of color are doing on our behalf. Neither should we forget that we do not have to wait for media integration for our voices to be heard.

Photographer Spends a Year Documenting LGBT Weddings in South Africa

With so many sad stories of hate and oppression on the continent of Africa, I was thrilled to discover this awesome story …

 

Ziningi & Delisile Ndlela

Ziningi & Delisile Ndlela

“… Photographer Zanele Muholi spent 2013 documenting weddings and funerals in the LGBT community of South Africa – juxtaposing emotional events that often go hand in hand.” Pictured are Ziningi and Delisile Ndlela’s wedding, which took place June 15, 2013 in Durban, South Africa.

 

SEE THE OTHER PHOTOS HERE AND LEARN ABOUT THE EXHIBIT.

Want to share your love story? Send an email to bllovelab@gmail.com

 

Mommy, When Is our Father Son Time? Shattering the Parental Binary

Media Diversified

by Carolyn Wysinger

Mother's Day Card by Strong FamiliesMother’s Day Card byStrong Families

Today is the day that we take out to celebrate Mothers. We celebrate the new beginnings that they birth, the lives they nurture and support, the faith that they have in their families and also instill in their children. On this special day we will see many images of mothers, grandmothers and even great grand-mothers being doted on by their children and being surrounded in loved by their families and members of their communities. One image that is missing in the celebration of Mothers Day is the image of Masculine of Center (MOC) mothers. Somewhere in the celebration of motherly love we conveniently left strong Butch mothers out of the picture. These are the women that have to fight in a society that tells them that their masculine energy makes their love different from any other mother on the planet. The…

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Playing House

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One of the things I’d like to do on this blog is not only share my personal experiences of trying to find and keep a loving, healthy, black, woman-centered relationship, but also share and dissect some of the ideas that have made a profound impact on my life. One of the concepts that I think about often is the idea of the nuclear family. All my life, mass media has told me that the ingredients for building a happy, healthy family involved a woman, a man, a church, a mortgage, a minivan and children. Oh and this perfect family model was generally white. This model was certainly prevalent in my neck of the woods in suburban Maryland. On my mother’s side of the family, everybody had done what they were supposed to do: get married and produced the requisite heirs to their middle-class fortunes (i.e. 401ks). On my dad’s side, people didn’t get married. They shacked up for like 20 years while the man had multiple children with multiple women. Some would call the primary relationships common-law marriages. I just called it my norm.

U-hauls or How Lesbians Created a Cottage Industry

Until the marriage equality movement started sweeping the nation, queers like us couldn’t legally marry. Some had ceremonial commitments or civil unions. Desperate to create some semblance of familial commitment, others of us partook in the lesbian u-haul syndrome. We all joke about it but many of us have experienced it in one way or another. The scenario goes a little something like this: two lesbians meet, have an instant connection, immediately get booed up, start spending every free moment together and within months, if not days, they have moved in together. I talked to a friend about this the other day and in her last relationship, her girl just moved in on the sneak tip. They didn’t talk about it or plan it. The girl lived with her mother and when they spent time together at my friend’s house, it just didn’t make sense to go home and then come right over again the next day. Continue reading