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1 WE ARE DIFFERENT, BUT WE WANT THE SAME RIGHTS: AN INTERSECTIONAL ANALYSIS OF BLACK LESBIANS WHO ARE PARENTING IN NORTH FLORIDA By CLARE WALSH A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PAR TIA L FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2013
2 2013 Clare Walsh
3 To the women who told me their stories
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First and foremo st, I would like to thank Pastor Val and the women who graciously agreed to tell me their stories, without their support this dissertation would never have been possible. I would like to thank all of the members of my committee: Kendal Broad Wright (co cha ir), Milagros Pea (co chair), Tanya Koropeckyj Cox (internal member), and Katheryn Russell Brown (external member) for their thoughtful insights, continued support and encouragement. I would also like to thank the University of Florida Graduate School fo r their financial support in awarding me a Dissertation Scholarship I would like to thank all of the colleagues and friends I have made while a graduate student at the University of Florida. Your support, encouragement and conversations over a cold beer have made me a better sociologist and have definitely made grad school more bearable. I would like to thank my friends in Wright, Wyoming for their encouragement helping me to make the decision to leave my comfort zone and take on this part of my journey. I miss you all every day. I would especially like to thank my family for their limitless emotional support: my mother Mamie; my children Shee na and Daryl and their fami lies Jordan, Kaitlyn, and Keith, Daniel and Anthony; my sister Anne, and her kids Eli zabeth and Caleb I especially want to acknowledge, what I know is, the continuing support of my father, Tony, as he keeps an eye out for all of us. Now I can Finally I would like to thank my partner Eileen, for I could no t have made it through this part of my journey without the best support staff ever.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 7 CHAPTERS 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 9 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ .......................... 15 Households in Florida Headed by Lesbians and Gay Men ................................ ..... 15 Heterosexism in the Study of Families Headed by Lesbians and Gay Men ............ 16 Racism in the Study of Families Headed by African Americans ............................. 25 Race and Sexuality ................................ ................................ ................................ 30 African American Attitudes to Homosexuality ................................ ................... 30 African Americans and a Lesbian/Gay Identity ................................ ................. 36 African American Families and Lesbian/Gay Family Members ........................ 39 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 44 3 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND RESEARCH DESIGN ................................ .. 45 ................................ ................................ ......................... 45 Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ........................... 47 Symbolic Interaction ................................ ................................ ......................... 47 Intersectionality ................................ ................................ ................................ 50 Feminist Theory and Feminist Standpoint Theory ................................ ............ 51 Research Design ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 53 Recruitment and Sample ................................ ................................ .................. 53 Outsider /Insider Debate ................................ ................................ ................... 61 The Interviews ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 64 Profile of Interview Participants ................................ ................................ ........ 68 Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 69 4 OUR FAMILY IS THE SAME AS YOUR FAMILY TREAT US THAT WAY ........... 73 We All Bleed the Same Blood ................................ ................................ ................. 73 Family Recognition Is Important ................................ ................................ ............. 82 Ordinance 2012 296 ................................ ................................ ............................... 86 We Should Be Able to Marry the Ones We Love ................................ .................... 89 Adoption Rights are Important ................................ ................................ ................ 95 Legal Adoption Links Child(ren) to Non Biological Parent ................................ 96 Foster Families Headed by Gay Parents Are the Same Too .......................... 101 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 103
6 5 IT REALLY IS, NOT JUST GAY, BUT AFRICAN AMERICAN GAY ..................... 105 Black Lesbian Experiences of Homophobia ................................ .......................... 105 Black Lesbian Experience s of the Black Church ................................ ................... 114 Black Lesbian Identity: The Stud/Femme Dynamic ................................ .............. 122 Black Lesbian Parenting ................................ ................................ ....................... 126 Talk to Children about Homophobia ................................ ............................... 127 Talk to Children about Racism ................................ ................................ ....... 129 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 132 6 ............ 134 Everyday Homophobia as More Salient ................................ ................................ 135 ................................ ................................ .......... 140 People Are Able to Pick Up on It ................................ ................................ ........... 145 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 149 7 BLACK AND LESBIAN AND PARENTS: WE ARE DIFFERENT, BUT WE WANT THE SAME RIGHTS ................................ ................................ ................. 151 Summary of Significant Findings ................................ ................................ .......... 151 Areas of Future Research ................................ ................................ ..................... 155 Significance and Contributions of this Study ................................ ......................... 156 APPENDIX A SEMI STRUCTURED INTERVIEW GUIDE ................................ .......................... 160 B TABLE OF INTERVIEW PARTICIPANT DEMOGRAPHICS ................................ 163 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 164 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 179
7 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Par tial Fulfillment of the Requirements for t he Degree of Doctor of Philosophy WE ARE DIFFERENT, BUT WE WANT THE SAME RIGHTS: AN INTERSECTIONAL ANALYSIS OF BLACK LESBIANS WHO ARE PARENTING IN NORTH FLORIDA By Clare Walsh August 2013 Chair: Kendal Broad Wright Co Chair: Milagros Pea Major: Sociol ogy Almost 85,000 black lesbian and gay couples live in the United States, representing 14 percent of all same sex couples. Little is specifically known about this group since most sexuality research focuses on white gay people and most race research focuses on black heterosexuals. Black same highlight the unique circumstance found at the inters ection of sexuality and race. I conducted s emi structured interviews with twelve black lesbian who were parenting children alone and in couples asking them their perspectives on issues faced by their families as they nego tia te a social world of intersecting oppressions A symbolic interactionist theoretical frame was used with a constructivist grounded theory analysis to give increased voice to those black lesbians who are parenting My analysis shows that black lesbia ns who are parenting feel the same, yet different They spoke in terms of sameness as they sought to be seen as legitimate families who should be treated equally with th e equal right to marry or adopt children. They noted difference as they express ed feelings that their experiences provide
8 distinctive challenges for them as both black and lesbian. They especially highlight how they define their sexuality in racialized te rms, nego tia te it in racially defined communities, and help their children learn the different strategies of resisting racism and homophobia. T hey also explicitly said that managing their racial identity and the associated racism were not part of their da ily experience in the same way that sexuality and homophobia were. P articipants reflected on ways they self policed their lesbian identity in order to avoid conflict, to make others feel more comfortable, or to make themselves feel more comfortable depend ing on the situation or the social spaces they were in. The black lesbians interviewed for this project bring attention to their unique experiences as black lesbians in the black community as they revealed how they regulate their behavior in a social wo rld that marginalizes their lesbian identity through homophobia and racism These stories of black same sex families headed by lesbians help explore and expose the complexities and nuances found at the intersections of race and sexuality, especially as it relates to the family.
9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION There are almost 85,000 black lesbian and gay couples in the United States and this represent s 14 percent of all same sex couples living in the United States (Dang and Frazer 2004). This group is in a uniq ue position given that their experiences are not the same as those of black heterosexual couples or those of couples composed of white lesbians or gay men. Little is specifically known about this group since today most sexuality research focuses on white lesbian and gay couples and most race research focuses on heterosexual couples. Black same unique circumstance that is found at the intersection of sexuality and race. For example, Dang and Frazer (2004) report that 53 percent of black lesbians and gay men interviewed in 2000, experienced racial discrimination and 42 percent experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Furthermore, Biblarz and Savci (2010) in their review of the scholarship on lesbia n, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families report that even though there has been significant progress in the research on families are subjected to both the concom Black lesbians and gay men must nego tia te the social world while being challenged by the interlocking oppressions of racism and heteronormativity. The racism experienced by black Americans is systemic and occ urs in all aspects of everyday life at the workplace, in schools, in housing, in stores, and in daily social interactions (Collins 2000; Feagin 2000). Bonilla Silva (2010) notes blacks, when compared to whites, are more likely to be poor, earn less money, receive an inferior education, have less access to the housing market, receive impolite treatment in stores
10 and restaurants, pay more for goods, and are targets of racial profiling by the police. Dang and Frazer (2004) report these specifics as examples: Americans own the home in which they live com p ared to 70 percent of White Americans; Black men earn 70 percent of the income of Wh ite men and Black women earn 83 percent ed by black lesbians and gay men is significant, but must also be understood in relation to heterosexism and homophobia. Regarding sexuality, black same sex couples experience further challenges. tes, and stigmatizes any non 1995:321). Cross sex couples are privileged over same sex couples. Heterosexism can be blatant or more subtle and even unintentional. Like all LGBT individuals, black same sex people face various negative impacts from heterosexism ranging from acts of violence, to being fired or passed over for promotion on the job, to social isolation and loneliness (Gomez and Smith 1990; Harper, Jernewall, and Zea 2004). As LGBT people of color, black same sex individuals may feel a need to choose between their LGBT identity and being a member of their ethnic/racial group. Many times they experience nonacceptance and marginalization from both communities (Battle e t al. 2002; Harper et al. 2004; Herek and Capitanio 1995). In the white LGBT community, LGBT people of color may be objectified and eroticized (Harper et al. 2004). Furthermore, black same sex couples must contend with the mainstream American stereotype o f the white, affluent gay person living in an urban area of the Northeast or on the West Coast since they earn less money than white same sex couples and are
11 more likely to live in the South (Dang and Frazer 2004). Additionally, since over half of black s ame sex households include children they confront the additional challenges that come from raising children Black same sex households are hurt, both economically and legally, by family policies and ini tia tives like those limiting marriage to a man and a woman or those that limit adoption of children to heterosexuals (Dang and Frazer 2004). In a recent New York Times was reported that in addition to the legal and economic challenges f aced by black lesbian and gay couples who live in the South there is also a struggle to find a church where they feel welcome. M any of these couples grew up in and felt a close affinity to the black church 1 which may not be welcoming because of homophob ia. T he homophobic messages of the black church created feelings of guilt and shame. Just as the racism faced by black same sex families cannot be understood without an understanding of heterosexism and homophobia, the heterosexism and homophobia experie nced by these families cannot be separated from experiences of racism. Researchers know the demographics and the numbers of households headed by black lesbians and gay men from the information gathered by the U.S. Census, but researchers and scholars do no t know the group. As Williams Institute 2 demographer In this dissertation I 1 olving ethnicity (African American), region (having had some orientation to the South), socioeconomic status (working class), and sociopolitical ideology com and educational institutions, and political movem 131). 2 The Charles R. Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation L aw and Public Policy is a research center at the UCLA School of Law dedicated to the field of sexual orientation law and public policy. It advances law and public policy through rigorous independent research and scholarship (Gates et al. 2007).
12 help them begin tell ing their story by interviewing members of the black LGBT community in north Florida. Most of my interviews were with black lesbians from Jacksonville, Florida, a city with a large population of African American 3 same sex couples and the second largest population of gay parents in the country, about their perspectives on issues they face as the y nego tia te the social worlds of both sexuality and race (Tavernise 2011; The W illiams Institute 2010). I use the family as a context since heterosexism and racism both have an impact on family life in the black community (C ollins 2000; Feagin 2000; Moore 2011; Powell et al. 2010). These two systems of oppression (among others) shape the definition of family, explain who can form a family, determine who c an marry, and who can adopt. As I investigate perspectives of family in households headed by black l esbians I explore the intersection of sexuality and race (and to some degree gender and class) in an institution and in a community where it has been little studied. My project add s qualitative data to the quantitative data already available and brings th e voice of black same sex families to the conversation found at the intersection of race and sexuality as I answer the following question: How do those parenting in black same sex households frame the key issues faced by their families today ? Overview of d issertation This dissertation presents a look into the perspectives of African American lesbians who are parenting in the South more generall y and North Central Florida in particular. It adds to the limited research on 3 For thi polls there is no strong consensus in the community for eithe r term (Associated Press, 2012) and since my participants also used these terms interchangeably an d expressed no preference for either term.
13 families headed by black lesbi ans and the challenges they face as they nego tia te their social world at the intersection of race and sexuality (and gender and class) Chapter 2 begins with a summary of the demographics of households in Florida h eaded by lesbians and gay men. The chal lenges faced by black lesbians who parent are impacted by both heterosexism/homophobia and racism and I deal with each separately in my review of the literature. I provide an overview of the existing literature as it relates to the study of families heade d by lesbians and gay men as they are impacted by heterosexism and homophobia and I provide an overview of the existing literature as it relates to racism in the study of families headed by African Americans. I also include a discussion of the existing re search on homophobia as it specifically relates to the African American community. I close this chapter with an overview of the limited research that discusses the experiences of lesbian and gay Africa Americans Chapter 3 begins with a discussion of the reader with a sense of the challenges currently faced by scholars who look to define family. The theoretical approaches of intersectionality, symbolic interaction, and feminist theory and feminist standpoint theory are highlighted since these are the frames I used to explore the challenges faced by black lesbians who parent. This chapter also includes a discussion of my research design highlighting my recruitment and sampling strategies, methods for data collection, a p rofile of interview participants and analysis strategy Chapter 4 begins analysis of my research and details how participants talk about families are the same as any other fam ily participants discuss the importance of full and
14 equal family recognition Chapter 5 explores how participants understand their unique experiences as black lesbians The focus in this chapter is on the difference in experience black lesbians emphasiz e in how they describe their lives. Their perspective points to the impact of the homophobia found in the black comm unity and in the black church. My analysis revealed a stud/femme gender construct that recognizes the importance of presenting both mascul ine and feminine gender ideals in the black lesbian community and in the process helps participants assert a unique expression of identity at the intersection of race, sexuality, and gender. I also provide a discussion on the ways they describe talk ing to their children about nego tia ting a social world impac ted by racism and homophobia. Chapter 6 describes the ways in which participants explained how homophobia was different from racism but still intertwined with it. They highlight that as black lesbians they navigate their social world at the intersection of race and sexuality with its accompanying systems of oppression, racism and homophobia, not as black or lesbian, but as both black and lesbian. The f inal chapter provides a summary of the findings an d discussion of their contributions to our understandings of black lesbian experience today and finally includes recommendations for f uture research.
15 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW The focus of this project is on households headed by black lesbians who are pa renting This literature review offers an overview of the scholarship regarding both sexuality and race in the family context. In this review, the sexuality and family scholarship focuses on the parental fitness of lesbians and gay men. While the race an d family scholarship focuses on the attitudes of the African American community toward those with a gay identity and on the limited literature of families headed by black lesbians and gay men. It begins with a general discussion of households in Florida h eaded by lesbians and gay men. Households in Florida Headed by Lesbians and Gay Men Extrapolating from the 2000 census, there were an estimated 610,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (representing 41,048 same sex couples) living in Florida (Gates and Os t 2004). In fact, Florida was among four states (along with California, New York, and Texas) leading the country in the total number of same sex unmarried partner households (Smith and Gates 2001). nstitute in 2007 1 found there were almost 55,000 same sex couples in Florida living with children and 17 percent of them are raising children under the age of 18 (Romero et al. 2007). Ten percent of these couples have been racially/ethnically identified a s black (Gates and Ost, 2004). Furthermore, when race is a consideration, black same sex couples are 1 I recognize that demographic information using the 2010 census is currently available. Here I present information from the 2000 census since it has been more thoroughly disaggregated. For comparison, current de mographics available from the 2010 census report a slight decline in numbers with 48,496 same sex couples in Florida with 13 percent of all same and Cooke 2011).
16 more likely to be parenting than white same sex couples (Biblarz and Savci 2011; C ahill 2009; Dang and Frazer 2004 ; Gates and Ost 2004; Movement Advanceme nt Project, Family Equality Council, and Center for American Progress 2011). Gates reports that 40 percent of all same sex couples rearing children are African Americans (Marder 2011). These children include both biological and non biological children an d black same sex households report the presence of non biological children at higher rates than white same sex households. Biological children generally are children being raised in a family where their biological parent had custody and their parent came o ut as lesbian or gay after previous heterosexual relationship. Non biological children are defined as, biologically related to the adult who is their grandparent, aunt or u ncle but not compared to white lesbian couples, black lesbian couples are twice as likely to be raising a non biological child and when compared to white male same sex co uples, black same sex couples are three times more likely to be raising a non biological child. Because black same sex couples are parenting at such high rates they are disproportionately more likely to be impacted by family recognition policies like thos e relating to marriage and adoption. So, what does the research about homes headed by lesbian and gay men say? Most of it focuses on developmental outcomes for children in households headed by lesbians and gay men. Heterosexism in the Study of Families H eaded by Lesbians and Gay Men heterosexual experience and assumes heterosexist experience is the norm (Brown
17 1989). This norm is described by many and for the most part these defin itions present tia n, able from this nuclear, two heterosexual parent families they are genera lly considered deviant and inferior. This deviant status has an impact on the framing of research on LGBT families (and any other family that deviates from the norm). Thompson (1992) o overlook or on difference at the expense of similarities (Thompson 1992). With this framing scholars are missing out on an opportunity. Biblarz and Savci (2010) adv families but also much about heterosexual parent families and, at the same time, reveal (p. 494). Despite this search for difference in lesbian and gay families there has been LGBT parents are just as happy, healthy, and well adjusted as children raised by Center for American Progress 2011). Biblarz and Savci (2010) would agree as they identi ties per se have almost nothing to do with fitness for family roles and relationships, section.
18 Parenting by lesbians and gay m en Research has shown that l esbians a nd g ay men are just as good at parenting as heterosexuals. In this section, I highlight empirical research on parenting outcomes for lesbians and gay men and developmental outcomes for children raised in a household headed by same sex parents. Many studies show lesbians and gay men are fit parents. These investigations can be divided into three main categories based on their findings: 1) developmentally, children of lesbians and gay men are not significantly different from their peers who are raised in a fa mily with heterosexual parents (Allen and Burrell 1996; Anderssen, Amilie, and Yttery 2002; Chan, Raboy, and Patterson 1998; Flaks et al. 1995; Gartrell and Bos 2010; Pawelski et al. 2006; Stacey and Biblarz 2001; Tasker and Golombok 1995; Vanfraussen, Po njaert Kristoffersen, and Brewneys 2003; Wainright, Russell, and Patterson 2004); 2) children raised by lesbians and gay men are no more likely to be homosexual themselves when raised by gay parents (Allen and Burrell 1996; Anderssen et al. 2002; Huggins 1 989; Pawelski et al. 2006; Stacey and Biblarz 2001; Tasker and Golombok 1995; Wainright et al. 2004); and 3) in some aspects, children raised by lesbians and gay men actually do better than their peers who are being raised by heterosexual parents (Chan et al. 1998; Gartrell and Bos 2010; Golombok et al. 2003; Stacey and Biblarz 2001; Vanfraussen et al. 2003; Wainright et al. 2004). Allen and Burrell (1996) conducted a meta analysis of studies comparing children with homosexual or heterosexual parents, to address the custody and visitation limits placed on same sex parents. They found no differences between children of
19 satisfaction with life, and cognitive development, t hus challenging decisions that deny custody or limit visitation for parents who are lesbian or gay men. Anderssen, Amlie, and Yttery (2002) examined 23 empirical studies that were published between 1978 and 2000. They discovered seven outcomes to be the most studied: emotional functioning, sexual preference, stigmatization, gender role behavior, behavioral adjustment, gender identity, and cognitive functioning. The review concluded children of lesbians did not differ from other children when it comes t o these developmental outcomes. These authors noted the limited number of studies on gay fathers made it difficult to make substantive conclusions on the developmental outcomes of children being raised by gay men. Chan, Raboy, and Patterson (1998) examin ed the relationships between family structure, family process, and the psychological adjustment of children. They focused on lesbian families and heterosexual families who conceived children through artificial insemination using sperm from the same sperm b ank. They found all the children were developing normally and qualities of relationships within families are more important where parents were experiencing high leve ls of parenting stress, high levels of interparental conflict, and low levels of love for each other had children who had more behavioral problems. Stacey and Biblarz (2001) examined findings of 21 psychological studies that compared gay or lesbian parent s and children to a group of heterosexual parents and children noting all 21 studies found no differences in measures relating to parenting or child outcomes. They argue that these researchers stopped short and did not recognize
20 the impact heterosexism ha d in influencing their interpretation of the data. Stacey and Biblarz recognize gender, not sexual orientation, is more likely the source of more positive parenting. Positive parenting is defined as parenting with both parents being fully involved in chi ld rearing and with outcomes that produce children: 1) who have high levels self esteem and well being, and few mental health issues; 2) whose cognitive function falls in line with their level of development; 3) who have sexual and gender preferences and b ehaviors that conform to cultural norms. Furthermore, Stacey and Biblarz offered that gender and sexual orientation interact to create new family forms where children are more likely to express gender and sexual fluidity. Wainright, Russell, and Patterso n (2004) found similar results as Chan, Raboy, and Patterson (1998). They assessed personal, sexual, and social adjustment of children in families with same sex parents and families with opposite sex parents finding ked with family type but was strongly associated note an unexpected finding that adolescents living with non heterosexual parents felt more connected to school tha n those living with heterosexual parents. Flaks et al. (1995) compared children from families headed by lesbian parents to those headed by heterosexual parents. Their research found boys and girls raised by lesbian mothers are just as well adjusted in co gnitive and behavioral functioning as their peers who are raised in families with heterosexual parents. The difference they did find came when investigating parenting skills. Flaks et al. (1995) found lesbian couples were more aware of the skills necessa ry for effective parenting when compared to heterosexual parents, especially heterosexual fathers. Their ultimate conclusion is
21 sex, heterosexual Similarly, Vanfraussen e t al. (2003) found a difference in families headed by lesbians when compared to heterosexual families. Lesbian social mothers 2 were just as heterosexual families who were less involved than the mother. The social mother in lesbian parented families took equal responsibility for the children and was a symbol of authority just as the father was reported to be in families with heterosexual parents. Tasker and Golo mbok (1995) used longitudinal data comparing outcomes for young adults raised in families with a lesbian mother or a single heterosexual mother. The development of the children in terms of psychological well being showed no difference between the groups. They did find some anxiety for the children being raised by lesbian mothers. As these children moved through adolescence they experienced overall these young adults had no long term effects from this anxiety and had positive These young adults were also more willing to consider a sexual relationship with a person of the same gender, but they were not more likely to identity as lesbian or gay. Since so many samples of same sex parents use convenience and volunteer samples, Golombok et al. (2003) used the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. This study randomly sampled an a rea with a population of one million people. 2 The social mother is the lesbian co parent who has no biological relationship to the children but is helping raise children with their biological mother in a household they all share.
22 Furthermore, this survey interviewed lesbian mother families 3 two parent he terosexual families, and single heterosexual mothers so that a comparison could be made by family type. They found families headed b y lesbians had positive mother child relationship s and children who were well adjusted. The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, ini tia longest running, prospective, longitudinal study of same sex artrell and Bos 2010:2) and is unique in that the children who are part of this study were conceived and born into a planned lesbian family rather than being conceived in the context of a heterosexual relationship. Gartrell and Bos (2010) found adolescen ts raised in families headed by lesbians are well adjusted and have fewer behavioral problems than their peers being raised in families with heterosexual parents. Research design has focused on lesbian mothers comparing them with heterosexual single, marri ed, or divorced mothers and even heterosexual fathers. As a result there has been little research on parenting attitudes of gay men, and even less found reporting on the outcomes of children in families headed by gay men (Patterson 2000). Patterson (2000 ) does summarize several studies that found there were no significant differences between gay and heterosexual fathers and their motives for parenthood and gay fathers were found have greater responsiveness, more reasoning, and more limit setting when comp ared to heterosexual fathers. Anderssen et al. 2002; Golombok and Tasker 1996; Huggins 1989; Pawelski et al. 3 In the lesbian mother families, about half of the sample interviewed came from families headed by single mother s and half from families headed by a lesbian couple.
