Love Under Pressure in Lesbian Matrimony

Black Love: An expert weighs in on the added stresses that come with being in a same-sex marriage.

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Mignon R. Moore (left) with her spouse, Elaine Harley (courtesy of Mignon R. Moore)

(The Root) -- With all the fuss over what's keeping black women and black men from jumping the broom, black married couples have been lost in the fray. Yes, of course they exist! In fact, the vast majority of black women and men do indeed get married.

Many of us are putting our own spin on how we love and make it work. The "traditional" route -- love, marriage, then the baby carriage -- works for some, but for others, love comes in the form of a blended union, a lesbian wedding or a multipartner (not-so-legal) marriage.

In a three-part series on black love and commitment, The Root will celebrate Valentine's Day by taking a look at how black folk are loving each other, the problems the community faces and the solutions for making it work.

For the second in our series, The Root spoke with Mignon R. Moore, an associate professor of sociology and African-American studies at UCLA, and the author of Invisible Families: Gay Identities, Relationships, and Motherhood Among Black Women. Moore, who spent three years following the lives of more than 100 lesbians as research for her book, breaks down for The Root how same-sex-marriage laws uniquely affect black lesbian couples, the extra burden that homophobia puts on ladies who love ladies and how same-sex-loving black women are staying together despite the strain. "Black lesbians are a part of the black community," says Moore. "Even if people have personal opinions, that should not affect other people's rights."

The Root: What are the biggest stressors that black lesbian couples face inside their relationships?

Mignon R. Moore: It can really hurt a relationship if one person is very ashamed of being gay and feels like their sexuality is of a lower status than a heterosexual person. It gives the woman a feeling of low self-esteem around her gay sexuality. It can be hard sometimes, but it's good for a woman's psyche to be able to look at herself in the mirror and feel like she's not pretending to be someone she is not, even if that means some people will reject her.

TR: How does misinformation and homophobia in the larger community put a strain on same-sex-loving couples?

MRM: There are still some obstacles that people face in wondering whether or not the community will support them. There are times when black lesbians feel supported by their families and maybe neighbors, but there are times when they don't feel safe and they feel people are going to try to impose their belief systems onto them. This adds shame and stigma and makes it harder to live an openly gay life.

TR: The black community gets a lot of flak about homophobia. Are black folk doing any better when it comes to supporting black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples?

MRM: The larger black community is just starting to understand black LGBT issues. For so long, the image of who is gay has been a white person that they don't relate to. When they really think about it, I'm sure they know of some people in their community who are gay.

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