As two African-American lesbians, racism is not new to us. In fact, we experienced racism long before we ever experienced homophobia. From an early age we heard our features were “unattractive” or that we were “not as intelligent.” Then, once we came out as gay, we were either rejected by family or members of society.
But today, as Black mothers raising twin 5-year-old boys in Dallas, we face a new challenge. How do we explain to our boys the world they see before them?
While we can somewhat protect our sons from the madness of the world now, soon we must tell them the truth -- the truth of who they are and how the world sees our family. Right now, we are simply momma and mommy. They are aware that we are “brown” (as they call it). When we hear them say innocently they are brown or that they love having two moms, we smile and beam with joy. But deep down inside, there is a mourning in us - a mourning of their innocence because we both know one day they will be exposed to the harsh reality of inequality our family faces.
One day, we will have to explain to them why their mama was called the N-word in their pre-K school parking lot. We will have to recount the time their teacher accused one of them of stealing because he was still too young to understand the concept of using the money we gave him for the school Christmas store; about the time a Trump supporter tried to run mommy off the road; and what it was like living under an administration that thinks their family does not deserve basic rights. In those stories, we will need to prepare them for what is to come -- to explain that they will experience not only racism, but homophobia because they are Black men with two moms. Our hearts will break as the innocence leaves their eyes and we explain that, as these beautiful boys age, some people will see them as a threat.
We have not yet decided when we will reveal these truths. All we know is that it must be done, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel, no matter how much it breaks our hearts. As protestors take to the streets to demand that our nation confront systemic racism -- historic protests that incidentally coincide with Pride month -- the reality of this double discrimination our boys will face is especially stark.
June is a month where we celebrate significant milestones in LGBTQ+ and African American History -- Juneteenth, Pride, and the fifth anniversary of marriage equality to name a few. It’s a time when we are reminded of how far we have come, and how very far we have to go. We also reflect on and mourn the ongoing attacks on LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender women of color, and the unlawful killings of Black men at the hands of police.
The truth of our existence and our status in this country have become abundantly more clear this year than years past. While we still feel pride -- pride in our African-American heritage, pride for the LGBTQ+ folks who came before us and fought for our rights, and pride to live in a country where it is legal for everyone to marry the person they love and now work without fear of being fired -- we are also grieving.
We are filled with pride and grief. So how do we reconcile this? How do we ensure our grief does not overshadow our pride? How do we raise our boys to push through the adversities we know they will encounter? These are questions we do not have the answer to yet because, in this moment, we are still fearful and discouraged. All we can do now is lean on our community and the strength of all our ancestors, African-American and queer, and continue to build a better future for our boys.
Stacey and Cheralyn Stevenson are a Dallas-based couple whose story is featured in Family Equality’s new docuseries OUT in Texas, in which two Texas LGBTQ+ families share reflections on how marriage equality impacted their lives.