23 2006; Stacey and Biblarz 2001; Tasker and Golombok 1995; Wainright et al. 2004). All these investigations found children of lesbians and gay men are no more likely to identity as gay than peers who have heterosexual parents. The investigat ion by Golombok and Tasker (1996) is representative of these studies. They compared children of lesbian mothers with children of single heterosexual mothers and found children of lesbians were more likely to be open and accepting of lesbian and gay relati onships, but the children were still more likely to identify as heterosexual. Several investigations have concluded there are some positive aspects for bei ng raised in a lesbian or gay parented household. Chan, Raboy, and Patterson (1998) and Vanfraussen et al. (2003) found children in homes with lesbian mothers had both parents equally involved in their activities as compared to children in families with heterosexual parents where the mother was more involved with the children than the father. Golombok et al. (2003) found children in families with heterosexual parents were more likely to be hit, especially by their fathers, than children in families headed by lesbians. Gartrell and Bos (2010) found adolescents in families parented by lesbians were less l ikely to be aggressive and break rules than their peers in families with heterosexual parents. Pawelski et al. (2006) asserted children of lesbian or gay parents are more tolerant of diversity and more nurturing to younger children than their peers whose p arents are heterosexual. Children in lesbian and gay parented families have also been found to have an expanded view of gender roles, a greater sense of being wanted, and an appreciation for an equitable division of labor between parents (Adams 1996). A nd as noted earlier, W ainright et al. (2004) found children whose mothers were
24 lesbian had greater parental involvement with school than their peers with heterosexual parents. However there is a limitation to be found in the research described in this sec tion. The vast majority of these studies only mention sexuality of participants. Race, if mentioned at all, is not a main focus of investigation. Only Golombok and Tasker (1996), Kurdek (2004), Leung, Erich, and Kanenberg (2005), and Wainright et al. (2 004) make note of the race of the individuals who participated in their investigations and in all of these studies race is mentioned only as a demographic characteristic and not as a point of analysis. This research focus is extremely limiting and reduces the complexity of the lives and families of lesbians and gay men. Just as in the general population, there are lesbians and gay men who come from many different racial, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds and to focus only on sexuality creates a pict ure of the community that ignores this diversity and ignores the impact these factors have on the life experiences of lesbians and gay men and the children they raise. That being said, this extensive and rigorous empirical research does make clear that se xual orientation does not impact the ability to parent and has influenced many professional groups to come out with policy statements recognizing the parenting fitness organiza tions oppose restrictions on parenting by lesbians and gay men including the Child Welfare League of America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Associatio n, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the North
25 American Council on Adoptable Children, the American Bar Association, the National Adoption Center, t he Voices for Adoption, and the American Academy of Family Physicians (Cooper and Cates 2006; Gates et al. 2007; Howard and Freundlich 2008; Pawelski et al. 2006). Only one professional organization has developed a policy statement directly opposing pare nting by lesbians and gay men and that is the American College of Pediatricians (Cretella 2004). This small group broke away from the national professional group, the American Academy of Pediatricians, in 2002, when they created a policy statement noting lesbians and gay men are just as good at parenting as heterosexual parents (Howard and Freundlich 2008). The American College of Pediatricians argues that the two parent, married mother/father family structure is best tia lly hazardous to children and dangerously irresponsible to change the age old prohibition on homosexual parenting, whether by adoption, foster In the next section, I provide a discussion of some research that investigates the influence of race and racism on the study of family as it specifically impacts African American families. Racism in the Study of Families Headed by African Americans Before examining the ways racism impacts the study of African Amer ican families a general discussion of race and racism is provided. Bonilla Silva (2010) points out human creations rather than eternal, essen tia Nagel (2003) explains race are centered exclusively on visible (usually skin color) Roberts (2011) further
26 uman beings is a political division: it is a system of governing people that classifies them into a social hierarchy based on invented biological demarcations (p. x, emphasis in original) and most Americans use to produced a social system based in racism with oppression and mistreatment of black Americans by white Americans ranging from the subtle and hard to o bserve to the blatant and easily noticed (Feagin 2000). The effects of racism are encountered in .S. social landscape (Collins 2000:23) even influencing empirical research. Several researchers have reported on the influence racism has had for the study of African American families (Chatters, Taylor, and Jayakody 1994; Dilworth Anderson, Burton, and J ohnson 1993; Staples 1971). Much of previous research in family studies has been criticized for using the white, middle class family as the standard for comparison and in this comparison the African American family has been shown to be deviant and as a re sult has become pathologized. Staples (1971) asserts: B lack family research has been characterized by the reiteration of unfounded myths and stereotypes which produce in the public mind the image of black families as a pathological social unit a system in capable of rearing individuals who can adjust to the demands of a civilized society. (P. 119)
27 He further noted this deviant status has been used to generate public policy that directly impacts the way African American families are treated. Ethnic minorit y families are different from white middle class families, but that should not indicate a deviant status 4 Chatters, Taylor, and Jayakody (1994) and Dilworth Anderson, Burton, and Johnson (1993) point out one difference found in the family structure of m any African American families is the network of fictive kin. Fictive kinship is a status extended to a assistance like companionship and counseling or they may be instr umental in providing support like child care, transportation, or financial assistance (Chatters et al. 1994). against a discriminating environment (Dilworth Anderson et al. 19 93). Dilworth Anderson, Burton, and Johnson (1993) advocate for a change in the way ethic minority families are studied. They recognize four concepts are important to consider when studying ethnic minority families: 1) race is defined as a cultural constr uction of identity based on a set of descriptors used by a society; 2) ethnicity is where one develops a sense of peoplehood and a shared community with others who are members of the same group; 3) minority is defined as a low social position when compared to others and it indicates a place of oppression, suppression and discrimination experienced in almost all aspects of their life and society; 4) culture is an expression of self that includes racial and ethnic rituals, symbols, language, and general 4 This pathologizing of African American families is part of the cultural legacy of the 1965 Moynihan study of black families The Negro Family: The Case for National Action As Hill (2005) reports, Moy nihan much time working outside the home and not s upervising their children; without supervision the ir children became social failures (Collins 2000).
28 ways of behaving (Dilworth Anderson et al. 1993). Consideration of these concepts will help build an understanding of the ways minority families are unique in American life. Dilworth Anderson, Burton, and Johnson (1993) also caution family studies researchers who do not share the racial or ethnic identity of families being studied and this has been an important consideration in this project since my racial identity (white) does not match the African American families with whom I spoke They suggest: Productio n of knowledge about any group in a society is influenced by overriding societal norms, beliefs, and attitudes as well as the personal biography of the researcher. These societal and personal influences affect the way we see the world and perceive phenome na and people in it. (P. 635) However, several researchers point out advantages may be present when the interviewer and interviewee are not ethnically matched (Carter 2004; Foster 1994; Shah 2004; Tinker and Armstrong 2008). For example, Tinker and Armst rong (2008) point out that: By acknowledging their lack of cultural knowledge the researcher can: (a) judged, (c) ask some questions that a researcher from the same cultural group may n ot feel able to, and (d) maintain a critical distance from the data. (P.55) There are challenges to interviewing when the researcher does not match identities with those being researched, but these challenges are not insurmountable. A more thorough discu ssion of this outsider/insider debate is presented in the chapter on Theoretical Framework and Research Design Chapter 3 of this dissertation Generally speaking the impact of racism on the empirical research on family studies can be seen in an informal se arch of the literature on the EBSCO host 5 internet 5 Ebsco host was chosen as an easily accessible and quick method to find representative research on black families. The search was conducted on March 13 2012.
29 search engine. The Journal of Marriage and Family the Journal of Family Issues the Journal of Comparative Family Studies and the Journal of African American Studies were selected for this search since t hey are referenced frequently in the literature review for this project. In the Journal of Marriage and Family from 1975 2012, there were 4399 total articles with 1927 of these articles (44 percent) having a focus on the Journal of Family Issues from 1980 2012, there 79 (11 percent) articles inclu Journal of Comparative Family Studies from 1985 to 2012, there were 1555 total articles with 699 (45 percent) of these article 61 (nine percent) incl Journal of African American Studies from 1995 to 2012, ther e were 267 total articles with seven (three of them ( no articles were found in any of the journals discussing research specifically directed at investigating black same sex familie s. Moreover, when comparing the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decade reviews of literature on families of color in the Journal of Marriage and Family there is no mention of any empirical research on sexuality and families of color (Burton et al. 2010; Demos 1990; T aylor et al. 1990). With this project I hope to fill this gap in the literature. Race is an important consideration in the analysis of families. Yet, just as an investigation of African American households headed by lesbians and gay men must
30 include a dis cussion of race it must also include a discussion of race and its interaction with sexuality. For this project, I also argue that sexuality cannot be discussed without including a discussion of race. In the next section, I discuss some of the limited res earch about the intersection of race and sexuality. Race and Sexuality race, ethnicity, an tia l to membership in specific ethnic groups (Nagel 2003) and the African American community is no exception. Sexuality plays an important role in determining what acceptable sexual behavior is f or membership in this group and many times this excludes homosexuality. As such, further understanding of such attitudes and understandings are important grounding for my research on the issues faced in families headed by African American lesbian and gay m en. African American Attitudes to Homosexuality Several researchers have investigated attitudes of African Americans toward lesbians and gay men (Battle and Lemelle 2002; Ernst et al 1991; Greene 2009; Herek and Capitanio 1995; Jenkins, Lambert, and Bak er 2009; Lewis 2003; Schulte and Battle 2004). Many of these studies indicate religiosity plays a role in the development of negative attitudes toward homosexuality (Greene 2009; Griffin 2000; Griffin 2006; Lemelle and Battle 2004; Lewis 2003; Schulte and Battle 2004). Herek and Capitanio (1995) found African Americans negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men were widespread with African American men having a more negative attitude toward gay men than toward lesbians because, as they found, African
31 American men had a greater tendency to see male homosexuality as unnatural. Herek and Capitanio (1995) found the single most important predictor to more positive attitudes was found to be if the respondent felt homosexuality was beyond an trol. They also found more favorable attitudes toward lesbians and gay men were also present if respondents had experienced personal contact with lesbians or gay men. Ernst et al. (1991) found a gender specific component in attitudes towards homosexuali ty. Their analysis revealed that when gender, educational achievement, religious preference, and marital status were taken into account racial difference in negative attitudes to homosexuality were tied to the difference in attitudes between white and Afr ican American women. Ernst et al. (1991) suggest that while reasons for this gender specific phenomenon cannot be derived from their data they do offer some H ostility to a homosexua l life style apparently stems from a recognition that this factor contributes to the decreasing pool of available black males already affected by integration (interracial marriages), disproportionate incarceration rates of black males, and high rates of pr emature death among black males from heart disease, cancer, AIDS, drug abuse, and violence. (P. 583) This study had a very limited sample state employees from Tennessee who were asked their attitudes to homosexuality within the context of an epidemiologic al investigation of AIDS related attitudes which may account for such a specific reason for the racial difference in attitudes to homosexuality among the women they surveyed. Battle and Lemelle (2002) used the National Black Politics Study and also found a gender ed difference in African American attitudes toward gay men. The National Black Politics Study (December 1993 February 1994) sampled over 6.5 million African
32 American households asking attitudes and opinions on issues of importance to the African A merican community. Their overall finding was that African American women have more positive attitudes toward gay men than do African American men. In fact, they found gender had more of an impact on attitudes toward gay men than age, education, househol d income, and even church attendance. Lemelle and Battle (2004) again explored the information gained from the National Black Politics Study. They pointed out that for African American women age, income, education, and urban residence were variables th at were important to explain attitudes toward gay men. Specifically they found older, more educated African American women who lived in big cities and have an increased level of income were more sympathetic to gay men. For African American men, religious attendance was the only significant variable with more church attendance leading to less sympathetic American male population, more age, more money, more education or livin g in a big city black masculinist homophobic attitudes (p. 48). Lewis (2003) used data from thirty one national surveys to find if there are more definitive answers to at titudinal differences between African Americans and whites, are significantly more likely than comparable whites to condemn homosexuality. Yet Lewis found, African Americans are more likely to favor gay civil liberties than
33 comparable whites and they are more likely to favor laws prohibiting antigay discrimination. Greene (2009) points out many members of communities of color view LGBT 702). She further posits religious beliefs and members of the clergy in African American communities have had an i mpact on the unequal treatment of LGBT people, especially those LGBT members of the African American community. attitudes of African Americans to homosexuality. They specifically had some orientation to the South), socioeconomic status (working class), and place of worship, but it is also involved in social organizations, financial and educational :131). When Schulte and Battle (2004) analyzed the surveys they administered to college students they found women expressed the least negativity toward lesbians and gay men in general and African Americans generally had more negative attitudes toward les bians and gay men. On the surface, it would seem ethnicity had an impact on attitudes, but since this research had a focus on the relationship between ethnicity and religious attendance when explaining attitudes toward lesbians and gay men these variables were included in analysis and no ethnic differences were found but religious at titudes were always significant. This finding lead Schulte and Battle to conclude that
34 needs to be explored further. Griffin (2000; 2006) discusses the influence of the Black church in Their Own Receive T hem Not as he comments on regarding homosexuality has on African American lesbians and gay men. H e points out many times lesbians and gay men marry the opposite sex trying to find acceptance in the community (Griffin 2000) and he further notes: Gays pass in heterosexual marriage for a number of reasons: denying their homosexuality; the relative ease, comfort, and social respectability of a conventional life; pleasing parents; desire for children; and the more recent fear of AIDS. They live in marriage while carrying the burden of denying their erotic desire for intimacy and companionship with the same sex. ( P. 148) Lesbians and gay men find that they are tolerated in the church community if they stay churches is not only common, it is expected s in original). In a recent New York Times challenges faced by black lesbian and gay couples who live in the South, these couple s are also challenged with finding a church where they feel welcome. Many of these couples grew up in and felt a close affinity to the black church but the homophobic messages of the black church created feelings of guilt and s hame. As a result, when thes e lesbians and gay men came out they began searching for a more welcoming and inclusive church in which to raise their families. Jenkins, Lambert, and Baker (2009) surveyed 551 Midwestern college students on their attitudes to lesbians and gay men. They were specifically looking for
35 differences in attitude based on race. Generally, they found no significant racial differences in attitudes toward, rights for, and willingness to socialize with lesbians and gay men. They did find gender was a significant p redictor of attitudes. African American and white male students were more homophobic than female students. Furthermore, among African American men and African American women there was no significant difference in attitude which is inconsistent with other studies that have investigated African American attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. They also observed religion was a better predictor of white attitudes than African American attitu des toward lesbians and gay men, gay rights and socialization with le sbians and gay men This finding represents another inconsistency when compared with other studies that found religion to be a better predictor of African American attitudes Jenkins et al. (2009) recognize that their findings may not apply to the Africa n American community in general since college educated individuals have a different experience than those who do not attend college and since they tend to be younger in age. Jenkins et al. (2009) also recognize the importance increased media attention that focuses on LGBT issues may have had on increasing tolerance and similar views toward gays, gay rights, and socialization with lesbians and gay men. The research on African American attitudes to homosexuality misses an opportunity to investigate the compl exity and diversity of both the LGBT community and the African American community since the research does not define sexuality in terms of race. For example, African American and white participants are asked to report on their attitude toward lesbians and gay men in general, not their attitude to African American lesbians or white gay men, specifically. Nevertheless, these insights are still
36 important as they inform ed this project as I investigate d the ways Afric an American lesbians who parent talk about their experiences (some of which were tied to the discussion of attitudes to sexuality found in the African American community more generally ). In the next section, I focus on research that investigates individuals who identify with both the African Ameri can community and the LGBT community. African Americans and a Lesbian/Gay Identity The Williams Institute has reported that same sex couples living in Florida are just as racially and ethnically diverse as their married counterparts with 24 percent of all same sex couples identifying as non white (Romero et al. 2007). And according to the data collected in the 2010 census, nationally, African American or Latino gay couples are significantly more likely to be raising children when compared to white couples ( Burgoyne 2012). Furthermore, gay couples in Southern states are more likely to be raising children than their counterparts in other parts of the country (Tavernise 2011). These statistics and the discussion of the literature that follows bring attention to the fact that a more complex understanding of the diversity of the African American lesbian and gay community is important. In this section, I present research that focuses on African Americans who identity as lesbian or gay. African American lesbians a nd gay men nego tia te the social world as members of two minority groups. As African Americans they nego tia te the world through a racial lens and as a lesbian or gay man they nego tia te the world as a sexual minority. Green (2007) describes this as being o n the horns of a dilemma. He notes the men in his
37 (Green 2007:754). Researchers are beginning to recognize the importance of this group of individuals to studying the intersection of race and sexuality. Green (2007) interviewed 30 African American gay identified urban men using a social life on sexual identity, pushed out of their families and church communities because of their sexuality and had to produce specific survival strategies to deal with t heir emerging sexual identity. As adults, these men were pulled into the urban gay community. Since the urban gay community is very Eurocentric these men nego tia ted this community from the perspective of a racial minority. Green cautions that sexual or ientation needs to be recognized as an important identity as sociologists increasingly work to investigate the intersection of race, class, and gender. Green points out these variations of identity challenge the existing literature that assumes an ei ther/or master status regarding race and sexuality. Green encourages future researchers recognize that there are many ways individuals nego tia te their racial and sexual identities and this recognition will help generate an understanding of the larger Afri can American and LGBT communities. Hunter (2010) interviewed 50 African American men who self identified as gay asking them to articulate the ways they see their race and sexuality as linked, connected, or disconnected. He found three expressions of self: 1) interlocking; 2) up down; 3) public private. An interlocking identity conceptualized race and sexuality as united and was expressed by 24 percent of the interviewees. The up down identity was expressed by the majority of the interviewees (50 percent) and privileged one identity
38 over the other. In the public private model, race was seen as a public identity and sexuality as a private one and was expressed by 26 percent of those interviewed. Battle, Bennett, and Shaw (2004) conducted a literature revie w hoping to find a direction for future social science research on African American LGBT populations. Like Green, they recognize the impact of a double minority status based in race and sexuality and point to a triple minority status when gender is added to the mix. Battle et al. (2004) suggest that as the African American LGBT community becomes more visible research must continue to expand the knowledge of this particular community through a lens that sees it as healthy rather than deviant. Moore (2010) conducted an ethnographic study of the African American LGBT community in Los Angeles investigating the relationship these individuals had with their racial and religious communities. She found the majority of people she interviewed maintained their conne ctions with and lived in African American neighborhoods noting the support and membership of the larger African American community was important. Moore also points out that those individuals that fully and openly expressed a gay identity did so at the pri ce of temporarily losing full acceptance from family and friends. This acceptance was only temporarily lost since debate, nego tia tion, and reconciliation are all common undertakings found to be part of the African American racial community (Moore 2010). S having one voice but about sharing a commonality, a perceived link that connected its t connection was thro ugh their racial identity.
39 The research presented in this section highlights the complex ways African Americans with a lesbian/gay identity are on the horns of a dilemma. They nego tia te the social world as both a racial minority and as a sexual minority w ith varying levels of LGBT community and sexuality is important to their identity in the African American community. Furthermore, the previous section summarizing research on racial attitudes provides important insight into the complexity of African American attitudes toward homosexuality. Combined these two sections highlight two areas of background research that inform my study and allow me to better understand t he way sexuality and race may intersect in the ways black lesbians who are parenting talk about their experiences and the experiences of their families. So what about African American families who have LGBT daughters, sons, or parents? In the next section I provide a discussion of the empirical research focused on these particular families. African American Families and Lesbian/Gay Family Members As the visibility of African American lesbians and gay men has increased research focusing on the issues impac ting their role as members of African American families has also increased. The following research highlights investigations that center on family social networks and parenting by African American lesbians and gay men. This is research th at is important for this dissertation because it highlights the ways African Americans who identify as lesbian or gay are accepted or rejected by their own families and the ways African American lesbians and gay men head their own families. Mays et al. (1998) focus on how African American lesbians and gay family members influence the social network in their families. They note that African American families are very diverse. With this diversity there are some similarities. African
40 American families: have both immedia te and extended family members; have high levels of contact and high levels of support; have strong feelings of family solidarity and family satisfaction (Mays et al. 1998). They also note the reluctance of African American lesbians and gay men to disclos e their sexuality is based on their perception that there is homophobia found in the African American community. Their findings indicate lesbians and gay men prefer to disclose their sexuality to women in their immediate family perhaps believing their mot hers or sisters will be more understanding and supportive. The family may struggle with accepting the LGBT family member and if they do not fully accept them they may lose a family member who would possibly provide support for aging parents or who may be able to be caretakers of younger family members. Without acceptance, the LGBT family member also loses a network of support which can be especially impactful if they have children. Mays et al. (1998) argue that policies aimed at strengthening African Ame rican families need to consider the ways African American lesbians and gay men contribute to their families and the barriers that may be present that prevent their contribution to their families. Cahill, Battle, and Meyer (2003) summarize reasons that Afri can American LGBT families are little understood or even studied, especially as it relates to parenting by African American lesbians and gay men. They point out most national surveys used to gather data do not ask about sexual orientation or gender identi ty. Textbooks that focus on African American families for the most part ignore African American LGBT families and family members. And they note distrust in the African American community of academic or scientific research in general because of a past his tory of abuse by researchers.
