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.
If you look in black communities historically, there’s always been same-gender-loving people. It was something that everyone knew about that nobody talked about openly. Someone might have a partner and they might bring them home for Thanksgiving, but no one would ever say, “This is so-and-so’s partner.” They would say, “This is her friend.” We can see in larger society that there’s been a movement from keeping same-sex relationships just in the private sphere to really talking about them publicly.
TR: The lack of information about black lesbian couples and families has led to a lot of ignorance. In general, black LGBT communities are thought of as entirely different or “other.” In an article, “Color Us Invisible,” at the Huffington Post, you pointed out that black lesbian families are very grounded in African-American culture. What exactly did you mean by that?
MRM: One of the main findings from researching my book was that black same-sex couples are more likely to live in black cities and neighborhoods and communities, like New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles and Chicago, [than in LGBT communities]. If you look in the rural areas, African-American lesbians live in small towns with other black folks in Florida and South Carolina and Mississippi and Alabama. They tend to live with the racial community more than with the LGBT community for various reasons, but one is because their racial identities are more important to them.
Many black lesbians who grew up in the ’70s or ’80s were raised with a religious base in the church or mosque. They take those practices with them when they try to parent as a gay parent. They still have a strong belief in God and want their children to believe in God. They remain connected to their racial communities and don’t leave when they take on a gay identity. They continue to participate in various cultural activities for black folk. They remain with a strong sense of who they are as black women.
They know all the ins and outs that heterosexual blacks know. They still have fathers and brothers that are gunned down by the police. All the things that happen to black people because they are black happen to the black LGBT community, too.