41 Using the Black Pride Survey, Cahill et al. (2003) found over 25 percent of the sample reported having a child. This child was one they gave birth to or fathered; one they were co parenting with a partner; one they were rai sing who was a niece, nephew, or grandchild; or one who was an adult and no longer lived with them. Women were more likely to report having children than were men or transgender individuals. Women were also more likely to be living with their children. If African American LGBT people had children they were more likely to be in some type of committed relationship. These findings indicate that African American LGBT individuals may parent at greater rates than LGBT people in other racial groups (Cahill et al. 2003). Cahill et al. (2003) acknowledge African American LGBT headed families face issues related to parenting and experience family in ways that are different from white LGBT individuals or African American heterosexual individuals, but the differen ces have Cahill et al. (2003) observe that parenting by African American LGBT individuals may help to more fully integrate them into white LGBT communities and African gay parenting policies may pose a particular and more serious threat to Black LGBT parents or would be parents than it would community as a whole Cahill et al. (2003) emphasize that LGBT people hoping to adopt, but it could reduce the number of homes available to
42 Moore (2011) in Invisible Families reports findings from a study she conducted following more than 100 black women in New York City who were openly gay a nd raising families. She recognized a limitation in the lesbian identity literature that has nd if we do not center the White gay subject as The black lesbian mothers were able to remov e the stigma of an assumed lesbian sexuality if they embodied a middle class politic of respectability in their dress, parenting, and home life management. This respectability allowed them to fit into black environments and allowed them to maintain strong community connections. She contends this definition should include women who take on a lesbian identity before becoming a parent and those who take on a lesbian identity after becoming a parent. when researchers exclude women who had children in a prev ious heterosexual relationship they miss a large group of women who would identify themselves as lesbian investigation of demographic factors of 2,431 lesbian and bisexual women (Moore 2011:114). These mothers became parents through sex with a husband or male partner, 5.6 percen t of
43 White mothers and 2.8 percent of Black mothers had their children using artificial insemination, and 6.5 percent of White mothers and 12.3 percent of Black mothers lesb ian and who became parents in a heterosexual relationship would miss a huge Like other researchers investigating black lesbian and gay families Moore recognizes the influence of church teachings on the women s he interviewed. Moore (2011) offers that: Church rules and rituals are something that residents in predominantly Black communities believe in, even if they do not attend services regularly or have no particular religious affiliation. The involvement of c hurches and other religious institutions in so many aspects of Black community life means that the teachings of the church or mosque indirectly infiltrate and influence nonreligious components of life, including how people who live in Black communities go about expres sing their sexuality. (P. 9) She adds that despite the homophobia of the Black Church the majority of the women she studied continued to maintain a belief in God and continued to be affiliated with religious organizations (Moore 2011). The re search presented in this section highlights the intersections of race and sexuality in the context of individual experiences, attitudes, and in the context of family. It confirms that a discussion of race must include a discussion of sexuality and a discu ssion of sexuality must include a discussion of race (also suggesting gender, class, and religion, at a minimum are also important). This interaction, I suggest, is important when discussing perspectives of African American lesbians and gay men regarding i ssues faced by their families.
44 Conclusion There is a need to expand the scholarly research on LGBT families of color since their experiences provide an opportunity to explore the unique circumstances found at the intersection of race and sexuality (at mini mum) in an institution and in a community where it has been little studied. To assume the issues for families headed by African American lesbian and gay men are only based in racism or homophobia is not to consider the complexity of racism and sexuality. Scholarly work on the intersections of race and sexuality can guide researchers to better consider the dynamics of interlocking oppressions and the way in which those play out in the lives and concerns of marginalized communities. With this project, I ad d qualitative grounding to the quantitative demographic data already available. I bring attention to a group that has been largely missing from research in both family studies and LGBT studies. By interviewing black lesbians who are parenting about their perspectives on issues facing their families and then analyzing this data with a constructivist grounded theory approach I give increased voice to those black lesbians heading households. These stories of families headed by black lesbians help explore an d expose the complexities and nuances found at the intersections of race and sexuality (and gender and class) especially as it relates to the family.
45 CHAPTER 3 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND RESEARCH DESIGN I ntersectionality, symbolic interaction theory fem inist theory, and feminist standpoint theory provide practical frames for this project on how African American lesbians frame the issues faced by their families tod ay. Additionally, this investigation was conducted using qualitative research methods. Befo re a discussion of details describing theoretical frameworks and the specific research design used in this project I use for investigating the intersection of race and sexualit y. There is currently no statistically dominant single family pattern in the United States and domestic arrangements have become increasingly diverse (Stacey 1996). If fferent responses. Some families are constructed within marriage; some are not. The American family can be a single mom or single dad and their kids; it can be grandparents living with a child and helping raise their grandchildren; it can be two people ( same sex or opposite sex) raising adopted children or their own children; it can be two people who divorced, remarried, and brought kids to the new relationship and then had children of their own. Family can even include people who do not live together. varied as the people one might ask. Yet despite this diversity, one family form is idealized. We culturally have a vision of the ideal family that power fully shapes institutional life and policy and influences the way ever yone does family (Lempert and DeVault 2000). Smith (1993) has described this ideal as the standard North American family:
46 It is a conception of the family as a legally married couple sharing a household. The adult male is in paid employment; his earnings provide the economic basis of the family household. The adult female may also earn an income, but her primary responsibility is to the care of husband, household, and children. Adult male and female may be parents (in whatever legal sense) of children al so resident in the household. (P. 52) class norms. A recent study, using the Constr ucting the Family Survey, specifically asked more than 1500 people in 2003 and 2006 what count s as family (Powell et al. 2010). Powell et al. (2010) found the definitions of family for those interviewed could be divided into three distinct categories: 1) e xclusionists, 2) moderates, and 3) inclusionists. Exclusionists defined family as a married couple living with their biological children, with strict gendered divisions of labor based on notions of appropriate feminine and masculine behavior (Powell et al 2010). For exclusionists, marriage or other legal arrangement was especially important when defining family. Moderates definitions of family recognize the pivotal role of children. Living arrangements, regardless of marital status, that include childre n or any married couple counted as family. Moderates also had a greater willingness to include same sex couples in the definition of family if they were perceived to have a long term commitment and had children. Commitment was defined as expressing love an d caring for each other and as buying a house together ranging conception of ties being especially impor tant. For inclusionists love was more important than any legal commitment.
47 The investigators identified variations in the definition of family based on socio demographic factors like gender, age or cohort, education, race, and religion. Women were foun d to be more inclusive than men in their definitions of family and men were more likely to be exclusionist. Most respondents over 64 years of age had an exclusionist view of family and those under thirty were more moderate or inclusionists. Baby boomers were found to be more liberal in their definitions of family than other cohort groups. Powell et al. (2010) found education had a liberalizing effect. Those with a high school education were more likely to subscribe to an exclusionist definition of family while those with higher levels of education were more likely to be inclusive. And specifically for this project, Powell et al. (2010) found for many African Americans definitions of family were very traditional and exclusionist with family being a married opposite sex couple and their children. This was particularly the case for African Americans with high levels of religiosity and those with lower levels of education. As research has demonstrated, definitions of family depend on who you ask. In sociol nstruct. In this project I have assume d family is produced through discourse (Gubrium and Holstein 1990) and interpretations made configu ration of meanings I use a symbolic interactionist theoretical frame for this project. Theoretical Framework Symbolic Interaction As Blumer (1969) explained in Symbolic Interactionism, humans act toward things depending on the m eanings they have for them and these meanings always develop from social interaction with other humans. Furthermore, these meanings are
48 the use of symbols, by interpre interpretations; interpretations determine actions and definitions. So ones race, gender, socioeconomic status and oth LaRossa and Reitzes (1993) provide an overview of symbolic interactionism and its value to family studies. They recognize symbolic interactionism contributes to family studies because: First, the emphasis it gives to the proposition that families are social groups and, second, its assertion that individuals develop both a concept of self and their identities through social interaction, enabling them to independently assess and assign value to their family activities. (P. 143) As people in family groups assign and assess these values they develop expectations for what a family should look like. And as discussed ear lier for many African Americans this family looks like the standard North American Family described by Smith (1993). As LaRossa and Reitzes (1993) discuss symbolic interaction as a tool for studying family they recognize seven assumptions dealing with t hree central themes. Reitzes 1993:143) and has three assumptions: 1) Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings that the things have for them; 2) meaning arises in the process of interaction between people; 3) meanings are handled in and modified through an interpretive process used by the person in dealing with things he or she encounters. (P. 143) aRossa and Reitzes 1993:144) and its assumptions are:
49 4) Individuals are not born with a sense of self but develop self concepts through social interaction; and 5) self concepts, once developed, provide an important motive for behavior. (P. 144) Theme thr ee focuses on the importance of society with its assumptions being: 6) Individuals and small groups are influenced by larger cultural and societal processes; and 7) it is through social interaction in everyday situations that individuals work out the detai ls of social structure. (P. 144) These themes and assumptions developed by LaRossa and Reitzes help give symbolic interaction a unique position when it comes to investigating family and since the way the African American community defines family is import ant to this project several assumptions listed within each theme may prove relevant. Hollingsworth (1999) provides an account using symbolic interactionism and several of LaRossa and Reitzes themes and assumptions to describe the uniqueness of African Amer ican families, especially as it relates to transracial adoption. For example, she uses the first theme meaning has importance for human behavior to describe the meaning African Americans attach to children. Hollingsworth (1999) notes children have specia may be part of the hesitation many in the African American community have toward transracial adoption (p. 447). Using assumption two meaning arises in the process of interaction bet ween people, Hollingsworth (1999) recognizes children in communities of African descent traditionally interact with multiple caregivers, who may be kin or non kin and this interaction influences the definition of family. Ultimately, Hollingsworth (1999) m 446) and this influences the definition of family for many in the African American commun ity.
50 of inter sa and Reitzes 1993:143) are important to this project since development of a definition of family comes from interactions between and small aRossa and Reitzes 193:144) is also helpful in co nceptualizing the importance societal norms and values, especially those involving same sex relationships and understandings of racism, have in constraining and limiting the definition of family in the African American community. Intersectionality Intersectionality is the recognition of interacting social identities. Collins (2005) ender, sexuality, ethnicity, and institutional level has created a social sys tem of racism and heterosexism. This system has also lead to a hierarchy where the dominant race is framed as white and the dominant sexuality is framed as heterosexual. Collins (2005) explains: Racism and heterosexism both require a concept of sexual dev iancy for meaning, yet the form that deviance takes within each system differs. For racism, the point of deviance is created by a normalized White heterosexuality that depends on a deviant Black heterosexuality to give it meaning. For heterosexism, the p oint of deviance is created by this very same normalized White heterosexuality that now depends on a deviant White homosexuality (P. 97, emphasis in original)
51 The politics of race and sexuality are mu tually reinforcing and generate a discourse where prom iscuity is assumed among heterosexual African American women and men and homosexuality among African Americans is an impossibility and homosexuality heteronormative compo nent to the common stereotypes of what it means to be lesbian or gay man This heteronormative component contends that lesbians and gay men do not have children and are unable to maintain a stable, long term relationship (Cahill f lesbians and gay men and this exclusive and limiting definition of sexuality may be influen tia l in the way African American lesbians and gay men frame the issues faced by their families today. among multiple there is a need to better use the lens of intersectionality to empirically examine social issues (p. 1772). An in depth study of the perspectives of Afric an American lesbians and gay men on issues and concerns facing their families today provides a site to use a lens of intersectionality to explore the complexity of black LGBT families as they relate to race and sexuality. Feminist Theory and Feminist Sta ndpoint Theory cultural background and because the definition depends on specific experiences, values, and norms I use feminist theory and fe minist standpoint theory as useful pers pectives in this project. One value of a feminist perspective is the way it critiques traditional family and points out the endless variety in family. Demo and Allen (1996)
52 have exposed the sexist and heterosexist underpinnings of any definition of family that p. 427). In addition, Demo and Allen (1996) note that a feminist perspective: Recognizes and values diversity across families, acknowledges d ifferent and sometimes contradictory life experiences and realities within families and emphasizes that some families are marginalized, oppressed and stigmatized. ( P. 428) Since families headed by lesbians and gay men and African American families, and A frican American families headed by lesbians and gay men have been marginalized, a feminist perspective will help provide insight into how marginalization influences individual and group definitions of family. Another value of a feminist perspective is it s approach to the way knowledge is cannot be separated and that knowledge of the world is possible only in language and ys of knowing the world depend on an and nation and this is reflected in feminist standpoint theory. This is a perspective I find useful to this project because the African American community occupies a unique s ocial location because of nation and race and individuals within the community are influenced by their social location based on gender, class, and sexuality (among others) Feminist standpoint theory specifically builds on this notion of knowledge being co nstructed by the participant as it recognizes that lived realities create different perspectives. Common challenges lead to recurring patterns of experiences for individual group members (Collins 2000). With this project, I have sought to put the experienc es of African American lesbians who parent at the center of investigation. As
53 enable us to define our own realities on our own terms p. 274, emphasis in the original). Research Design The method I used for investigating the challenges faced by families headed by black lesbians was semi structured interviews as outlined by Reinharz (1992) in Feminist Methods in Social Research and Hol stein and Gubrium (1995) in The Active Interview with participants recruited by convenience sampling from a specific region in the state of Florida Anal ysis of these interviews was based on a constructivist view of grounded theory as described by Charmaz (2006) in Constructing Grounded Theory Recruitment and Sample Jacksonville, Florida, is geographically where I focused my investigation as I ask ed black lesbians who are parenting to discuss the issues their families face in Ja cksonville provides a unique context in which to investigate challenges faced by families headed by black lesbians. Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida and ranks as the 11 th most populated city in the United States (U.S. Census 2012). Jacksonvill e is also ranked as the 10 th most conservative city with a population over 300,000 and it is ranked 37 th among all cities with a population greater than 100,000 (Alderman et al. 2005) One explanation for the conservatism of Jacksonville may be found in the settlement and immigration pattern of the state of Florida. Colburn and deHaven Smith (2010) recognize Florida as one of the most urban, racially and ethnically diverse states in the nation as people from other parts of the United States and Latin Ame rica took up residence in the state. A large influx of people from the Northeast, Midwest, and Latin
54 However, Jacksonville was not part of this immigration/settlement wave and today is in cluded in the region with the highest percentage of native Floridians ( along with the Tallahassee area and other communities in N orth Florida and the Panhandle ) M ost people drove through the pine forests of North Florida as they headed to the beaches of the southeastern and southwestern corners of the state (Colburn and deHaven Smith 2010). Those who settled on the southeast coast (Miami, West Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale) generally came from the northeastern region of the United States and Latin Amer ica, while those who settled along the southwest coast (Naples and Sarasota) came principally from the Midwest. As Colburn and deHaven Smith (2010) explain: For much of its recent history, Florida has essentially been two states: one that extends south f rom the Georgia border to Ocala and that has identified with the South and its social, political, and racial traditions, and another that extends north from Key West and Miami to just south of Ocala, with a heritage that typically has little connection to the South, that has historically had a diverse ethnic and racial population, and that has viewed the state as part of a national and international economy. ( P. 9) These new residents brought with them a more liberal world view regarding political, socia l and religious values to the southern part of the state This settlement pattern that as one goes south in Florida one actually moves north as those residents in the northern part of the state, includi ng Jacksonville, hold firmly to their more conservative southern values (Colburn and deHaven Smith 2010:32). This political, social, and religious conservatism found in North Florida has generated a history of racial segregation and homophobia. Taeuber and Taeuber ( 2009) report that Jacksonville was among the most
55 U.S. Census showed a moderate high dissimilarity index 1 of 52 (Logan and Stults 2011). This residen tia l segregation has created predominantly black and predominantly white neighborhoods in Jacksonville. As it relates to this project, the Northside is a historically black neighborhood mentioned by participants Regarding homophobia Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida that does not include sexual orientation in its Human Rights Ordinance. Nationally, Jacksonville recently joined Houston, Phoenix and San A ntonio as being populated cities without a Human Rights Ordinance t hat includes sexual orientation (Hannigan 2012) [this is discussed in more detail in Chapter 4 in the section on Ordinance 2012 296 ]. it apart from other cities in Florida. F or comparison, within the state of Florida eight of the top ten most populous cities have at least Human Rights Ordinances that include sexual orientation either within the city or the county Additionally, all eight of these cities have domestic partner ship registries These cities are (in order of ranking from highest to lowest population ): Miami, Tampa, Saint Petersburg, Orlando, Hialeah, Fort Lauderdale, and Tallahassee. Port Saint Lucie and Cape Coral round out the top ten most populous cities in F lorida. L ike Jacksonville, they do not include sexual orientation Human Rights Ordinance. Two cities were listed as more conservative than Jacksonville, yet they had more favorable LGBT policies. Clearwater (ranks 16 th in Flo rida population and 20 th in conservative ranking ) and Hialeah ( ranks 1 A dissimilarity index has become the standard indicator of racial and ethnic segregation between pairs of groups within a metropolitan area. If a city is completely integrated so all neighborhoods have the same racial composition the index value would be zero. If a city has areas that are exclusively black and exclusively white then the index value would be 100. Thus, a high value indicates extensive residen tial segregation and a low value indicates little residen tial segregation (Farley 1975; Frey and Myers 2005).
56 fourth in conservative ranking ) are both located in counties with Human Rights Ordinances that include sexual orientation (Alderman et al. 2005; Equality Florida Institute, Inc. 2013). Th e city of Clearwater also has a domestic partnership registry. Several other factors informed the selection of J acksonville, Florida as the recruitment base for this project The New York Times Common in the South, Censu the second largest population of gay parents in the country with about 32 percent of gay couples in Jacksonville raising children (Tavernise 2011). This population is second only to San Antonio, Tex as, where the rate of parenting by lesbians and gay men is about 34 percent (Tavernise 2011). Additionally, t he 2010 U.S. Census found the state of Florida overall had a population represented by black persons of 16 percent while the city of Jacksonville had 31 percent of its population represented by black persons (U.S. Census Bureau 2011a; U.S. Census Bureau 2011b ; U.S. Census Bureau 2011c ). The Williams Institute (2010) also reports Jacksonville has a large population representing African American sam e sex couples with a rate of 1.1 3.0 couples per 1 000 households For comparison the scale was ranked into four categories: 0 0.5, 0.6 1.0, 1.1 3.0, and 3.1 6.1per 1 000 households, so that the numbers of African American same sex couples in Jacksonville are on the high end, but not at the highest level. The numbers for Jacksonville of 1.1 3.0 African American same sex couples per 1 000 households are the same as those reported for Bradford, Orange, Broward, and Dade counties in Florida There were no co unties reporting the highest level of 3.1 6.1 per 1 000 households in the state of Florida and most Florida counties reported at the lower two levels
57 Another reason Jacksonville was an appr opriate city to focus this project in may be tied, in an indirect way, to the influence of the black c hurch. The church is not just a place of worship in the African American community. The church is a community center Schulte and Battle 2004:131). Despite the strong negative message regarding homosexuality from the mainstream black church, lesbian and gay individuals who grew up with a strong faith tradition in the black church can find a strong faith community in gay friendly churches. According to GALIP Gay and Chris tia n Resources (2011) Jacksonville has 12 affirming 2 churches. This ranks Jacksonville as second in the state of Florida when compared to other cities with affirming churches (behind Ft. Lauderdale, a Fl orida city that also has a large population of households headed by black lesbians and ga y men (Williams Institute 2010a) ). The large black population, the large number of lesbian and gay parents a nd even the large number of affirming churches found in J acksonville, Florida make the city an appropriate site for recruiting black lesbian and gay men as I investigate their perceptions of issues and concerns faced by their families. Recruitment of participants in Jacksonville Florida relied on two key source s a gatekeeper and a pride organization. On reading the New York Times article, person who might serve as a gatekeeper to the black LGBT community in Jacksonville Pastor Valerie Williams 3 Pastor Val has been part of the gay community 2 Affirming is a term applied to churches where individuals from the LGBT community are welcome. 3 I asked Pastor Val if she would prefer I use a pseudonym for her in this project and she noted she had no misgivings with the use of he r given name. Pastor Val has been a vocal supporter of the LGBT
5 8 in Jacksonville for years and in 2010 she was Church, one of the oldest gay friendly churches in Jacksonville. When Pastor Val joined the staff she noted the church was not very child friendly and she recognized the children in the congregation needed a safe place to talk about the challenges they face in just a few months church atten dance swelled from 25 individuals to over 90 (Tavernise 2011). Pastor Val started her own worship center in October of 2012 and continues to f ocus on an affirming and youth oriented ministry. On September 27, 2011, I called Pastor Val and in our conversa tion Pastor Val offered to be a gatekeeper to the community. In all our conversations she reassured me that she felt my project was not only feasible, but important for the community. On February 20, 2012, I visited Pastor Williams in person and learned that she is very concerned with the current lack of information available, both publically and in the social sciences, regarding black same sex families. This is one of the reasons she participated in The New York Times interview and is one reason she is so enthusiastic with her support for this project. She again confirmed that participants for this project could be found both inside and outside her church community. In A ugust 2012 Community Church. The church was hosting the worship service for Black Pride Weekend and there were many families headed by African American lesbians and gay community in Jacksonville and has been quoted in many newspaper articles and has been interviewed several times by local affiliates for nightly television news broadcasts.
59 men in attendance who heard my presentation. Many individuals came up after the service to express enthusiasm for my project and I handed out many flyers. That same month I also presented my project to Jacksonville Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gay s ( PFLAG ). Although there were no African American lesbians or gay men in attendance, once again my project was enthusiastically received and I obtained several leads to other groups who might help with recruiting participants. Among these leads was the name of the Jac ksonville Florida Black Pride p resident. Jacksonville Florida Black Pride organization began in the summer of 1995. Their mission statement is as follows: The Jacksonville Florida Black Pride is a social network created to build the unity and fellows hip of the African American, Lesbian, Gay, Bi Sexual, Transgendered & Questioning (LGBTQ) community in Jacksonville, Florida. We accomplish this mission through community empowerment activities and ini tia tives focusing on education, health, leadership, an d a philosophy of fellowship and inclusiveness of all. (Jacksonville Florida Black Pride 2012) One way that Jacksonville Florida Black Pride accomplishes this mission is by holding an annual Black Pride Weekend. I contacted the group through the preside nt in the summer of 2012 asking if I could table at the workshop portion of their event to h elp bring exposure to my project and possibly recruit participants. My project was positively received and I did recruit some participants from this event I also hoped to recruit participants using passive snowball sampling by asking participants who are interviewed if they would pass on my contact information to others who meet the criteria and might be likely to participate in this investigation. I created a Face book page in December 2013 offering details about my project. Unfortunately,
60 recruiting in Jacksonville became difficult so I contacted various Black Pride groups around North Central Florida askin g for assistance One group was particularly helpful an d three members were recruited from their membership. Since the IRB protocol for this project only allowed for the specific mention of Jacksonville, I leave out any identifiers that might place the residence of participants in other cities As themes eme rged from the coding of the interviews of the Jacksonville participants I found they did not have experiences that could be classified as being particular to Jacksonville. All experiences reflected the more general conservatism that is foun d in North Central Florida. E ven though these other cities do not rank as conservatively as Jacksonville, participants reported experiences that mirrored those in Jacksonville so their stories were included in the analysis of this project. Also, r ecall the discussion earlier in this section pointing out the common social, political and cultural conservatism of North Florida. As Colburn and deHaven Smith (2010) explain, the state retains remnants of its southern culture in the northern and Panhandle ar eas and in a thin line that extends through the center of Florida from the Geor (p. 7 ). I had ini tia lly hoped to interview individuals who were co parenting as a couple in (Holstein and Gubrium 1995:72). Each member of the couple being interviewed can add their perspective to the narrative thus generating more dy namic data. Furthermore, joint interviews may bring up themes that might not come up in an individual interview (Allan 1980). Unfortunately logistics created scenarios where this was not possible.
61 Unavailability of partners because of other commitments at the time of the interview was the reason most of these women were not i nterviewed with their partners. I decided to go ahead with the interview with only one partner, rather than risk losing the interview waiting for both partners to be available at th e same time. Also as will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 5, this dynamic is actually part of my results Participants explained that one way they managed a gay identity was by not being seen as a couple. Outsider/Insider Debate As a feminist r esearcher, the outsider/insider debate informs this research project and played a role in the recruitment process When interviewing black lesbians and gay men I am an outsider based on race and an insider by virtue of my lesbian identity and because of my identity as a parent. My insider status did aid in building rapport with my participants since we may share similar experiences. However, I also recognize my status as an outsider may have be en problematic when race is considered. Several researchers ha ve discussed this outsider/insider divide as it relates to interviewing (Carter 2004; Dunbar, Rodriguez, and Parker 2003; Foster 1994; Lamphere 1994; McCorkel and Myers 2003; Naples 1996; Shah 2004; Stanfield 1994; Tinker and Armstrong 2008). Foster (1994 cannot capture the total experience of an entire community. But neither can research insiders and outsiders to varying ext (2004) even acknowledges there are some positive aspects of being an outsider in a research situation even though ethnic matching between interviewer and interviewee may ultimately be what is desirable. He notes taken for granted assumptions based on ethnic categories and identities can be made more explicit and ethnic categories are not
62 constant process of creation and rec reation and are inextricably linked to other forms of researchers need to recognize and analyze the dimensions of their own positionality. This positionality has multiple lay ers, which includes not just race, but also includes class, gender, and sexual orientation, and influences our perceptions and the way we come to understand and conceptualize our research (Lamphere 1994; McCorkel and Myers 2003). This attention researcher front and backstage of the research process is a crucial resource for obtaining I kept track of my positionality by using a resear ch journal in which I record ed thoughts regarding my research experience. As Milner (2007) suggests, the real (p. 3 95). These reflections expose d con cerns and challenges and what was going well and help ed me recognize how my own social location and identity influence d my understanding. Since I am building knowledge with my participants I ca me back to them to provide f eedback on issues that emerge d during my reflection or to elaborate on themes that were introduced by other participants After conducting five interviews and having few leads for future interviews I became concerned th at I would not recruit anymore inter viewees so I asked several participants their thoughts on what might be causing people to be reticent about participating since so many people expressed enthusiasm about my project. They
63 responded that perhaps poten tial interviewees were wary because they feared being judged or thought there could be no way to keep any information they shared anonymous. These sentiments were expressed by other researchers in Chapter 2 as I reviewed the literature that discussed conducting research in the African American community. Also as will be discussed in further detail in later chapters I now understand that one way participants manage their marginalized sexual identity is to simply not talk about it. T houghts of being judged were also underscored during a conver sation at a community roundtable discussion I attended in December 2012, which was sponsored by a Jacksonville group that advocates for LGBT youth The purpose of the discussion was to interrogate the challenges LGBT youth, especially black LGBT youth, f ace when they disclose their sexual identity to their families and to develop ways the organization can better support the LGBT youth in Jacksonville. It was brought up that many black LGBT identified youth are disowned by their families because the famil y members, especially the parents feel their young family member s marginalized sexual identity reflects on them. These parents were concerned with the ways others would think about them, f eeling they d id something wrong causing others to judge them nega tively. Perhaps my outsider status brought up these same feelings for poten tia l participants. With this information, I realized that choosing to participate was an extremely personal decision and as I looked back on who had agreed to participate up to tha t point I reali zed it was individuals who had a more personal contact with me by seeing me present on my project and then introducing themselves after the presentation So I continued to regularly attend church services to maintain a presence in the commu nity.
64 I also that fosters a sense of community, encourages LGBTQ citizens to live openly, promotes fellowship with our allies, opposes discrimination on the basis of sexual o rientation, celebration which is not African American centered, but it was a venue where I met many black lesbians and gay individuals and couples. I m et several contact s who were parenting and three contacts agreed to participate in my project. When an individual or couple agreed to an interview they were encouraged to select a location where they would feel most comfortable. A majority of the interviews ( six interviews ) took place in public spaces like coffee shops or restaurants, the lasted from 30 to 90 minute s. Participants received $20 in compensation. All interviews were transcribed verbatim b y me and a constructivist approach to grounded theory was used during analysis (Charmaz 2006) The Interviews I bega n the interviews with an introduction of this project. I assumed that participants m ight have concerns and m ight wonder why a white lesbian is in terested in their story. I establish ed rapport and trust by pointing out my desire to add their missing voice to the discourse surround ing race and sexuality. I acknowledge d my awareness of the racism they experience in the gay community and the way s racism impacts their families. I also acknowledge d my awareness of family initiatives that restrict marriage and adoption in Florida and note d how I understand that these issues have particular relevance, not just to families headed by lesbians and gay men, but to families headed by black lesbians and gay men in particular. My intention with this self disclosure was to
65 help put participants at ease and create a sense of the interview being a dialogue, rather than an interrogation (Reinharz 1992). Confi dentiality and the use of pseudonyms were also discussed to build a rapport between interviewer and participant. The rapport generated with those I interview ed create d an interactive give and take as described by Holstein and Gubrium (1995) in The Active Interview. As such, the researcher and the participant work together in a repositories of knowle dge treasuries of information awaiting excavation as they are lation of the interviewer role has changed dramatically from being a data collecting for researchers to being a data collecting instrument for those whose ). Interviewing provides a glimpse of the reality being experienced by those being say about what they do, what they say they believe or value, and what they say their opinions are (Warren and Karner 2005:158, emphasis in original). Reinharz (1992) finds researcher, I feel asking people to tell their own story is critical to conceptua lizing their construction of reality. Many participants expressed an enthusiasm about being able to tell their story and being part of this project.
66 In a feminist interview and in an active interview, the goal is for a conversation to flow between the r esearcher and the participant but this conversation is not completely random, the interview guide gives a starting point and helps provide a sense of direction An interview guide was generated with open ended questions to investigate issues and concerns facing famili es of black le sbians and gay men [please see A ppendix A for the complete interview guide] Guida nce on question construction was ault 1990), The Active Interview (Holstein and Gubrium more equal status between the resea rcher and the participant and a move away from a sense that the interview is a cross examination. The interviewer is encouraged to be actively involved and guide the conversation with questions that will yield responses that reflect a more nuanced and full er reality as viewed by the participant. Questions were developed to specifically help participants interrogate their own experiences, make connections, and conceptualize issues (Holstein and Gubrium 1995). Questions were constructed to build in opportun ities for reflection on both the part of the interviewer and the participant so more complete responses can be generated (DeVault 1990; Holstein and Gubrium 1995). DeVault that together they are constructing fuller answers to questions that cannot always be asked a need for researchers to focus less on getting the question answered and m ore on
67 understanding the participant the order of the questions listed in the interview guide might change if a participant answers one question as part of another. Or, a participant may spend more t ime responding to one question over another thus guiding the interview on an unexpected, but perhaps enlightening, path. This did happen many times but these were challenges that provided opportunities for participants to tell their own story in their ow n way. must be sufficiently general to cover a wide range of experiences as well as narrow I also look ed to address ways members of the black LGBT community perceive the policy issues of marriage and adoption as it relates to their families. Family recognition policies such as the ability to marry or adopt children are especially important to black same sex households who are more likely to be raising children and have less earning power than black married opposite sex couples and white same sex couples (Dang and Frazer 2004). The social safety net provided by marriage would give access to fed eral benefits like Social Security survivor benefits, Medicaid and based health insurance (Battle, et al. 2002). The ability to adopt any non biological children will give parents the abilit y to better provide for these children and give a sense of security and permanence. Families headed by black lesbians are disadvantaged because of racism and heterosexism issues and concerns found at the intersection of race and sexuality.
68 Thus questions about these family policy issues were included to help me understand how couples think about these intersections in relation to their families. Profile of Interview Participants Ten total interviews were conducted and these interviews included 12 people [please see Appendix B for partici I assigned pseudonyms to all who were interviewed. All participants self identified as black gay women, with one woman noting she was biracial with a black father and a white mother. T w o interviews were with a couple who were co parenting one child and eight interviews were with women who wer e interviewed singly Of these women, three were single at the time of the interview and five were interviewed without their partners 4 Eight of the participants had children biologically in a previous heteros exual relationship. One of the participants had a child through in vit ro fertilization and one of the participants was raising a child with her partner that she had adopted and one child they were fos tering. Eight of those interviewed self identified with a middle class socioeco nomic status, while three individuals self identified with a working class or blue co llar status, and one individual self identified as being of low socioeconomic sta tus because they were unemployed at the time of the int erview. Nine of the participants lived in Jacksonville at the time of the interview, and three individuals lived in other North Central Florida cities. eir sexual identity to their families and g school. 4 Unavailability of partners because of other commitments at the time of the interview was the reason these women could not be interviewed with their partners. Because recruiting was not going well it was decided it was better to pursue an interview with only one partner, ra ther than risk losing the interview waiting for both partners to be available at the same time.
69 Analysis Rather than generating theory, which is a typical goal in grounded theory, I provide a conceptual frame that will help explain the perspectives of the challenges faced by families headed by black lesbians. Grounded theory was originally developed using empirical data, spec ifically in the form of qualitative research (Annells 1996; Mills, Bonner, and Francis 2006). Many researchers recogniz ed the value of this method and epistemological position ( Mills et al. 2006). Traditional grounded theory clearly defined a line of separation between the objective reality. The participant is seen as a source of data and in this s cenario a hierarchy develops where the researcher is in a position that is superior to the participant. As a feminist researcher, I recognize that in any research method, and in feminist interviewing research in particular, there is recognition of a more equal relationship between the researcher and the participant the researcher and the participants, together, co create a view of social reality. Stanfield (1994) would agree and cautions researchers to remember the research process should be a two way lea With these concerns in mind, I use d a constructivist perspective in my strategy for an alysis. A constructivist perspective of grounded theory is described by Charmaz in Constructing Grounded Theory
70 priority on the phenomena of study and sees both data and analysis as created from shared recognition of a shared experience, it becomes important for the researcher to see not only the vantage point of the participants, but their own vantage point as well. The res earcher needs to be aware of the influence their own underlying assumptions may bring to analysis and because of this reflexivity becomes important. The researcher (Reinhar am paying attention to the reality of onstructed in interviews, I focus ed on explaining the hows and the whats (Charmaz 2006; Holstein and Gubrium 1995). I kept these questions in mind: how do participants frame their reality? And what do participants see as reality? Coding is the first step in making analytic interpretations and proceeds throu gh several stages, with each stage building on the others before ultimately generating an understanding of the data. The levels of coding as suggested by Charmaz are: 1) i nitial coding which separates the data into distinct short action items; 2) focused c oding which groups the initial codes into categories that make analytic sense; 3) axial coding which brings the data back together by highlighting links between categories and subcategories; and 4) theoretical coding which relates the categories to each ot her. Memo writing is also an important component in constructivist grounded theory analysis. Memo writing allows the researcher to engage the data. Memo writing provides an opportunity for the researcher to be reflective and explain their own perspectiv es about what might be going on in an investigation and this will prove to be
71 important in later analysis (Corbin and Strauss 2008). Mills et al. (2006) further note mak e meaning about the time spent with participants and the data that were generated investigation, with the first interviews, it helps keep the researcher focused and immersed in t he data. Reinharz (1992) further encourages feminist researchers to be self reflexive in order to maintain sensitivity to issues and power issues that may arise based on positionality in the research process. And, McCorkel and Myers (2003) discuss the i mportance of field notes to self reflexivity. They point out field notes, which are a type of memo writing, can help the researcher to be self reflexive and can help researchers confront the positionality they bring to the investigation. Fiel d notes and m emo writing were an especially important tool that helped me confront my own positionality as a white lesbian in terviewing black lesbian parents [see discussion presented earlier in this chapter in the o utsider/ i nsider debate section] As a way to help org anize and keep track of codes I used comput er assisted software. ATLAS.ti is a popular software package that allows for computer assisted qualitative analysis. The developer of the software notes that it helps manage a large volume of data like the volu me that would be generated in this project with around 10 in depth, semi structured interviews. ATLAS.ti does not generate codes on its own but it does help researchers organize their data and discover patterns found in that data (ATLAS.ti Scientific S of tware Development GmbH 2011). ATLAS.ti helped me keep from repeating codes when the data started to become overwhelming with the addition
72 of more interviews. ATLAS.ti was fairly easy to learn and is relatively inexpensive for students making it a usefu l aid to use during analysis. Providing participants with an opportunity to review preliminary findings and give feedback was also important to the analysis phase of this project. Thompson (1992) icipants through feminist researchers have no reason not to take their interpretations back to their participants so that they can judge how well their experiences have be en represented (Thompson 1992:10). Because black lesbians and gay men are member s of a racial minority group and a minority group based on their sexual identity they face multiple oppressions. The lived experiences of black lesbian s and their families provide scholars with an opportunity to explore the subtleties and nuances found at the intersection of sexuality and race. This exploration expands the knowledge and understanding of these families in particular and all families in general. In the next chapter, I b egin presenting the key aspects of the stories my participants told
73 CH APTER 4 OUR FAMILY IS THE SAME AS YOUR FAMILY TREAT US THAT WAY Eva 1 there. I mea Tandice These quotes from Eva and Tandice underscored the notion that participants wished people better understood that their fa mily was just like any family. In this chapter I present the ways participants underscored that despite managing a marginalized sexual identity they felt t just the same as those in famili es headed by heterosexual parents I also present a discussion about the sentiments participants expressed indicating that their families should be granted the same recognition rights as all other families, such as those regarding the ability to marry or adopt children. We All Bleed the Same Blood headed b y a heterosexual couple. They underscor e many ways their families are the same as other families. Sometimes they talk about their family using words like ordinary S ometimes they point out how their love for each other is the same as in other families. Sometimes they describe all the everyday tasks they undertake, like doing the dishes or homework, are done in the same ways as other families. They also punctuate their sameness to other families by 1 Pseudonyms were assigned by me and identifiable characteristics were changed for all participants to protect their anonymity.
74 commenting on the ways their sexuality is no t a consideration for determining their fitness as parents. Taye is co parenting an elementary school aged child with her partner Fola Wh en asked what she wished p eople knew about her family, Taye remarked: a regular life. We go to work. He goes to school. We go to church. He has friends. We have friends. We ha exceptional about our life. We do everything that everybody else does, probably a little bit more in some instances, because you feel like we have to compensate sometimes for being different, I guess. I mean it s love, so, my s exuality has nothing to do with my ability to raise a child effectively. Taye wants people to see that her family is ordinary Later in the intervi ew, she and her partner report that loving and caring for a child is more vital to we ll being than the race, gender, or sexuality of the parent. The sexu al orientation of the parent is seen as being irrelevant when considering the participant s ability to parent. They further commented: Fola: child cares about who loves him, who feeds him, who takes him to school, who helps that love and that dependency. Taye : We live. We love. I guess, um, I mean it s love. Others recognized that the children should be the focus in a family and that ultimately love is important love between the partners for each other, love of the parents for the
75 children, and love of the children for the parents. Ebony, who with her partner was co parenting four children, offered: I wish people would not be so close minded. I wish they would, uh realize syst em. How you take care of the kids. Is your household stable, you know? I think those are the more important things. I just, I feel like people ay, rather than the things that should be on, um, how people love one another. How they take care of o ne Ebony again brings attention to the fact that b eing a good and competent parent does not depend on o present in the chi Several participants describe the ordinary and everyday tasks that take place in any family in order for them to be labeled a success Families, whether they are headed by a cross sex couple or a same sex couple, must all manage the everyday a nd the mundane. Eva is a single parent raising a teenager. Like Taye and Fola and other participants she offers that he r fa mily was not extraordinary and added that all families have the s ame chores to accomplish daily. She said: You know I think tha t is what some people miss, what goes on in a normal dishes? Who did not clean up the bathroom? Whose turn is it to clean the tub? Did homework get done? That has nothing to do with being gay. The typical things that people think that would be affected being black or hear the same mess. Eva reiterates the point that chores and disagreement s are the same for all families regardless of the race or sexuality of the parents
76 Elaborating on this point, who was raising three children with her partner also emphasizes her family was just like any family because of their everyday family activities Specifically, she points out her family is no differ ent regarding the places they shopped or the TV shows they watch ed She commented: no gay store rainbow shirts to wear to school I take them to K Mart and Wal Mart just like you do, you know. So, we, they watch the same TV shows as your kid. underscores tha t all families, whether they are headed by lesbians or heterosexuals, perform similar tasks. These tasks are not and should not be labeled as being tasks for someone who is gay or for someone who is straight. She further highlights that families headed b y lesbians do not do anything that would draw attention to the sexual minority status of the parent(s) ; the sexuality of the parents is unremarkable Again and again participants stress that families headed by black lesbians are no different from families headed by heterosexual parents. Ulani i s raising two children with her partner and she emphasized: things. We have the same insecurities, maybe a few more insecurities [ chuckle ] because we are different, quote unquote, you know. But, we are hard every day to make sure our boys have food, to make sure they have the things they need, and some of the stuff they wa nt. We have rules in do your work, yo u relax for a little while, do what you wanna do, and then parent household. I grew up in a single pa rent household. So a lot of But, being a two parent household, you know, we are able to, every Saturday is Family Day, we go do something fun, you know, we just hang
77 I grew up with, and the structure we have now, you know. I think that married couple with two kids. Ulani points out the family she has created with her partner and their children has the same dynamic as the one she grew up in as a child. Notice too how Ulani challenges Moynihan report (196 5), The Negro Family: The Case for National Action that pathologiz ed black families was recommendation for fixing the problem and the way to best meet the needs of bl ack children was to encourage two cohabiting parents of different genders (Bennett and Battle 2001). Ulani describes the importance of structure, rules, and two parents being present in the home. She adds the perspective that the gender of the parents in a family is not the influence that creates the difference in the outcome of the children; it is the fact that there are two parents available to help care, love, and support the children and this is what makes two parent families successful. She notes th ere are things she and her partner can do to help support their children; things h er mother could not fully provide as a single mother. Furthermore, she recognizes gender is irrelevant t hese two parents could be two moms, two dads, or a mom and a dad. Ul ani is simultaneously challenging the racist legacy of the Moynihan report and asserting a challenge to heteronormative parenting when she points out that two parents matter but those parents do not have to be a woman and a man. Like many of the participa nts, Denelle and Na ncy similarly assert that their family is no different from a family headed by hete rosexual parents, but they simultaneously add that lesbian paren ts should not be seen as sexual deviants. They said:
78 Denelle : as their family, you know. If you cut me I got red blood just like you do. Nancy: Do the same things you do. Denelle : D o the same things you do, every day. Nancy: You got problems, we got problems. Denelle : either [ laughter ] trust me. Same thing goes on, exact same thing. Nancy: You lost your keys; I have too. [ laughter ] Denelle : They [straight folks] just automatically think we are all so uneducated and we are all some typ Nancy: P erverts. Denelle : Yeah. Nancy: [ laughter ] Denelle : [ chuckles ] right, not at all. Nancy: own. Denelle and Nancy brin g attention to and challenge the idea that lesbians and gay men are somehow sexually perverse when compared to their heterosexual peers. They point out that some stereotype s of lesbians and gay i ndividuals mark them as being promiscuous They explain an assumption they perceive that heterosexual people have when they automatically think that since they are lesbian, they are sexual deviants and if they are sexual deviants they must want to have sex with them. Denelle comments are highlightin g how t his perceived promiscuity labels lesbians and gay men not only sexually deviant, but it would also mark them as unfit parents. Denelle and Nancy deflect this notion and, y et again, like other participants they describe their
79 family as being no dif ferent from any other family and assert that their sexuality has no impact on their ability to be competent parents. Sal also describes how she feels that her sexuality is not relevant to her parenting. Sal i s a single parent raising a teenager. She intr oduces the idea that her sexual identity is so unremarkable that she does not even notice it. Sal commented: Actually what happens to me as far as family once it becomes a family, I regul somebody said look at [the] [ looks over her shoulder, looking around ] Where? [ laugher ] Oh,[you mean] me! Ohhhh. Sal describes how her marginalized sexual ident ity does not enter her thoughts on a regular basis. For Sal, her lesbian identity is irrelevant as a family descriptor. She does not see her family as being remarkable until her sexuality is challenged from outside the relationship When challenged Sal later reported that she does not confront her challenger, she moves on especially since challenges she has experienced have been more covert and remarks have come from people in passing Because Sal felt no threat at the time of the comments, she perceiv ed no need on her part to be confrontational Even at a point of poten tia l conflict, Sal sees her sexuality as being irrelevant to her family life. of their sexuality. For S al this meant brushing off the looks and comments others said in passing while o thers talked of wanting to be seen as the same. For example, Zoey recognizes a need for tolerance and acceptance. S he stated: I think, my main thing, is that, you know, um heterosexual people should we all, we all bleed the same blood. We all, you know, we all do the same things. I use the bathroom the same way you do. I put on my socks the
80 same way you do. We are equal, you know, just because I have a sexual Again Zoey o how homosexuals are the same as heterosexuals. Then she elaborates by adding to the list of everyday activities that other participants felt make their families no different from families h eaded by heterosexual parents, emphasizing that in her view, les bians and gay men are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals. The participants qu oted in this section highlight their perspective s that their sexuality does not make them remarkably different from their heterosexual peers ; a lesbian identity does not negatively imp act their ability to parent. As they explain, being gay does not change the everyday chores that need to be completed by both parents and children It does not influence where their family shops or what TV shows they watch or how they put o n their socks or the color of the blood they bleed. What is best for child ren does not change because of the sexuality of the parents. All children need parents who love them and take care of them. Parenting generates the same challenges for all familie s whether they have two moms or a mom and a dad. These claims of sameness resonate in a climate where families are seeking equal rights. And this makes sense when we recognize the legal language of rights is based in a language of equality and when we re cognize the language of the social movement is about being the same as other families. Furthermore, h istorically there have been multiple forms of structural and institutional domination and exploitation on the basis of race and sexual orientation (Battl e and Bennett 2000). The structural and cultural forces of racism and homophobia
81 have create d response s from participants requiring them to address both systems (among others) simultaneously as they parent at the intersection of race, sexuality and gende r Racist and sexist policies have generated a picture of inadequate parenting by black individuals. Hill (2005) summarized class families were praised for their modernity and suitability for the new industrial economy, and the handful of researchers who turned their lens beyond that model of family only saw disorder, Homophobia has also led to challenges and debates regarding t he fitness of lesbians and gay men to parent competently (Biblarz and Savci 2010; Moore and Stambolis Ruhstorfer 2013) D espite the abundance of research to the contrary [recall the discussion in Chapter 2 about parenting by lesbians and gay men] some researchers have recently argue d that having a lesbian or gay parent is detrim It is in this backdrop that participants must confront the sanctions placed on them as members of groups marginalized both racially and sexually and as mothers As I have demonstrated in this section, one way these mothers do so is by stressing how their families are the same as any others. A related strategy to confront racist and homophobic stigma is to create a family that is socially viewed as legitimate and acceptable by advocating for p ublic policies that would provide a sense of stability and permanence for their families. In the following section, participants discuss the importance of being able to marry the partner of their choosing and the importance of being able to provide a sens e of belonging to all members of their family through marriage and adoption.
82 Family Recognition Is Important Generally speaking, family recognition policies are those laws and constitutional amendments that define, among other things, who may adopt childre n and who may marry. Cahill and Tobias (2007) note that: Family policy affects LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] individuals and influences their security and well being throughout their lives from childhood through young adulthood, middle age through older years, and even after death. Much public policy is based on the goal of interdependence of family members and giving special priority to this bond. Yet policy has historically been based on a narrow definition of family that does not encompass the bonds of LGBT people. Most policy gives preference to heterosexual married couples and their children over all other family formations (P. 2) Without equal access to adoption and ma rriage many lesbian and gay couples have to spend thousands of dollars on the legal documents to protect their families Bernard and Lieber (2009) report the cost at about $5500. Unfortunately, many times these documents, even when they are accessed, are not upheld in the courts or respected by hospitals, banks, and other institutions (Cahill and Tobias 2007). Those who cannot afford the legal documents are left without protections for their family. And even with the documents there is no way to duplicat e all of the rights and advantages of marriage through documents (Riggle et al. 2005). Oswald and Kuvalanka (2008) reported that about half of all same sex couples lack any form of legal tie. Family recognition policies are important for all families inc luding t he families of the participants in this study families headed by black lesbians who find themselves confronting racism homophobia and sexism Many Amer very traditional with family being a married opposite sex couple and their children and this traditional view of family is also held by a
83 majority of African Americans (Powell et al. 2010). Including lesbians and gay men in marriage has been resisted in the African American community specifically, and in society more generally. Ross (2002) contends: One impediment to same sex marriage was the way gay relationships are sexualized, seen as illicit, pornographic. In contrast, marriage is viewed as sacred. To afford marriage rights for same sex couples is therefore view ed as a jump from profane to sacred, too big a jump to make. (P.1007) Dietrich (1994) union, society proclaims them less worthy, less comm 122). The political opposition to government recognition of same sex marriage has been intense (Herek 2006) and the marriage equality debate has taken place in the courts and legislatures of several states. At the time of these interviews (the summer of 2012 the spring of 2 013) the marriage equality debate was highlighted both locally and nationally. A Pew Forum Poll ( 2013 ) reported that in 2013 49 percent of all Americans favor same sex marriage, while 44 percent oppose it. When disaggregated by race, 38 percent of black non Hispanic individuals who were polled support same sex marriage; compared with 49 percent of white, non Hispanics. Marriage e quality referendums were on the fall 2012 ballots in four states Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. In all four sta tes voters passed referendums allowing same sex couples to marry (Huffington Post 2012). The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act which federally defines marriage as between a man and a woman, had been argued before the Supreme Court to decide its constitutiona lity (Barnes 2013) A decision from the Supreme Court is expected in the summer of 2013 (Reilly and Sacks 2013) And, locally Ordinance 2012 296 an amendment to add
84 was being de bated [discussion on Ordinance 2012 296 is provided in the next section] (Bauerlein 2012; Hannigan 2012). It was in this social climate that p articipants asserted their families were the same as heterosexually constituted families, as outlined above. Part icipants also explicitly discussed the importance of being able to create a family with the ones they love whether that would be through marriage or adoption. R ecall from the last section, participants discussed a family as being in dividuals who love each other. Being able to marry the person you love was a specific point of concern expressed by many participants. For example, Tandice i s a single parent raising an elementary aged child and s he said: You should be able to marry whoever you want. T hey shou right [ chuckle ] so why are you j that. Everybody deserves to be happy and live their own life, you know, decide, make you decide on who you shou ld and should not be with, and I that or not. And Eva who is raising a teenager as a single parent commented: I think all that any gay person is asking for is the same mess and con want to be able to walk to the altar while we are carrying our divorce paper in our hands too. [ laughter ] Let me be honest, there is always the possibility it may not last. Both Ta ndice and Eva recognize that there can be troub le in any marriage but that the individuals involved deserve to be able to make the decision on who they marry for themselves without any interference from those outside the relationship They are
85 emphasizing that they deserve the same rights to marry as their heterosexual peers because their families are the same as the families of their heterosexual peers. These same sentiments were expressed by other participants who underscored that the equal right to mar ry was important to them. B ut they also remarked that entering a marriage is a serious decision and should not be taken lightly. Sal who is raising a teenager as a single parent said: ng serious you do it the same way as if you was marrying a dude. Take your love me. I really want people to understand and not just take it because you can do it. Every dude yo [ laughter ] You be looking at him like, ah, no. [ laughter ] Take that same time that you would any other person. And [ laughter ] Like really. Why is that? Sal emphasize s the notion that a marriage to a person of the sam e sex is no different from a marriage to a person of the opposite sex She further emphasizes the seriousness of the decision to make legal commitment like marriage when she notes a relationship and commitment of that level needs to develop over time E bony who was raising four children with her partner, suggested: to love this person right here because they are the same sex. It has you. I think they should go through counseling before to make what they really want, because sometimes you can be, you can feel like
86 Ebony underscores the fact that who you chose to marry is a p ersonal choice based in concern except for the individuals involved. She also indicates the decision to marry is so important that the couple involved should even consider getting outside input by attending counseling sessions. Sal and Ebony both point out that the decision to marry is important for all people not just lesbians and not just heterosexuals and even though any couple might have the option to legally marry in the future this does not mean that every couple should Being able to marry the one they love is just another way the women participating in this study hope to create a family that will be viewed as respectable, legitimate, and worthy of equal treatment. Ordinance 2012 296 During the time in which the interv iews were being conducted for this project there was a move to amend and expand the existing Human Rights Code for the City of Jacksonville to include protections for lesbians, gay men, and transgender individuals. Ordinance 2012 bans against discrimination in employment opportunities, fair housing, and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, marital status, national origin, age or disability already present in Jac discussion surrounding the ordinance was contentious and followed closely in the local news media The City Council meetings held bef ore the final vote had standing room only crowds and the crowd in atten dance was a fairly even mix of those suppo rting the ordinance and those opposing it The debate generally revolved around religious ideology with conservatives believing the ordinance would give special rights to the
87 LGBT community and those with more lib eral views advocating for inclusion in the name of equality After th ree months of debate the portion of the amendment recognizing provision was removed in hopes that sup port would be in place for an amendment to the Human Rights Code that only included sexual orientation. The council voted 10 9 against the bill that had removed gender identity and expression. A vote was forced on the original bill and this version also failed by a vote of 17 2 (Bauerlein 2012). Several participants expressed their disappointment in the failure to pass Ordinance 2012 296. They indicated the struggle to pass Ordinance 2012 296 reflected the struggles they have to be seen as citizens wor thy of equal rights. After a discussion about their desire to marry and complete a co parent ado ption Nancy and Denelle recognize the long road to gaining full marria ge equality and adoption rights for their family They said : Nancy: Folio [a weekly tabloid covering arts and entertainment] what they now that we are very close, but being that close, he job done. Denelle : Nancy: I was hurt by that. Taye and Fola also discuss being upset over the failure of the Jacksonville City Council to pass Ordina nce 2012 296, but they express they w ere not surprised by the outcome. They remarked: Taye : with it. Fola:
88 Clare: Taye : Yeah there even th ough you say we are the number two in the country always so, you know, so divided on that issue, so I was upset, but I I mean we live in a Bible B elt so [ laughter ] shocked. Nancy and Denelle and Taye and Fola indicate that the ex clusion of sexual orientation is just another form of discrimination that makes them they feel as if they are excluded from having full equality with heterosexual individuals and co uples. Taye also introduces the idea of living in a conservative area, religion plays in the lives of my participants and in the African American community in general will be more fully discussed in the next chapter. Several par ticipants unders cored the feeling that they were being treated differently when it came to their sexuality, especially after 2012 296 failed. They emphasize d there is no reason to be treated differently. Since participants describe themselves and their fa milies as being the same and no different from their heterosexual peers and their families it makes sense that they would feel disappointment from being treated differently. Nancy underscores that she wished people would not treat her or other les bians an d gay men differently when she said yeah, just to know we are normal. We are not second class citizens, third, or fourth, or Ebony describes feelings of being treated not even as second or third class but as be ing less than human by those who spoke in o pposition of Ordinance 2012 296. She revealed:
89 A lady got up in the council meeting and said well she said some old crazy like what? Wh not animals. We are human beings that have a heart. We have feelings s human ordinance you And people need to be able to distinguish between the important stuff and T he intense debate and defeat of 2012 296 was particularly salien t to participants as indicated in the ir sentiments. The concerns they voiced about not being seen as human being s were particularly poignant and indicate a level of frustration and a feeling of lack of support from the local government and community Thi s lack of support led many participants to indicate that if they were receiving no support from government then perhaps they should not support the government in return. This is discussed in the next section as participants criticized the system in which t hey had to pay taxes without the full support of the government especially in the form of marriage equality. We Should Be Able to Marry the Ones We Love Being able to marry and being able to have that marriage recognized on the state and federal level pro vides a couple with many social, emotional, and financial benefits. Same sex couples who do not have legal protection are, when compared to married heterosexual peers, at greater risk for health problems, are more likely to be excluded dical care, cannot receive Social Security survival benefits and the other 1,138 benefits granted at the federal level, receive fewer job related benefits, and are less able to fully support their children financially and emotionally (Herek 2006). Also, b y denying same sex couples access to marriage a scenario is created in which
90 At the time of this project, 2013 a legally recognized marriage was not an option for same sex couples either within the state of Florida or at the federal level (Human Rights Campaign 2013) Until the fall of 2010 lesbians and gay men were not allowed to adopt children from the Florida foster care system ( Equality Florida I nstitute Inc. and Carleton Fields 2012) 2 These policies have had an impact on the families of the participants in this project specifically and for families headed by all lesbians and gay men living in Florida more generally. Participants listed a lega l marriage as being an important way to link family members in a permanent way Furthermore, b eing able to legally marry the partner of your choice has the potential to strengthen family resilience and may also help families headed by lesbians and gay men receive a fuller level of support from their heterosexual family members (Ocobock 2013). Participants pointed out they pay into the federal tax system just like everybody else. Fola insisted body else are required to participate fully in federal and state policies by paying taxes 3 they argue they should be recognized more fully by the government and have the ability to legally marry a partner of their choosing. Participants want to receive the same benefits as 2 The Florida Third District C ourt of Appeal held the 33 year old state law banning lesbians and gay men from becoming adoptive parents was unconstitutional (Florida Statutes Section 63.042(3)). Although the statute remains on the books it is no longer being enforced by the Florida De partment of Children and Families or the Florida Attorney General (Equality Florida Institute, Inc. and Carleton Fields 2012). 3 Florida has a state sales tax but does not have a state income tax.
91 heterosexual couples who are l egally married. Nancy and Denelle summarize the sentiments of many participants when they said: Nancy: Being acc epted, um, being able to have equal rights, as everyone Denelle : Insurance, all the benefits just that they allow for families, the I mean we pa y taxes. We invest in the same things that they invest in. Zoey adds a scenario being faced by a coworker. She indicated : Ye ah, I have one guy in here [ partner and they are like domestic partners too. And um, he his partner same else, you know. H ow come a man and a women they can benefit from pay the same share. Zoey echoes what other participants have said. She asserts that if she or other lesbians and gay men participa te fully in government they should have full access to all the same benefits government can provide, especially as it relates to being able to marry. Eva and Ebony spoke poignantly about challenges they faced from not being able to legally marry their part ners. For Ebony it was with the Internal Revenue Service and for Eva the challenge was with access to the health care system Ebony comments on trouble she had with the IRS because she had no legal connection with the children. After a rough break up her partner alerted the Internal children on her tax return since she was the sole wage earner in the family. I asked if
92 the Internal Revenue Service took issue with the fact that the children might be doubly claimed. She explained: me. And I explained to them you know the and we had a commitment ceremony, ah, with her in oh three. And it lasted three years and that was it. We broke up in oh six. So, I said I got ceremony. kids. I take care of that. But, thank God it only went ba ck two years and not ten. Ebony underscores the fact that, despite being in a committed relationship, without a legally recognized marriage, there are serious penalties for not being legally married. Her story here needs to be read in relation to her ear lier description of her family as being the same as other families. When taken together her statements outline how being the same but not being treated as the same is quite consequen tia l. same sex partner was in the military. Since she was not able to marry her partner, Eva did not have access to her military health insurance. And, since she was a stay at home mom she did not have any health insurance available to her from an empl oyer A medical crisis occurred and because she had no health insurance Eva could not access the care she needed. She remarked: My wife served in the service but nobody knows who I am. Because she went and got a job and nobody knows who I am. But if I had married a man, I got punished by the United States for being with a woman and I got re punished for staying home and doing the ri ght thing and raising a teenager and keeping [them] from being another statistic, dropping out, and on welfare. So becau same thing that if I was at home with my ex husband, this [illness] would have been dealt with we knew that I was sick, but you go and try to get t income.
93 You try to do stuff. All we ever wanted to do was legally get married, legally be able to acknowledge, legally put me on insurance. Everybody in glasses, but because I chose to be with a woman I never did because I it because of the service, and she had it on the job. Clare: You were in that middle spot. Eva: house and she gonna pay all those extra taxes and I have to pay all those extra taxes. When I am sitting with a woman for ten or fifteen years wher e if I was with a husband we could write off something. So what are we to have more of my stories out there you know. They need to. e that she faced from not being able to marry her same sex partner. She notes that when she was legally married to a man there were no issues with obtaining health insurance for all members of the family. Access to health insurance changed when she was w ith her same sex partner. This lack of health insurance had a serious negative impact on her overall health and well being. She claims access to health insurance would not have been an issue if she had been able to legally marry her partner. serious situation makes her earlier comments about having a family that is the same as other families all the more poignant and again highlights the serious consequences that can come from not being treated the same as other families. Her assertion of bei ng the same as other families is simultaneously an assertion of being deserving of the same benefits and protections offered to other families. Ulani, who is registered in a domestic partners hip and is co parenting two adopted/foster children with her par tner, offered another story about trying to access health insurance for her family. She pointed out:
94 offer same sex benefits. So even though I can pay for a family plan to includ e my kids and the person next to me their family plan includes their price, but it just includes me and my two boys. Furthermore, a s Supreme Court was hearing arguments challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which is a federal law that defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. She offered her hope that soon the federal governmen t would recognize marriage equality. She stated: Um, I definitely think DOMA, which is pending, the appeal, affects my family, because like we are going to [a large mid Atlantic city] to get lmost getting double taxed a lot of times. So I would definitely like to see that go other things. Because after that passes through the federal government, all the little state st Recognition of marriage equality is especially important for Ulani as she is preparing to marry her partner in the summer of 2013 in a jurisdiction w here marriage is available for lesbians and gay men. The sentiments she expresses indicate that she is optimistic about the future regarding marriage recognition for lesbians and gay men. It highlights how she is striving to have her family legally recog nized as the same as other families and her hopes that she will receive the same recognition. Just like the participants in this project, more generally, all b lack lesbians and gay men have been and are challeng ed by homophobic and racist policies. Benne tt and Battle (2001) explain: S ubcultures or minority groups within that oppressed group often have to suppress their own agenda because it is thought to detract from a politics based on race. The problem with this reasoning is that not only has the
95 large r African American Community been historically oppressed on the basis of race but so to have its LGBT members been assaulted on the basis of sexuality ( P. 57) The voices of black lesbians and gay men have been left out of the family policy discussion on two levels on e based in race and on e based in sexuality As the voices of my participants illustrate, they feel their families are legitimate families and deserve the same treatment. These family policies are of particular importance for black lesbian f amilies who feel the same as other families but who have been treated differently because of racist and homophobic family policies. The specific examples pro vided in this section discuss the challenges that some of the participants have face d because they have not been able to legally marry; in the next section I present views participants have regarding adoption. Adoption Rights are Important Just as family recognition policies regarding marriage equality are impacted by racism and homophobia, so are p olicies related to adoption. Homophobia has forced lesbians and gay men to prove their fitness to parent not only their own children, but any children like those they make look to adopt (Adams 1996) [ recall the discussion on fitness of lesbians and gay me n to parent in Chapter 2]. Racism has also challenged African Americans to prove their fitness as parents (Moynihan 1965; Staples 1971) [recall the discussion on racism in the study of black families in Chapter 2] For a majority of the participants in this project one partner was the biological parent who brought children into the relationship from a previous heterosexual relationship. Participants underscored the need to link the non biological parent to the children in the family should something ha ppen to the biological parent. They recognized that without a legal connection the ir family risked being broken up. T here
96 was a possibility that the children would be removed from the custody and care of the non biological parent by the state D epartment of Children and Families or by family members of the biological parent should something happen to the biological parent Being able to adopt children was also discussed as an important way to help the children in foster care find a loving and caring forev er family. A disc ussion highlighting participant s provided in the next two sections. Legal Adoption Links Child(ren) to Non Biological Parent Participants with partners undersco red the importance of keeping their family biological partner. Even though the ban restricting lesbians and gay men from adopting in the state of Florida was ruled unconsti tutional in the fall of 2010, a co parent adoption still proves challenging since the couple involved is not legally married (Equality Florida Institute Inc. and Carlton Fields (2012). When asked if they thought th e ability to marry or adopt children was important to their family Taye and Fola were unanimous. They replied: Taye & Fola : Absolutely. [ s poken simultaneously ] Fola: Oh, yeah. Taye : that they understand that we have think it is ve ry important. Fola: happens to her, I have to go through all this legal tape now, before something happens to her in case, spend all this stupid money.
97 And maybe nothing happens to her. Spend all this money, just to say, if something happens that he belongs to me. Clare: Right. Fola: this stupid money, even though I got my paperwork together, before on, and we talk about insemination, and IVF [in vitro fertilization] costing so Taye : L egal. Fola: The step the other parent. Clare: The co parent. Fola: The co Clare: And the legal fees are incredible. Fola: Astronomical. Taye and Fola indicate a limitation found in the current system and the financial hardship that occurs when a non biological, co parent work s to file the paperwork necessary to adopt The legal cost for generating and filing the paperwork is about $5500 (Bernard and Lieber 2009) Since many participants reported a working or middle class socioeconomic status completing the paperwork to create a legal connection between family members may be cost prohibitive. Denelle who was co parenting her child with her partner, spoke about the need to make sure there is a legal link between th e child and the non biological parent. She said : Denelle : to have her, you know what I mean.
98 Clare: Right. Denelle : And er mom. So you know, at some point, I know that we do have to put something in place for that, so that nothing can happen, because I know that this is where people can just come in [and take the child]. Denelle added that even though people view her partn er as more of the mother to her child than she is, she wanted to create a legal connection so that their child would not be removed from her partner and put with other family members should something happen to her. Later in the interview she stated that th e disruption of the family created by removing her child from the care of her partner would very likely be traumatic for both her child and her partner. Denelle between the members of her family is jus t the same as the love between family members in other families and no one would want feel the loss that would come from removing a child from their family. Sal brings in the perspective of a co parent who is left behind. She pointed out that a legal co nnection is especially important in the case when the relationship between two partners dissolves Sal was raising her own child, but when she was with her last partner she developed a close relationship with her five children. She said: Adopt after me and my last ex broke up. And then when she became involved gonna do. So I thought about adoption. Sal had built a relationship with her ex not only was the relationship with the partner ended but the relationship with the children was also broken when
99 they ended the ir relationship. W ith no legal connection Sal had no v isitation rights and has since possibility of reconnecting with them when they turn 18 and can make their own decisions abou t rebuilding a relationship with Sal s comments recognizing the love love between family members is the same in any family Similarly, 4 also asserted the imp ortance of legal recognition. She suggested that she would make sure that all members of the family legally carried the same last name so that the commitment everyone had to each other would be recognized. She emphasized: she has no rights to or anything like that. I want her to ha ve full rights. That if anything ever happened to me or anything I want her to make sure that she has full rights so that she feels a part of it. She further noted that when co parenting the biological children of her partner it was important for her to have whatever legal documentation was available to her family. She said: We renewed it every year, p retty much every school year because that is when it usually expired because I was the one that enrolled them in 4 During her i relati onships some heterosexual and some with women Pertinent to this project in o ne relationship she co parented three children with her female partner and her current relationship where she and her partner soon hope to conceive a child through in vitro ferti lization.
100 reinforces the idea that there is a need to link any children to the non biological, co parent and to taking adv antage of available resources like a caregiver affidavit These documents are critical to tying children to their non biological parent and are necessary steps when adoption is not an option that is available. Ulani agrees. T his year Ulani is legally marr ying her partner in a jurisdiction where marriage is available to lesbians and gay men She and her partner are currently co parenting one foster child and one child that Ulani has adopted. She indicated: There are a lot of legal reasons to [legally adopt ]. Because you know if the hospital, in intensive care or something because he is not my are a lot of issue s that come with wills, you know, that my family my child, you know. So there are a lot of reasons to go ahead and do it. She went on to say that he r family has taken steps to take adv antage of the legal policies of family recognition currently available to her family She said: We did the, um, domestic partnership registration here in [large southern city] decisions as well, pertaining to them, so [the school ] is aware, as well. Ulani suggests that she has done what she can to legally protect her family, but that these measures still might not be enough. attention to the fac t that they use whatever legal means is available to them to tie the children in their family to their non biological parent as a way to create a family that will be seen as, and hopefully treated, the same as any other family. Just as they explained in e arlier stories that described the way they do the same chores and bleed the same
101 Legal recognition that their family is the same a s other families is not only important for families where one individual is the biological parent of the children, it is also important for finding forever families for children in foster care. Many participants expressed th e sentiment that anyone who cou ld provide a loving, stable and caring home to a child in foster care should be able to do this. Th is is discussed in the following section Foster Families Headed by Gay Parents Are t he Same Too There are a fairly significant number of children waiting in foster care to be adopted. For example, in 2003, Florida had more children in foster care than any other state except New York and California, and had more than 5,000 children available for ldren and Families to keep children with their birth families began in 2006 and reduced the number of children actually placed in foster care to just over 19,000 in 2009 (Hirth 2009b), still at any given time approximately 850 children are available for ad option (Hirth 2009a). The African care system (Child Welfare Research Institute 200 9 ) In 2010, the Florida Third District lesbians and gay men from becoming adoptive parents was unconstitutional (Eq uality Florida Institute, Inc. and Carleton Fields 2012) As a result, t he Flori da Department of Children and Families and the Florida Attorney General no longer enforce the ban and have removed sexual orientation references from procedures and forms. adoptin g. Some knew it had been ruled unconstitutional, others did not. Many
102 expressed views that they might like to adopt children from the f oster care system in the future. They also expressed views interrogating the ban why should people who want to adopt, not be allowed to a dopt because of their sexuality? Just as the ability to parent came up in discussion s earlier in this chapter when discussing what participants wished people knew about their family it came up again in requirements for adoptive parent s and the sexuality of prospective parents. Many participants again argued that not be able to not ad opt just because you are gay because some of the best families are a gay household. Some of the best households are gay households. I think the issue should be in the best interest of the child, is this a good home for this child, you know. The person w have the ability to take care of this child? Do they have a good job? Do they have Those are the things that should be more important whether than the good that the ban [preventing lesbians and gay men from adopting in Florida] has been removed and everything. Ulani underscores the fact that even though the Florida Department of Children and Families constitution. She clarified : those states that actually says within their constitution that you cannot stopped enforcing it, it amended or taken out. Ebony summed things up when she emphasized that: the kids in a safe er stuff is a bunch of rubbish [ chuckle ]
103 gay community, but we still have a long way to go. advantage of anyone who is qualified and willing to provide a safe, loving, and permanent home. Participants agree as they argue that any one who is qualified and willing to provide a child with a safe and stable home should be allowed to. They are using a language of sameness to assert their legitimacy as poten tial parents and as a means of seeking legal recognition. Conclusion This chapte r has described how participants see their family as no different from other American families. They noted that families headed by lesbians either as single parents or in a co parenting scenario have the same struggles and challenges as families headed by a man and a woman or a single parent. Parents go to work, children go to scho ol, and all family members help to do the everyday task necessary to maintain a household just like any other family. Participants underscored the fact that their sexual identit y had no bearing on their ability to parent. They pointed out that since their families are the same as any other family, family recognition policies like marriage and adoption should be equally available to them as they ar e for their heterosexual peers They assert that if they are required to fully participate in gove rnment (like with paying taxes) the government should recognize them as the same and fully support them by allowing them to legally marry the person they love or by providing them the legal ability to adopt children. The stories participants told in this chapter revealed they want to be treated the same as any other family as they work to achieve the same family recognition as the
104 families of their heterosexual peers. They want full and e qual access to the legal rights that would provide equal recognition and support for their families. Notice however that participants did not talk about their differences from other families only their sameness. They did not explicitly discuss their situ ations in terms of interlocking oppressions as one might expect if they were focused on differences rather than sameness. The discussion of sameness in this chapter al so highlighted the salience of sexually marginalized identity In talking about how their family is the same as other families, participants talked of sexuality, with little mention of race Just as Collins (2000) argues: definitions intermingle and become more salient: Her gender may be more prominent when she becomes a mother, her race when she searches for housing, her social class, when she applies for credit, her sexual orientation when she is walking with her lover, and her citizenship status when she applies for a job (P. 275) Ho wever this lack of mention does not mean that race does not play an important role in The following chapter provides a discussion of how participants shed light on the strategies they employ as they nego tia te their social world at the intersection of sexuality and race how they navigate the social landscape as black lesbians with children In the next chapter, as they discuss their black lesbian identity, the participants stress difference instead of sameness.
105 CHAPTER 5 IT REALLY IS, NOT JUST GAY, BUT AFRICAN AMERICAN GAY The title of this chapter is a quote from Eva that is representative of the thou ghts of all the participants as t hey shed light on the uniqueness of their experience as black gay women. My participants nego tia te their social world at the intersection of their identities based in race, sexuality and gender (among others) Bowleg (2008) clarifies members of ethnic minority groups (p. 313). The complexity of the ir experiences as black lesbians must be taken together as a whole since these social identities are always interdependent and always present (Bowleg 2008 ; Collins 2000 ) As these quotes remind us, and as I will detail in this chapter participants in this study underscored that African Americans with a gay identity nego tia te the social world as both a racial minority and as a sexual minority. There is a historical le gacy and a continuing presence of racism in the United States that makes the support and protection provided by the black community more generally and the black church and family more specifically central to the ways black indiv iduals nego tia te it (Fukuy ama and Ferguson 2000) homophobia in the black community more generally and the black church more specifically are discussed in the following section s Black Lesbian Experiences of Homophobia Participants in this study brin g attention to the varied experiences they had when dealing with homophobia. They revealed that for the most part they dealt with subtle forms of homophobia that were directed at those women who were more visibly marked
106 as lesbian by their gender presenta tion. They also emphasize that their sexual identity is more salient in the black community. Before outlining how participants discussed their experiences of homophobia, I point here to the complex way in which homophobia can be understood, especially i n relation to research on the African American community. Homophobia is the fear of homo sexuality and homosexuals. Collins (2000) asserts homophobia flourishes in a context where the invisibility of the alleged constitutes a proximate fear that anyone could at any time reveal himself or herself as gay or lesbi emphasis in original ) Research has shown that African Americans possess disproportionately negative attitudes toward homosexuals when compared to whites ( [recall the discussion from Chapter 2 ] Battle and Bennett 2000; Battle and Lemelle 2002 ; Ernst et al 1991; Greene 2009; Herek and Capitanio 1995; Jenkins, Lambert, and Baker 2009; Lewis 2003; Schulte and Battle 2004 ) Keep in mind as Bennet t, Battle, and Lemelle (2006) caution institutional barriers have been set in place in the United S tates to marginalize same sex sexuality and this has created a system of homophobia that is embedded throughout national culture more generally They advise that to claim African Americans are any more homophobic than other a racial group is misdirected (p. 65) Yet even d espite disproportionately negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, Greene (2002) makes note that a Gallup poll showed a greater number of African American respondents favored equal rights for lesbians and gay men when it came to job opportunities and they supported the repeal
107 This recognition of the importance of equal rights for lesbians and gay men may be influenced by the challenges the African American community has faced as they struggle to obtain their own rights in a society where racism has and still plays a large role. T hat being said, w hen p articipants were asked about th eir experiences with homophobia, they overwhelmingly described situations tha t were set in the black community. As will b e highlighted in my participant s narratives, t his stress on detailing homophobic experiences in the black community may be a product of a greater social investment in black social spaces thus making the se expe riences of homophobia in the black community more salient for them as black lesbians Furthermore, t hese more salient experiences of homophobia in the African American community may also be in response to a racist culture that views all black sexuality as deviant and perverse. When p articipants talked about that their e xperiences o f homophobia they remarked that these experiences took the form of more subtle practices ( of curious glances and derogatory words overheard in passing ) No participants reporte d any incidents of overt violence directed at them because of their sexuality (or because of race, or gender) Ulani description of her experiences with homophobia is typical of many of the participants. Ulani reveals that she has not experience any h omophobia directed right at her. When asked if she has experienced homophobia, s he said : N ot, to me personally, not like in my face. people seem fine when they are talking to me even in small [town in rural nort h central Florida] anything that made me feel uncomfortable or anythin g. [ chuckle ] Ulani recognizes that living in a small rural town she should have expected some challenges because of the conservative views that are ge nerally expressed by rural
108 communities regarding sexuality. Just as Powell et al. (2010) reported those living in rural areas and in the South had more restricted views on sexuality and family. People living in these areas are more likely to be opposed t o same sex marriage and are more likely to define a family as a married man and woman and their children. Shandee similarly talks of not experiencing explicit homophobia. She claims that being confident in her sexuality helps to create a distance from t hose who might express homophobic ideas. When asked if she had experienced any homophobia, s he indicated: N know how this person will rea ct. A I walk with my head held high. I cut my eye at you before you need to cut your eye at me to even think it Shandee assurance may be keeping people from making remarks to her directly or at least keeping any derogator y remarks to themselves. Also her confidence is providing an image of strength that indicates to those around her they should keep their thoughts to themselves. In contrast, Ebony, who has a more masculine gender presentation, reported that she has hear d comments about her sexuality made in passing. She said: Y until you walk away or behind your back, and so. I h know, head on like that, not in the gay community, you know, you have Her sexuality is perceived as being marked by those who are passing because of her more mascu line gender identity Ebony wears her hair in dread s she wears no [a further discussion of non conforming gender is detailed in the upcoming section about the stud/femme dynamic] Her
109 mannish appearance draws attention leading some people to make comments within marginalized status found in a lesbian identity especially one that is more visible through a non gender conforming presenta tion Importantly, it is not just everyday homophobia on the street that participants discussed. For example, Eva describes another form homophobia can take. She remarked: And we are having a homophobia not just within the black community, but within o want my children to be gay, that is the worst thing, and they are gay theyselves. Eva pinpoints the feelings of shame surrounding disclosing a lesbian identity are so pervasive that not on ly are they present in the black community at large they also become feelings of homophobia for individual black lesbians Sal similarly mentions her sense of internalized homophobia. She pointed out that she was homophobic herself before she disclosed he r sexuality. She said ost people have [homophobia] I think, to me, I think to be honest, I h ad it myself before I came out. I had a problem with every gay person that came around me. Both Eva an d Sal highlight the negative attitudes expressed in society regarding homosexuality can become internalized. Not surprisingly, some black lesbians, along with some black women, have internalized the se racist, sexist, and heterosexist ideals that have converged to blame African American women for the fai lure of African American families (Greene 2002) racist cultural legacy that maintains the troubles found in black families are due to the poor mothering job done by black women (Collins
110 2000; Greene 2002; Moynihan 1965). This highlights how internalized homophobia and racism among black l esbians can be consequen tia l to their view of their own parenting. Importantly, one theme that clearly emerged from my interviews is that participants also describe their experiences of homophobia in relation to their experience in their particular black community. For example, when I asked Zoey if she had experienced any homo phobia, s he responded: men and the women, it is in the black community. If they are straight, they in white people, but I have noticed it in blacks. Zoey expresses feelings that there is a difference in experiences she has had with h eterosexuals and homophobia in the black community compared to those in the white community When asked about her experiences of homophobia Sal asserts, mostly my own race. Other than that, nobody else has a problem, nobody really cares that much. Zoey bring attention to their sense of the notion that there is a different perception of homosexuality in the black versus the white community. Black sexuality in general has historically been s een as being hypersexual and dangerous (Collins 2005) So in order to maintain a level of respectability for them to avoid being further maligned in a racist society (Griffin 2006). My participants, in tra cing their experiences with homophobia from others in the black community, remind us of this point. Taye and Fola elaborate on the significance of the homophobia experienced in particular black communities when they describe the challenge of living in an African
111 American neighborhood Like Zoey they feel there is a difference in their experiences in a majority black neighborhood compared to the more racially diverse neighborhood they currently live in They said : Fola: We had to make changes. I felt like, we were living on the Northside [a historically African American neighborhood] just gonna be honest, we were living on the Northside and I felt like it would be more challenging to be a family on the Northside Clare: Fola: Why ? R ace. Taye : When probed on this they expressed in more detail a feeling that managing a marginalized sexual identity is more challenging in the African America n community. They explained: Fola: I just think that African Americans as a whole, they are the race of sexuality. If a man or a woman is bisexual you are the worse, you low people that live one life one way and another life at night or whatever, in the African American community than any community. dishonesty and I think because African Americans try to put on a persona of being so religious all the time. They never take that off, g rocery store and hold her hand and nobody looks at me funny. Clare: Really. Fola: And I would get looks. Clare: In your neighborhood? Fola & Taye : Oh yeah. [spoken simultaneously] Clare: On the Northside [a racially segregated black neighborh ood in Jacksonville] you would have got looks?
112 Fola: Oh yeah, absolutely. Clare: Do you think people would have harassed you? Fola: No. Clare: Taye : Nobody has said anything to us, but the looks are enough, you know. I guess at you like you are crazy because [ laughter ] that can create an uncomfortable atmosphere, you know Afric minded, Fola: race, but race in conjunction with the people, there ar e African American people that are open minded. There are close minded [people], as it is in other races, but it seems like Taye and Fola express feelings that they felt they were constantly being s crutinized when they lived in a particular African American neigh borhood. This scrutiny was so intense they felt the need to move to a more diverse neighborhood. These sentiments echo those of individuals who experience racial fatigue from living in a racially segregated neighborhood w here they are the racial minority. Steinbugler (2012 ), in her work with interracial couples, found that when an individual is in a space in which they of feeling cons picuous and of having to attend to the presence of racial undercurrents in everyday social interactions (p. 19). Similarly, Taye Also, k eep in mind that when Taye and Fola talk about their experiences in a particular African American neighborhood they are not saying that homophobia is simply
113 there are African Ameri cans who can be open minded when dealing with issues of sexuality as it relates to lesbians and gay men. Their discussion is about how they experienced homophobia in a particular neighborhood and how homophobia can manifest in troubling ways in some black communities. The narratives presented in this section by Ebony, Eva, Zoey Sal, and Taye and Fola bring attention to the fact that participants nego tia te a social world at the intersection of race and sexuality and these interlocking oppressions create a s ocial climate where in some situations they feel support and in others they feel unwelcome. This social climate is influenced by the cultural place of women in the black community, and of lesbians in particular. The sentiments participants express of the tensions they feel in the black community stem from the fact that black lesbians do find themselves at the intersection of race, sexuality, and gender and they challenge the norms of heterosexism. Their narratives support Collins (2000) argument that isible black lesbians challenge the mythical norm that the best people are White, male, rich, and heterosexual. In doing so power and sexuality on the interpersonal lev el ( p. 168) As the discussion in this section has shown participants acknowledge they have experienced both subtle and overt forms of homophobia often within the black community. This homophobia has created feelings of anxiety and discomfort as they c hallenge the norms and expectations of not only heterosexism but expectations of proper sexuality in a racist
114 society. A is provided in the next section. Black Lesbian Experienc es of the Black Church The black church has been called a haven and a sustainer of black life (Gomez and Smith 1990; Greene 2002). Battle (2006) explains: The Church is the most trusted and dominant institution in the African American community, and has been regarded as a refuge from wider societal injustice. Participation in the Church provides nurturance, support, tangible assistance, a cultural identity, and a sense of belonging to both families and individuals. (P. 179) The black church has been called an anchoring institution in the African American community (Pattillo McCoy 1998:769) Pattillo McCoy (1998) describes acts simultaneously as a school, a bank, a benevolent society, a political organization, a party hall, and a spirit congregation, even if it is part of a predominantly white d controlled exclusively by African Americans include African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Christian Methodist Episcopal National Baptist Convention USA, National Baptist Convention of America, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention. .. These denominations incorporate 80 percent of all black Christians. (P. 768) T broader society and has resisted any hints of Black sexual deviance, straight and gay 5: 107 emphasis in original ). The heterosexi st message found in the teachings of the black church particularly advocates for the superiority of men, the preservation of traditional gender roles, and the devaluation of women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people (Greene 2002). The Chris tia n view supported by many black churches emphasize s
115 as sinful, and gays as morally depraved (Griffin 2006 :7) Black leaders and congregants sometimes tolerate lesbians and gay men in their choirs and con gregation as long as they do not disclose their sexuality (Collins 2005; Gomez and Smith 1990; Griffin 2006; Martinez and Sullivan 1998). Despite this tolerance of the silent lesbian or gay man, t he black church continues to promote an uncommonly virulent strain of homophobia (Bennett and Battle 2001 :58 ) This is not to suggest that the congregations and affiliations of the black church are the only ones with homoph obic views Conservative Christian groups, like Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, and Presby terian, as well as some Roman Catholic groups have all expressed negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men (Alston 1974; Duck and Hunsberger 1999; Maher, Sever, and Pichler 2008; McFarland 1989; Newman 2002; Schwartz and Lindley 2005) For compariso n, those who identify as Atheist, Agnostic, Jewish, or who claim no religious affiliation were found to be the most positive in their attitudes toward lesbians and gay men ( Alston 1974; Newman 2002). For a better understanding of the religiosity of Jackso nville, Florida particularly, here are some demographics about its re ligious communities Generally speaking Jacksonville Florida 1 Barton (2010) explains this is a diverse region of the country that includes large cities, small towns and rural areas with Fundamentalist Christians making up the majority of the population and they exert a powerful influence on city, county, and state political and cultural institutions Specifically, f orty four percent of the pop ulation of the city of Jacksonville, Florida is 1 Barton (2010) describes the Bible Belt geographically as an area that overlaps with the West South Central (TX, OK, AR, LA), East South Central (KY, TN, MS, AL), and South Atlantic (WV, VA, MD, DE, NC, SC, GA, FL) areas of the United States.
116 reported to be affiliated with a religious congregation. And of those con gregants 42 percent of them reported an affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention 2 (Jones et al. 2002). Some of these congre gations are racially segregated and so me are racially mixed. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the second largest Christian denomination in the United S tates behind the Roman Catholic Church (Robinson 2012). A s a group the SBC has conservative v iews regarding sexuality viewing homosexual individuals as participating in a sinful and destructive lifestyle (Robinson 2012) The SBC (2013) position statement on sexuality states: We affirm God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy one man, and on e woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a "valid alternative lifestyle." The Bible condemns it as sin. It is not, however, unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals. They, too, may become new creations in Ch rist. And specifically, as it relates to this project, the SBC believes equal rights for members of the LGBT community are special rights and therefore should not be granted (Robinson 2012). In this study, s ix participants noted an affiliation with the Baptist Church at some point in their lives. Five participants noted religious upbringings but no specific affiliation and one noted being raised in a Muslim tradition. Ten participants report that they currently attend church, with nine attending affi rming churches that preach a more positive message about sexuality and one attending a non affirming church that preaches a more conservative message about sexuality. The importance of church attendance for my participants ngs in her study of black 2 For comparison, in Jacksonville, the next two denominations were 19 percent who identified as Catholic and eight percent who identified as United Methodist
117 lesbians in New York City. She reports that the majority of her interviewees maintain an affiliation with religious organizations (Moore 2011). The participants in this study outline a complicated relationship to the black church. On the one hand, they talk of troubles they have had with the black church, and on the other hand, they talk about their allegiances to the black church. Zoey provides a comment that introduces the sentiment of homophobia in the church. She said: So yo Religi ous teachings in most black churches promote a theological view that homosexuality is a sin but no ordinary sin; it is a monstrosity and part of a wicked spirit (Griffin 2006) Zoey she conf ronts from some religious teachings. Eva was similarly challenged by such views but they were articulated by her family when she was struggling with accepting her lesbian identity. She said: The only time I ever felt prejudice about being gay was w ithin my family, never outside. When I was teeter tottering on the fence with my sexuality, my dad, my mom, my godmother, my siblings, everybody, my friends that was straight was constantly attacking me for two years. They were dragging my head left and r ight. If the car broke down it was because I was gay. God was punishing me. like many religious conservatives, insists that homosexuality is immoral and sinful bringing on punishment from God. She gave more examples of punishments from God She said: e she had a gay mom. If my [child] have to do with one or another. I t is really difficult when you are living in the African American communi m always
118 trying to prove, to prove to my family in the African American community now, because they are grown [ in high school and college ], it like a wonder that you came out any kind of way in that environment. Sal also points out that even those who may not regularly go to church will use the Bible to support their homophobic views. She charged: Sal: Half the people who say something sa ying summarizing what you have heard. And then want to put it on me, doing? [ laughter ] Clare : Y eah there are a lot of things in there [the Bible] Sal: Yeah, like you just judged me, hell. [ said under her breath laughter ] Sal brings out that in her interpretation of the Bible, there are no real passages that condem n homosexuality yet there are several that recognize the sinfulness of judging the actions of others. Like Griffin (2006) shows, there are no specific references of condemnation for two people of the same sex cohabiting in a loving, committed, and long t erm sexual relationship. Zoey troubling ways in which religious views are asserted and used to support homophobia. Taye and Fola also stress the way that churches hold an important place in the black communit y and often foster homophobia in particular black communities. For example, they talked about the number of churches in Jacksonville that preach conservative challenges to sexuality. They said: Taye : ht there is we live in a Bible B elt and there is family. Fola:
119 Jacksonville than a nerve to have one big church, we have churches on every corner. Northside [historically the African American Northside is r Northside Clare: And would you say most of them are not affirming? Fola: Oh, absolutely. Taye : Oh definitely not. Y eah, you have that mindset, people have older generation Jacksonville seems to be very divided on this issue, it is what it is. Taye points out that not only do the churches in Jacksonville preach a conservative message regarding sexuality, they are perpetuating it. And as discussed in Chapter 4, regarding Ordinance 2012 296, this conservative ideology created a division in the city of Jacksonville. Reca ll how those with religiously conservative values were against Code. These views were for the most pa rt affiliated with the Baptist C hurch. Some particip ants complained they felt targeted because of their sexual identity in some churches. Ulani and her family do not regularly attend any one church because of the challenges to h er sexuality she has experienced in church She noted that when she goes back home she goes to church with her grandmothe r who is a member of a Baptist C hurch community. She offered: l say something. I think we have been very selective in the churches that Ebony added:
120 I move away from home and stuff I kind of stopped going to church like Sunday that you want to teach about homosexuali ty. Like man, did you know. I start to feel uncomfortable about churches and stuff. Ebony has a more m asculine gender presentation as a result felt targeted by the preacher on more than one occasion. The conservative message being regularly preached highlights the deviance and immorality of homosexuality making many participants uncomfortable in a more m ainstream Baptist church. Sal told a similar story. She said : just like who does this? A preach about something else? Please? And it made me feel like maybe I need to reconsid er what I am doing or something. B go back. Ulani, Ebony, and Sal present a perspective of choosing not to attend a non affirming 3 church because of the messages that challenge their sexual identity. Later in their interviews, Ebony and Sal acknowledged that they were looking for a religious commun ity that would allow them to hear positive messages about their sexuality and they found it in affirming churches. 3 A non affirming church is one that does not openly welcome lesbians and gay men and preaches a me ssage that sexuality should be procreative and occurs only in a marriage between a man and a woman.
121 Shandee tells a different story of continuing to attend a non affirming church, but similarly brings up the tension she feels. Shandee p inpointed the struggles she has experienced as an active member of a conservative non affirming church. She her lesbian identity to her church community. She offered: I have a very strong belief and faith, and it makes you question what you makes you question what you do a lot of times, you know. Is it really my children? Am I living a life that eventually will send me to hell? You know, it makes you consider that a lot. I would need to really, really get deep in my word, to get a true hesitation, you know, of if I walked out there [into a busy street] and got hit Shandee underscores the fact that some lesbians and gay me n conti nue to worship in churches despite the conservative message regardin g sexuality. P erhaps these individuals do not want to leave the church in which they have grown up and where they find support in other areas Shandee also speaks of how she is no t alone in being gay and attending a non affirming church. She provides an example of those who pass when she talks about a She reports that she knows individuals who identify as lesbian that attend church wh ile acting straight. These individuals go to church with a feminine gender presentation weari ng a dress, makeup, and heels, but dinner with a more masculine gender pr esentation. Clarke (1983) explains the homophobia in the black community has created a situation where many black lesbians and gay men pass as heterosexuals to avoid the hostility of t he heterosexual black
122 community. These expressions of sexuality may al so be tied into respectability. Moore (2011) po ints out that the black lesbians respectability took away some of the devi ant assumptions that come with a lesbian self identity. By dressing in a more feminine way at church, the women describe in Shandee appearance of female sexuality than is expressed when they present a more masculine o ne on the date with their girlfriend. In this section I have brought attention to the challenges faced by participants as they look to maintain an affiliation with the black church. They explain ed that they wish ed to continue receiving support from the black church despite the homophobic messages of the mainstream conservative black church. Many participants noted they sought out churches where the messages were less conservative and more affirming of their sexuality. Their stories highlight the ways p articipants navi gate a social world that is racist by maintaining their connections to the black community a nd the black church. But, they also navigate a social world that is homophobic And that homophobia (as they describe it) is particularly challengi ng since it comes from the community and church that they often turn to for support. Black Lesbian Identity: The Stud/Femme Dynamic -Zoey The quote that opens this section is representative o f a nother dynamic that emerged from the data that illustrates how participants spoke clearly and assertively about the distinctive experience of being black lesbians I did not ask participants about
123 their gender presentation 4 but they volunteered there w as a specific sexual cultural script in the black lesbian community of North Florida A person with a more masculine gender expression in dress and behavior a stud, was required to date a person with a more feminine gender expression in dress and behavio r a femme. racially specific to the African American community (Wilson 2009). As a point of gender /behavior presentation in the white lesbian community (Craw l ey 2001). The butch femme paradigm developed as a social economic arrangement and was pioneered by working class and poor lesbians as a way to identify each other in lesbian social spaces (Crawley 2001; Keeling 2003; Moore 2011). Greene (2002) underscore s acceptance of the Western hegemonic, majority cultural norm of heterosexism that is a rawley (2001) argues, my interviewees are participating in the gender system that is available to them ; a gender system to which everyone is exposed, but one that resonates in particular ways for black lesbians Eva reports that she was actually taught about the stud/femme paradigm when she first began disclosing her lesbian identity to others in the black lesbian community They told her that as a femme she had to date a stud because femme/femme OR stud/stud just did not happen. Zoey elaborates that the point of stud/femme is especially remarkable in the black lesbian community She said: 4 Six of my participants had a more feminine gender presentation and Shandee) and six had a more masculine presentation (Sal, Denelle, Fola, Zoey, Ebony, and Ulani)
124 like in the straight community [ chuckles ] woman and man. So i gay that. This sexual cultural script with heteronormative physical representations of gender is seen as important markers of identification within the black lesbian community (Moore 2006; Wilson 2009). The style of clothing and hair are important for lettin g others know who you find attractive (Moore 2006). Like Eva and Zoey Wilson (2009) and Moore (2006 ) note their participants based in Chicago and New York respectively, felt social pressure to date within these roles and maintain the stud/femme dynamic. Tandice similarly outlines the expectation of the black lesbian community for stud/femme pairs. Tandice who has a more fem inine gender presentation, discussed the sanction against dating put on two women who have a masculine gender. She said: I think I have more feminine girlfriends, than I have studdish girlfriends, stud, type of deal. So, which, I kind of get it. [ chuckle ] Tandice there may be less social and cultural threat when two feminine women are seen together. Shandee and Eva also point out that wit h their feminine gender presentation s Shandee said that y Eva Tandice Shandee and Eva have an appearance that would be labeled as feminine. They wear makeup, have long h air, have long manicured finger nails, and dress in
125 clothes that accentuate their femininity. With this presentation they are not marked as lesbian. As explicitly a On the other hand a woman who has a masculine gender presentation is marked with a lesbian identity and is more visible. This masculinity is seen in a hairstyle that is generally shorter and may be styled in dreads, lack of makeup, and looser clothing that hides their femininity. P articipants note more masculine presenting women have a more difficult time dealing with homophobia. Ebony who has a more masculine gender presentation noted that she has experienced challe nges to h er ou have people that slur, um butch, dyke, lesbo. I think when you are a stud, as they say, you have more, The masculinity portrayed by black lesbian women is the masculinity available to them black masculinity. And just as black men are disproportionately punished in society so are black lesbians whose gender presentation marks them as studs. As Moore (2011) describes the social pres sure is with Black male masculinity can lead to police harassment, distrust from strangers, and She further notes that b lack lesbians Moore 2006:130) T his masculine gender presentation poses particular challenges and problems for those women who adopt it
126 The gender conformity of the stud/femme construct is important for black lesbians on several levels. My participants provide evidence and support the findings of researchers who have investigated this dynamic. Keeling (2003) suggests that the whether erotic, economic, and/or something black lesbians interact with dominant hegemonies that enforce a rigid behavioral and aesthetic code (p. 42). Moore (2011) adds that the gender complementarity found in m of the black lesbian community helps to police behavior and encourages conformity to group expectations of identity representation ( p. 89 90). As discussed in earlier sections the participants in this study assert their experiences as black lesbians is unique because of the racism and homophobia in the African American community and the black church. In this section, they again emphasize their experiences i n terms of gender expression as black lesbian s living in North Florida resonates in particular w ays as they explain that they learn to nego tia te their social world within the cultural social construct of a stud /femme gender/sexual identity. The discussion in this section again highlights the ways participants in this study suggest their experiences as black lesbians in North Florida are unique as they navigate a social world that is both racist and homophobic. Black Lesbian Parenting Not only did my participants assert a unique black lesbian experience of homophobia in the black community and a uni queness in terms of their black lesbian
127 expressions of (gender) identity, but they also asserted their unique black lesbian identity in how they spoke about p arenting their children using lessons regarding both homophobia and racism. Participants talked a bout how their children are also challenged by the social landscape their black lesbian parents navigate at the intersection of race, sexuality and gender Just as African American parents teach their children strategies and tactics for dealing with raci sm in their social world (Greene 2002; Nobles 2007) t he black lesbian parents of this study explain that they also help their marginalized sexual identity I asked participants q uestions about if and how they talk to their children about homophobia, and if and how they talk to their children about racism. Their answers are discussed in the following sections. Talk to Children about Homophobia Nearly all the participants detailed how they taught their children about homophobia, but they stressed different aspects of it. The narratives of participants describing the ways they talk to their children about homophobia varied from talking about the fact that they lived in a different t ype of family to talking about bullying, and teaching tolerance. Participants recognized a need to let their children know that their family may be different but it was not a bad family For example, Ebony who was raising four children with her partner, clarified for her children what it means to have two moms. She said: that sell their daughters. Some people got moms that their boyfriends touch their daughters and many thi ngs that could be way worse than two moms.
128 having two moms may make the but that that difference is not a reason to label the family as deviant. Taking a different approach, Ulani wants her children to understand the impact of bullying. Ulani has adopted/fostered two children and she is raising them with her partner. She says she talks to her children about bullying because the consequences today can be deadly. She highlights how some bullying is centered in homophobia. She explained: you know one of them will do something and the little one will say well e what do we say about that word. And so we go through the whole process again and then he changes his words. So we talk about it in that way and just in general with all that is going on in school. Just talk to him about bullying and in general. I mean explaining to him just how kids are reacting now to that. [ chuckle ] just fighting in school. People are coming in and killing people. And you know so, helping them to understand that aspect of it. So, yeah I talk to them a lot about a lo t things especially homophobia, just name calling in what it means And Taye noted she underscored the need to be tolerant of diversity. She commented: I just general care what color, race, gender, whatever you are. I just teach him to be tolerant of other people. I let him know that there are so many different people in this world. You are going to meet so look at a person and say they are this or they are that based on what they look like. Taye for her child that the world is made up of different people and that difference does not mean people should be treated d ifferently. P articipants recognize a need to let their children know that their family may be different because of
129 the same and that everyone should be treated wi th respect (echoing the sentiment of similarity detailed in the previous chapter) Talk to Children about Racism At the same time that participants described teaching their children about homophobia, they also described how they talked to their children ab out race and racism Importantly, participants described how they approached the lessons of racism with their children in ways that depended on the gender of the children. Four participants were raising only girls, three participants were raising only bo ys, and five participants were raising both girls and boys Those who were parenting girls highlighted a more general discussion regarding race, while those parenting boys highlighted very specific ideas of what the expectations of gender and behavior wer e regarding black masculinity. For those who were parenting girls the discussion surrounding racism was not as conspicuous. Sal provides an example of the more general participants talk with their daughters about race and racism. Her daughter had mov ed from a less racially segregated school where she was in the minority to a more racially segregated school where she was the majority. She said: [This was] her fir st time seeing fights in school. H er first time seeing you know somebody really cut up in class and get put out. Cops being called, there to learn. And she started wanted to be real popular and stuff. And I you are getting real ghetto [ laughter ] You are not even from there. Like I told her, we are from the beach [a less racially segregated area of Jacksonville] You always had a dog in your house. That was family. You never went a day without eating, you ne ver had no w here ng education seriously and solving problems through fighting but Sal wanted her child to know that the racial
130 stereotype of being black that meant you had to be violent and not participate in learning was not appropriate. She pointed out to her daughter that they were black before she attended this new school and that being black did not necessarily mean her behavior had to include fighting, being homeless, and not having enough to eat. Being black can mean having such things as a place to live, food on the table, and even a pet. The participants who were raising sons were more detailed in the ways they talk to them about racism. Ebony and Ulani were raising sons and they both highlighted it was significantly important to discuss racism with their sons because of the racial construct of black masculinity Black masculinity is particularly feared because it tends to be associated with violence ( Col lins 2005 ; Moore 2011). Because of the violence associated with black masculinity, black men risk being targeted by civil authorities, especially in a city that is highly segregated like Jacksonville. Ebony said: m before. Yeah, um, basically you know still in the struggle. This is not over, the struggles not over [ laughter ] cism is still alive, still alive and well, you know. And people try and hold you down. Now I especially talk to my boys about it because they are black stereotype you. Ebony explains to her sons that the legacy of slavery has made racism a part of daily life. She went o n to illustrate how she parents in ways to minimize the stereotyping they may experience a s young black men by helping them maintain a more socially acceptable gender presentation of black masculinity She ex plained: ad
131 braids or dreads or whatever. T are gonna have it hard en ough, just because of the color of your skin and and to present themselves for a job interview, for school, or any type of tighten it up, you know, because racis Ebony sheds light on the everyday challenge black boys and men face as they work to present an accept able appearance that will not bring unwelcome scrutiny. As Ebony described a sce nario centered on appearance, Ulani provides an example of the ways she talks to her sons based in behavior al expectations for black masculinity She stated: You know, I expl happen in a store or something. Like the youngest one, he rides his bike to school and he said he stopped at the store on the corner one day and He said, they said that some of the other kids from the school had stole some stuff. He said for them to take [ chuckle ] and buy. But, I also explained to him how, why, people have certain views and how you can get grouped with certain people just by being associated with them. So I think everything is a tea ching moment, [ chuckle ] but be guilty by association. s narrative of behavior expectations for her black sons highlights her awareness of the racist stereotype that black boys and men sh ould be watched because blackness is associated with criminality. She lets her sons know they need to make sure to avoid be ing labeled guilty just because of the peers they hang out with.
132 The discussion in this section has provided stories in which the participants help their children navigate a social world based in racism and homophobia. Once again they highlight the un iqueness of their experience as black lesbians. As black lesbians they point out they deal with both racism and homophobia in their everyday experiences but they are not alone. Their children also experience racism and homophobia because of their family dynamic. A nd just as they have learned strategies to nego tia te the simultaneity of the oppressions generated in a racist and homophobic social world participants in this study teach their children to do the same. Conclusion In this chapter participants narratives confirmed the unique challenges of their lived experiences as they nego tia te in a social landscape at the intersection of both race and sexuality Institutional barriers have set in place social systems in which their black lesbian sexual iden tity is marginalized in the multiple areas of both racism and homophobia. Again and again participants described their everyday experiences with both racism and homophobia. They acknowledged their ties to the black community and the black church as a s upport against racism as they highlighted the ir challenges with homophobia in both the black community and within the black church. And yet despite the challenges nego tia ting homophobia in the black community they pointed out that for the most part they m aintain a commitment to each. Participants also bring at tention to a stud/femme gender construct that recognizes the importance of presenting both masculine and feminine gender ideals in the ir black lesbian community and in the process assert a unique ex pression of identity at the intersection of race, sexuality, and gender. They also reveal that as parents they teach their children to nego tia te a social world at the intersection of race and sexuality and thus how to deal
133 with both racism and homophobia Throughout this chapter, I have highlighted how the participants in this study articulated the many different ways they are both black and gay with experiences nego tia ting both racism and homophobia. T heir experiences do underscore the many different w Participants in this study articulate that their lived experience is not as black or lesbian; their lived experience is as black and lesbian. Collins (2000; 2005) explains that all individuals mus t navigate systems of oppression like racism and homophobia and that these systems of oppression work together in interlocking way s to create challenges for those with a marginalized racial identity and a marginalized sexual identity (among others she woul d add gender, social class, and nation which my participants sometimes stress as well ). T he participants in this study give voice to their unique experiences at the intersection of racism and homophobia as they navigate their social world as both black an d lesbian In the previous chapter participants emphasized the similarities of their experiences as black lesbians. T as they sought to be seen as legitimate families and to be treated equally. In this chapter they artic ulated their experiences in terms of difference especially highlighting how they define their sexuality in racialized terms, nego tia te it in racially defined communities, and help their children learn the different strategies of resisting racism and homop hobia In the next chapter, I present more examples of how participants describe feeling different, emphasizing their strategies of controlling visibility as they manage intertwining stigma and stereotypes.
134 CHAPTER 6 SURE BUT HOMOPHOBI A Taye The title of this chapter and the quote from Taye are representative of a point repeated by many participants. Black lesbians live in a social world where they are challenged by both racism because of their African American racial identity and by homophobia because of their lesbian se xual identity. In Chapter 5, I provided a discussion of the results that focused on the way participants experience homophobia in a racial social landscape at the intersection of race and sexuality. In this chapter, I provide a more focused discussion on the salience of particip identity because it is a point they emphas ize throughout this dissertation. As in the last chapter when participants articulated their lived experiences at the simultaneous and interlocking social oppressions of both racism and homophobia they continue that discussion of both/and (both racism a nd homophobia) and different d that race and racism were un remarkable for them on an everyday basis. While they valued the black community for support in a racist society taught their children about racism, and spoke of themselves as distinctly black in relation to their lesbianism [recall the discussion of the last chapter] they also explicitly said that managing their racial identity and the associated racism were not part of their daily experience in the same way that sexuality and homophobia were. They stressed how they frequently manage d their sexual identity. Many times in the interviews p articipants reflected on ways they self policed their lesbian identity in o rder
135 to avoid conflict, to make others feel more comfortable, or to make themselves feel more comfortable depending on the situation or the social spaces they were in Many revealed they regularly do not volunteer information about their sexual identity They also noted, however, that sometimes their sexual identity was revealed by certain behaviors, like by their gender presentation or the gender presentation of their partner. All in all, participants told narratives that revealed how they regulated thei r behavior in a social world that marginalize s th eir lesbian identity through homophobia. Before a discussion of how participants managed the visibility of their sexual identity, I provide an expla nation for why they may be emphasiz ing their sexual identi ty a s the more remarkable identity in their everyday lives. Everyday Homophobia as More Salient The little research available about b lack lesbians and gay men explains how they often find themselves in a social world where they have been defined outside the realm of the fully human because of both race and sexuality (Bennett and Battle 2001). With this in mind I asked participants if they had experiences dealing with racism, homophobia, or both. When asked explicitly, if they had experienced racism all participants replied they had not dealt with specific instances of racism in their everyday lives. I have never experienced any racism or anything toward bei ng a pay attention to [racism]. Nancy and Denelle also note the main issues that challenge them are in regards to sexuality. They said: Nancy : Denelle : thinking. Nancy: Yeah, because we are faced with not being able to share.
136 Denelle : Yeah As illustrated here, participants spoke of never having experienced racis m and simply not paying attention to race. And when asked, most spoke of d ealing with issues of homophobia as more of a daily challenge than was dealing with issues of racism. But when participants were asked about their experiences in dealing with homo phobia overwhelmingly race did enter the discussion. This seeming erasure of race from their social identity does not mean race is not a consideration for them As Greene (2002) e cannot make arbitrary assumptions about which of those ide ntities is most salient to a given individual. Moreover, we cannot even assume that one identity is ever m ( p. 932 complexity of navigating the social world at the intersection of race and sexuality. Indeed, it is important to not e again that when participants were asked about their experiences in dealing with homophobia overwhelmingly race did enter the discussion as was underscored in the last chapter and as will be further explored i n the analysis provided in this chapter Importantly, s everal participants framed their struggles with homophobia in relation to the struggle for race rights during the Civil R ights Movement. Denelle pointed out that she sees overcoming hom ophobia as a co ntinuation of this earlier civil rights work She said: I think a lot of th e issues that the gay community face are the same issues that blacks have faced as far as civil rights for years. And I think that the more people recognize that and come together t hat is the only way we are going to become the minority, I mean the majority, over being the minority, that we all are [stigmatized] for being the minority.
137 Here Denelle is articulating a parallel between the challenges of the gay co mmunity and the blac k community suggesting both are civil rights struggles. Denelle further asserted s exual identity is a marker of being a m arginalized identity and one that she stresses as Denelle way of speaking about her marginalized status, in terms of sexuality beyond race, makes sense in a so cial world that has interlocking racist and homophobic stereotypes of sexuality. These stereotypes make a claim to black lesbian sexuality quite complicated. As leading intersectional scholars argue, t he combination or racism and homophobia have socially defined black sexuality in terms of heterosexuality thus rendering the idea of a black gay identity an impossibility (Collins 2005; Ferguson 2004) Like Denelle Taye and Fola highlight that their everyday experiences with homophobia are different and mo re remarkable than their experiences dealing with racism. The y also compared the struggle for gay related rights to the struggle for race related rights. They suggest: Taye : I think homophobia trumps racism on any day. Fola: Cl are : Oh yeah? Taye : Yeah, I believe that. Fola: [ laughter ] Taye : real. But animal.
138 Fola: This is just as bad same rights. Taye and Fola contend that a marginalized sexual identity is more salient for th em than a marginalized racial identity. Importantly, they do not just say homophobia is more between racism and homophobia. Taye does not negate racism; she later states racism Taye are not assertions that racism is no longer relevant and should not be read that w ay. Their comments underscore the idea of how homophobia impacts their everyday lives in a different and significant way. This is a reminder of what Miller (2011) argues She suggests p. 561). that in many social situations it is hard to tease them apart and as they assert the salience of homophobia (for example) they return again and again to reminders of how race is still relevant to their lived experiences. For Eva the salience of homophobia came after she began disclosing her sexual identity. Eva transitioned to a lesbian identity after a heterosexual marriage that lasted about 10 years. She noted she ha s a different perspective now that she has a gay identity. She revealed: Well when I was straight I was more committed to being an African American family. Now that I am gay, I am more committed, unfortunately I have to admit it, to being gay. My life and my fight is not for being African American, it is for being gay.
139 Salience of a marginalized sexual identity may in fa ct not be because participants feel their racialized identity is unremarkable but actually highlights the fact that they live in a so cial world at the intersection of race and sexuality. All participants as black lesbians, a form of racism that is so recurrent and systemic that is tak en for granted (Steinbugler 2012 :28). This everyday racism they exper ience is unremarkable because of the visibility of their racial identity, but the invisibility of their lesbian identity gives their experiences with homophobia a more prominent status in their everyday lives They regulate their behavior to maintain that invisibility. Just as identity may be because racism and heterosexism differ. Collins observe s: Blackness is clearly identifiable, and in keeping with assumptions of color blindness of the new racism, many Whites no longer express derogatory racial beliefs in public, especially while in the company of Blacks. In tolerance of homophobia imposes no su ch public censure on straight men and women to refrain from homophobic comments in public. As a result, closeted and openly LGBT people may be exposed to a much higher degree of interpersonal insensitivity and overt prejudice than the racial prejudice exp erienced by Blacks and other racial/ethnic groups. (P. 114) distinct experiences they have of racism that operates differently than homophobia and thus makes it seem l ess remark able in their daily lives. In fact, I argue that their statements need to be read as evidence that the institutional and social barriers of racism and homophobia have created a social hierarchy that oppresses them at the intersection of race and sexuality As explained in this section, it may seem that participants are claiming that the challenges they face dealing with a marginalized sexual identity are more remarkable in
140 their daily lives when compared to the challenges they face when dealing with raci sm. However, on further examination of thei r comments they reveal that dealing with both homophobia and racism are important parts of their experience; it is a dynamic of the ways the different oppressions work in their daily lives that creates the diffe rence in just as challenging as the participants in this study nego tia te a racist and homophobic social landscape Several participants note that managing a lesbian identity in the black community has been a particular challenge because sexuality is not a topic of conversation Eva indicated: I would say that the African American community outsi de of gay people are homophobic. I not going to discuss it, it is very taboo. Like Martinez and Sullivan (1998) suggest, not so much rejected as is talking about it ( p. 252) This silencing of any discussion relating to sexual identity in the black community is explored in this section. As others have explained, b ecause of homophobia in the black community lesbian and gay s exuality is largely unspoken (Gomez and Smith 1990). Barbara Smith 1 sexual identit p. 49). q uiet 1 From: Shockley, Ann Allen. 1987. The Black and the White of It. Tallahassee, FL: Naiad Publishing.
141 open disclosure, discussion, or self identification may give rise to serious 93 8). As I will detail below, the participants in this study confirmed that this expectation of silence was true in their lives. As they did so, they again stressed the way that homophobia for them, as black women, was different; they explain how they expe rience a racism inflected homophobia. One key way participants of this study spoke of their everyday experiences of homophobia was in terms of an expectation to remain silent. Shandee used the term d experiences she has had at church. She acknowledged: d. ll be the youth ministry coordinator over the kids, and I have a group of girls, noticeably find out i t would be an issue. Just as Moore (2011) suggests, remain on good terms with family and old friends rather than cause a breach for a (p.187). So because Shandee is not openly discussing her sexuality she is not sanctioned because of her lesbian identity Sal explains that she recognize s a poten tia l source of conflict if she talks about her sexuality with her family or members of the b l ack community. Because of this poten tia l, she self monitors her conversations so as to avoid talking about sexuality She said:
142 So many people have their opinion within the black community to where it accepting. And when I start a talk war a battle sometimes, where you are just like, you know what, and you just not going to be nice at all. Like you ca e you know I can live my own lif [ whistles through teeth ] She later reported that she has a strained relationship with her mother because of her lesbian status Sal offer s that she does not visit at all because of the friction sh e feels from her mother She revealed: My mom is from [the Caribbean] A lot of people from down there say they minded to bigger things that they ar [ throws hands up ] strategy is to not only keep silent about her sexuality but t o also avoid her family and her mother in particular. hen in Black social spaces, many gay people do not express a public gay identity. Instead they seek to minimize what they believe is a stigmatized st at ( p. 3 ). Covering was first described by Goffman (1963) in his discussion regarding stigma. He noted covering and passing were similar management techniques for a social identity that may be sanctioned He advised: The individu himself and the others to withdraw covert attention from the stigma, and to sustain spontaneous involvement in the official content of the interaction. However, the means employed for this t ask are quite similar to those employed in passing and in some cases identical, since what will conceal a stigma from unknowing persons may also ease matters for those in the know. This process will be referred to as covering 1963:102 emphasis in original).
143 Examples of covering, as a strategy for managing their sexual identity, are described by other participants. Shandee family members. She explained: er mother is one of those funny acting people, men are know, she explained it to me. So if they have some type of f amily function Here Shandee is describing how she and her partner practice covering by just not Ebony, who struggled to come out to her family, tells a similar story of how she would visit alone. She would not bring along her partner and the children when she visited her family relationships. She said: to have Ebony is covering by not bringing her partner and hoping this results in nobody being She further discussed how she avoided interacting with her grandmother because of her negative reaction to her sexual identity. Ebony noted: years ago, well she alwa that and stuff. And me and my grandmamma was always real close, and to get your life
144 right, yeah but He gave you choices, this that and the other, you know. And I used to get stressed out about it. And now, Here Ebony describes another s trategy of avoidance as mechanism of covering. The se strategies of avoidance that Sal, Shandee and Ebony describe may be part of what Moore (2011) has called a narrative of respect. This narrative of respect is a type of covering strategy of black lesbi ans She reports her understa nding of how black lesbians use a narrative of respect She said: While they act in a limited way around family, they frame this behavior using a narrative of respect rather than a feeling that they do not have the freedom to be gay, and in other ways reveal the importance of significant others in their lives. So while they may choose to downplay their gay identities during social interactions, they nonetheless remain clear in their refusal to give up or deny their gay sexuali ty. They may not kiss their partners during thanksgiving dinner, but they will have them sitting right with them at the family table. (P.196) Participants in this study also engage in a narrative of respect when they keep silent about their sexuality o managing sexuality is distinctive for black lesbians. Participants are also strategically managing the visibility of their lesbian sexual identity when they self police or regulate their behav ior to avoid unwelcome atte ntion (Steinbugler 2005: 435). Managing visibility includes the practices where individuals interpret social cues from their social environments modify their actions in public to avoid possible harassment or confrontation (Steinb ugler 2012 :48) Lasser and Tharinger (2003) provide a more detailed definition. They suggest visibility management is the disclose their sexual orientation, and, if they d ecide to disclose, to whom and how they disclose, and how they continue to monitor the presentation of their sexual orientation in
145 p. 233) As I have discussed in this section, the participants of this study spoke of how they ofte n implement visibility management with their families. C overing is significant in the lived experience of the participants in this study because it allows them to keep important family ties. For example, although Shandee does not speak of hiding her sexua lity she explains the way it works in a black family. She explained : loving in their aspects, but I mean the only person that probably, she she showed up a cool with it. Shandee ceptance of her sexuality has been described by other scholars investigating black families with lesbian or gay family members Like Gr eene (2003) reports, r formally cut off from family members to the extent that their As Shandee the covering spoken about as part of their everyday lives with their families is another way that participants are telling their story of being both black and lesbian and living at the inter section of race and sexuality. People Are Able to Pick Up on It Lesbian identity management involves individual sexual identity self disclosure (Miller 2011) and for black lesbians the tact ics and strategies may be particularly important as they work to manage visibility and cover their sexual identity in order to
146 maintain the connection to their families Despite the silence and the managing their visibility members of the community about their sexual identity sometimes there are revealing and bring attention to strategies undertaken when their sexual identity is made visible. A discussion of these narrat ives is provided in this section. Despite self policing and covering, some participants describe instances when their sexual identity is exposed. describes a scene t hat took place in her workplace. She revealed: o a man until they may see a picture. to the school to see about my kids. So people assumed, that I was married to a guy unless I showed them a famil y photo, and then they are like [ pause, like thinking ] but [ laughter ] not really my kids. my kids, my kids. And then, you may have worked with me for about two say how contractions felt my kids. At work, did not voluntarily disclose her sexual identity because she did not want to make people or herself uncomfo rtable. Her management status in the workplace helped to deflect some harassment. can be revealed despite the self policing work black lesbians may do as they look to
147 Nancy and Denelle similarly tell a story of when covering is breached through their description of They did not tell anyone at the school they were partners. One person did figure it out. They said: Nancy: I mean one t eacher knew. So for her it was OK. That teacher, she comfortable. And we never told her, but she just knew. Denelle : She knew, the black teacher, yeah, and she was cool about it. Na ncy: She mistakenly said it one day and then it was like, she was trying to blow it u p like she never said anything. [ laughter ] Denelle : [ laughter ] Nancy and Denelle highlight a scenario where they do not tal k about their sexual a teacher figured it out sexual identity was still not talked about and now the teacher even became part of helping them manage their (in) visibility regarding their sexual identity by keeping silent. Zoey tells a different story of visibility management. She commented that her masculine gender expression marks her as gay. Furthermore, s he recently married her partner and does not want to draw attention to her sexuality by displaying her weddi ng ring. She explained: I go to the gay events, and try to support the gay events, and stuff. And I feel as I get older I am trying to come out more. Like, I was really in the gay. [ c huckle ] [ covers it up with other hand ] getting used to it. When people notice she has a wedding ring and ask about her partner Zoey is not comfortable revealing to others the fact that her partner is a woman. Zoey acknowledges that her masculine gender presentation makes her sexual identi ty visible
148 to those around her S he works hard to cover the fact that she is married so that she does not further mark herself as lesbian by acknowledging that her partner is a woman. Sal and Eva also talk about being more visible and marked with a lesb ian sexual identity when the gender of a partner is revealed or is visible. Sal explained: I think when I have a partner it makes it worse. Only as far as like getting us like w hat they be doing. Then they see the kids. What I can really go based on my last relationship, because she was the one with the most [five] kids. Everywhere we go we all had to go together and be together. So, when somebody introduce the kids they had to see both of us, teachers both of us. Um, the only thing I think, the only battle would be just somebody trying to understand like how does this family work. With myself s Eva has a feminine gender presen tation ( long hair, long fingernails, and feminine style of clothing ) and when she is with her more masculine presenting partner she is made visible as gay. She noted: Well the women that I generally get with they look like studs, so there was no need to hide due to the fact that everybody would know, so if you just look at me and my son you would never suspect that I am gay. But if I had gotten with women who look more lik e me have been as open but when you get with someone t hat looks and dress and carries themselves more masculine than they do femme it just came out that it was just going to be open and I knew even before I decided what type of woman I was going to get with I knew from March 18 2002 I was never going to be i n the closet. That I was going to come out flaming [ snaps fingers ] Sal, Eva, and Zoey highlight the importance gender presentation has in covering (or uncovering) their black lesbian identity. The stories presented in this section bring attention to how self policing a lesbian identity is particularly important for black lesbians a s they nego tia te a social world where
149 they are marginalized both as racial mi norities and sexual minorities. C overing for black lesbians becomes not only important for avoi d ing exposure, it is also becomes important in maintaining an invisible sexual identity after that marginalized sexual identity is exposed and breached Participants explained that they work to cover their sexual identity in order to avoid conflict and di scomfort from family members or others in the community (and for the most part they mean the black community) yet sometimes their sexual identity is revealed when they are seen with their partners or when the gender identity of their partner is revealed i n conversation. Sometimes despite the exposure of their sexual identity other members of the community help maintain their invisibility in a silence of acceptance that is unique to the black community. Conclusion This chapter explor ed the ways partici pants explained the difference between homophobia and racism ; a difference discussed as being separate from each other but stil l intertwined Participants talked of their marginalized sexual identity as being more salient than their racial identity when i t was made visible, especially in the black community Participants in this study explained that salience of their lesbian identity by talking about how This discussion of salience revealed that participants were reaffirmin g the simultaneity of oppressions in their lives but doing so with an assertion that the oppressions manifest diff erently in their lived experiences. P articipants discussed how they manage d the distinctive homophobia they found salient in their everyday li ves by cover ing not hiding, their gay identity. T his covering was different from being invisible or closeted. I argue that it is a distinctively black lesbian way of resi s ting homophobia by nego tia ting doing so while they are simultaneously managing rac ism as they work to maintain ties with family. Finally, in this chapter I also
150 showed how participants told of many situations where because of a breach in the ir management of their behavior, specifically their gender presenta These breaches remind us of the discussion from Chapter 5 that highlighted how gender expression is distinct in black lesbian communities and as such breaches that occur via gender presentation are i mportant for understanding visibility management ( its successes and its failure s ) since v isibility management was important for helping participants avoid harassment and conflict with family members and other members of the black community. This chapter w as significant in providing examples of the ways participants explained the different forms of the oppression they experienced Race was not erased from their experiences but became less remarkable in certain circumstances, especially those in the Africa ut race was still present. The interlocking oppression s of racism and homophobia create a system where the participa nts in this study are challenged as both black and lesbian. Like the discussion in the p revious chapter, this chapter focused on a discussion of difference. P articipants talked about the differences in their lived experiences as black lesbians but unlike the discussion in the last chapter the difference was framed in terms of the interlocki ng oppressions of racism and homophobia This contrasts with t he results described in chapter 4 where the participants in this study focused on their sameness just gay, but A even as racism is still present.
151 CHAPTER 7 BLACK AND LESBIAN AND PARENTS : WE ARE DIFFERENT BUT WE WANT THE SAME RIGHTS My cen tral goal for this dissertation has been to add to the limited scholar ship on African American families headed by individuals with a gay identity. With qualitative interviews of black lesbians who are parenting and with a focus on intersectionality, symbolic interaction, and feminist and feminist standpoint theori es for ana lysis in the previous chapters, I explore d the everyday lived experiences of individuals who nego tia te their social world at the intersection of sexuality and race (and gender). In this chapter, I provide a summary of findings as well as limitations of th e study and ideas for future research. I also include a comparison to the findings of others who have conducted scholarship in the black lesbian community and end by pointing out the contributions of my study to existing scholarship Summary of Significant Findings In talking with my participants during the interviews, I learned that the women who participated in this project perceive their family as being no different from any other family in the United States. As I discussed in Chapter 4, t hey described how they want to be seen as a respectable family with access to the same rights and pr ivilege s that come to all families, like those of their heterosexual peers, who are already fully equal As the literature review of the scholarship on families showed in Chapter 2 treating families headed by black lesb ians as if they are deviant is unfounded. Racism in the study of families compares African American families to a white, middle class family standard and this comparison has resulted in showing the Africa n American family to be deviant and African Americans were viewed as inferior parent s Yet as empirical research has pointed out African Americans are fit parents (Chatters, Taylor,
152 and Jayakody 1994; Dilworth Anderson, Burton, and Johnson 1993; Staples 1971) Homophobia in the study of families heterosexual experience and assumes heterosexist experience is the norm Since nuclear, two heterosexual t hey are generally considered deviant and inferior and unfit to parent But as discussed in the review of scholarship on LGBT families showed LGBT individuals are fit parents (Allen and Burrell 1996; Anderssen, Amilie, and Yttery 2002; Chan, Raboy, and Pat terson 1998; Flaks et al. 1995; Gartrell and Bos 2010; Pawelski et al. 2006; Stacey and Biblarz 2001; Tasker and Golombok 1995; Vanfraussen, Ponjaert Kristoffersen, and Brewneys 2003; Wainright, Russell, and Patterson 2004) Just as in the study of race a nd families and as in the study of sexuality and families there is an emphasis on difference at the expense of similarities My findings suggest that black lesbian families also feel that difference at the expense of similarities when they talk about the ir families Without equal access to family recognition policies like marriage and/or adoption the black lesbians in this study feel they are being treated as second class citizens. And participants assert there is no need for this second class treatmen t. As they say, t heir family experiences are the same as everyone else. Being gay (or African American) doe s not change the everyday tasks and chores that need to be completed by both parents and children. What is best for children does not change becaus e of the sexuality of the parents. Parenting generates the same challenges for all families regardless of the sexuality or race (or gender) of the parents according to the participants in this study
153 My analysis acknowledges that while the black lesbia ns in this study asserted the sameness of their families when compared to their heterosexual peers they also talked about difference noting their unique lived experience as black lesbians. Participants articulated they are not just black and they are not just lesbian but they are both black and lesbian all at the same time. That being said as they talked of sexuality there was little mention of race. As I argued in Chapters 5 and 6, t his lack of mention does not mean that race is unremarkable in partici Like intersectionality scholars point out t his salience of their sexuality and less remarkable discussion of their race may be from the nuanced complexities of nego tia ting multiple social identities in different social contexts (Collins 2000 ; McCall 2005). Institutional barriers have set in place social systems in which their black lesbian sexual identity is marginalized in the multiple areas of both racism and homophobia. Salience of a marginalized sexual identity may in fact not be becau se participants feel their racialized identity is unremarkable, but actually highlights the fact that they live in a social world at the intersection of race and sexuality All participants in this study negotia te their social world as black lesbians. As a result the visibility of their racial identity makes those experiences so recurrent and systemic that they are taken for granted as unremarkable but the invisibility of their lesbian identity gives their experiences with homophobia a more prominent stat us in their everyday lives. T identity may be because the oppressive systems of racism and heterosexism differ (Collins 2005) a point the participants in this study returned to as they described
154 heightened salience of their sexuality in their everyday nego tia tions of oppression (see Chapter 6). My a nalysis also brings attention to how participants articulate the importance of maintaining ties to the black community and the black church points I d iscuss in Chapter 5 Participants look to these social institutions as a support against racism as they hig hlight their challenges with homophobia in both the black community and within the black church. And yet despite the challenges nego tia ting homop hobia in the black community they pointed out that for the most part they m aintain a commitment to each. My findings bring attention to several strategies participants implore to manage a sexual identity; some strategies are particular to the African Am er ican community. As I discuss in Chapter 5, t he black lesbians in this study revealed a stud/femme gender construct in which they present both masculine and feminine gender ideals in the black lesbian community and in the process assert a unique expressi on of identity at the intersection of race, sexuality, and gender. This stud/femme gender presentation created a degree of visibility for those in the community and outside the community as they interact with dominant hegemonies that enforce a rigid behavi oral and aesthetic code Participants discussed the importance of covering their sexual identity rather than hiding it, especially in the black community, so that t hey could avoid conflict or alienation if their marginalized sexual identity was exposed. I discuss this in Chapter 6 and assert that t hey did not deny their sexuality but they practiced a narrative of respect as they avoided situations that would make members of their family or community upset or uncomfortable
155 My findings highlight how the participants in this study articulated the many different ways they are both black and lesbian with experiences nego tia ting both racism and homophobia. scholars explain that all individuals must navigate systems of oppression like racism and homophobia and that these systems of oppression work together in interlocking ways to create challenges for those with a marginalized racial identity and a marginalized sexual identity (Collins 2000; 200 5) The women who participated in my study are not just black and they are not just lesbian but t hey are black and lesbian all at the same time. Additionally, a s black lesbians who parent they are not alone in navigating a social land scape of racism and homophobia and just as they have learned strategies to nego tia te the simultaneity of the oppressions generated in a racist and homophobic social world participants in this study talk about how they are striving to teach their children to do the same. I n sum, m y analysis revealed how participants shed light on the strategies they employ as they nego tia te their social world as both black and lesbian at the intersection of both sexuality and race Areas of Future Research Qualitative research methods gen erally use a smaller sample size to develop a greater level of in depth understanding that may not be available in other empirical methods (Berg 20 04 ; Creswell 2013, Warren and Karner 2005 ). The analysis of the interviews from the twelve ind ividuals in th is dissertation project captures an important portrait of the lived experiences of black lesbians parenting in the South. However no single project can foresee all the complexities and nuances found in the lived experiences of a group of people. As it r elates to this project, f uture research should
156 include interviews with the children of participants to develop a more in depth understanding of the total experiences of all the members of the families of black lesbians. Future research should include a f ocus on black gay men who are parenting since black same sex couples generally are more likely to be parenting than white same sex couples (Biblarz and Savci 2011; C ahill 2009; Dang and Frazer 2004 ; Gates and Ost 2004; Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council, and Center for American Progress 2011). I was able to tease out the significance of gender in parts of my discussion in this work, but a dding gay men could bring in a more nuanced analysis of the intersection with gender, race and sexua lity. Future research should also explicitly and carefully untangle the significance of socioeconomic class as a part of the intersectional analysis. Moore (2011) suggested a socioeconomic class dynamic influenced her participants and their stud/femme pres entation It would be relevant to find out how class plays out in more detail in the lives of black lesbians in other LGBT communities. This focus would better address how class operates at the intersection of gender, race, and sexuality Significance and Contributions of this Study Scholarship on black lesbians and their families is growing and th e analysis in this dissertation confirms some of the findings of studies produced by other scholars My find ings confirm the presence of a stud/femme sexual cu ltural script articulated by black lesbians in other scholarship Greene (2002), Keeling (2003), Miller (2011), Moore (2006, 2011) and Wilson (2009) also found the gender presentation of stud/femme to be part of the black lesbian community and my partic ipants noted its relevance to their lives as black lesbians living in North Florida Moore (2011) study
15 7 further suggested a class dynamic was also involved as black lesbians in New York City managed their masculine gender presentation in order to mainta in a middle class respectability. Middle masculine gender presentation of working class black lesbians. Class did not emerge clearly in the results of this dissertation but it is worthy of furt her exploration. (2011) of black lesbians detailed in Invisible Families is perhaps the most thorough exploration of a black lesbian community to date. She followed over 100 women in New York City for three years hoping to gain insight in to how they nego tia te their lives and form their families as openly gay people (Moore 2011 ) My in their c onnection to the black community and the black church as they provide support for how participants manage their sexual identity with a narrative of respect and covering, esp ecially in the black community, as ways to avoid conflict and make others more comfortable The acceptance of silence as in d was also confirmed (Greene 2002 ; Miller 2011 ; Moore 2011) These similarities suggest s ome commonalities of black lesbian experience despite region and parental status. In this dissertation, some findings emerged that seem to be unique to the black lesbian parents raising children in the South. The black lesbians in this study articulated that not only do they have a unique black lesbian experience of homophobia so do their children and j ust as African American parents teach their children strategies and tactics for dealing with racism in their social world (Greene 2002; Nobles 2007) the black
158 lesbian parents of this study explain that they also help their children deal with the Participants also asserted that despite a different unique experience as black lesbians there was They described being the same as other families and expressed a desire for equal rights regarding family recognition. This discussion using the language of sameness is unique given that t hey did not explicitly discuss thei r situations in terms of interlocking oppressions as one might expect if they were focused on differences rather than sameness. Black lesbian s lived experiences are at the intersection of race and sexuality within the social systems of oppression, racism and homophobia, but the politics of sexuality also exists within these systems and tends not to recognize an intersection of race and sexuality so the participants in this study are limited to using a language of similarity while at the same time living a life they describe as being different. articipants in this study were asked what they wished people knew about their families. Overwhelmingly they articulated that their families are the same as any other fami ly. They described being they describe feeling a s if they were being treated as were denied access to the equal rights accorded to other fam ilies. Participants in this study asserted t hat their families were built around love and support for each other just like any other family Furthermore they wanted to be able to marry the one they loved and ma ke sure their children had a legal connecti on to both parents just like any other family
159 The findings generated from the analysis presented in this dissertation add to the limited qualitative research on families who find themselves challenged by racism and homophobia I add to the scholarship and give voice to the black lesbians who are parenting and find themselves nego tia ting the ir social world while being challenged by the interlocking oppressions of both racism and homophobia ; nego tia ting their social world as parents who are both black an d lesbian.
160 APPENDIX A SEMI STRUCTURED INTERVIEW GUIDE Participants were first asked how they identify themselves regarding race and sexual orientation. Possible responses will then not be limited to gay or straight, black or African American but will op en up to include terms of their choosing further empowering participants to tell their own story 1 I then ask ed individual participants to tell me the story about the family they have created togethe r. The following questions help ed facilitate the convers ation. Key questions are bulleted and questions for further probing are listed as sub questions. How do you identify yourself in terms of race? o Have you always identified in this way? How do you identify yourself in terms of sexuality? o Have you always iden tified in this way? How do you identify yourself in terms of gender? o Have you always identified in this way? How do you identify yourself in terms of class? o Have you always identified in this way? During this interview are there any terms you prefer I use ? How did you and your partner meet? How would you define your relationship? How many children do you have? What are their ages? o parents? o Do you mind if I ask their racial identity? o W ould you mind my asking how you had the children? I asked them how they define their family and their community. I also ask ed questions specific to the issues and concerns their families experience as members in the black and LGBT communities. The follo wing questions help ed facilitate the 1 Terms relating to sexual orientation might include, but are not limited to: lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual in the life, same gender loving, or two spirit. Terms relating to racial identity might include, but are not limited to: black, African American, Afro Caribbean, biracial, or multi racial.
161 conversation and help ed participants conceptualize the issues their families face. The key questions are bulleted and questions for further probing are noted as sub questions. Have you always lived in Jacksonville? o If n ot, what brought you to Jacksonville? o Is Jacksonville a good place for your family? Tell me a bit about your family. o How do you describe your family to your friends? o How do you describe your family to your kids? o How do you describe your family to their school? Are you, as a family, committed to the black community more generally? o If yes, how so? If no, why not? o Has your family faced any issues or challenges in the black community? If yes, how did your family respond? o Has the black community offered support to your family? If yes, how? o Would you label the challenges faced in the black community as homophobic? If yes, why? If no, why not? o Do you talk to your kids about homophobia? If so, wh at do you say? Are you, as a family, committed to the LGBT community more generally? o If yes, how so? If no, why not? o Has your family faced issues or challenges in the LGBT community? If yes, how did your family respond? o Has the LGBT community offered suppo rt to your family? If yes, how? o Would you label those challenges in the LGBT community as racist? If so, why? If no, why not? o Do you talk to your kids about racism? If so, what do you say? Do you feel some of the challenges your family faces are a combina tion of racism and homophobia? If so, what are these challenges? Are there other challenges your family faces that cannot be labeled as racism or homophobia? Has your family faced issues that reflect other forms of discrimination? Are you a member of a c hurch community or support group? o Does being a member of a church community or support group help you in dealing with issues and concerns you may face regarding your family? If yes, how? acing families like yours?
162 o Do you think adoption is an issue for your family? If yes, how so? If no, why not? o Do you think marriage is an issue for your family? If yes, how so? If no, why not? What do you wish people knew or better understood about your family? Answers to these questions help ed participants conceptualize the with the goal of generating a picture of reality that participants encounter ed in both the black community and the LGBT community.
163 APPENDIX B TABLE OF I NTERVIEW PARTICIPANT DEMOGRAPHICS Name Sexual Orientation Racial Self Identity Socioeconomic Status Current Relationship Status Length of Co parenting Relationship Eva Lesbian African Am erican Blue Collar Single 3 years Sal Lesbian Black Low Class/ Unemp loyed Single 2 years Denelle & Nancy Prefer no labels Biracial/Black African Am erican Middle Class Partnered 4 years Fola & Taye Gay Both=African Am erican Middle Class Partnered 7 years Tandice Lesbian Black Middle or Working Class Single co parented Gay or Lesbian Black or African Am erican Middle Class Partnered 8 years Shandee Femme African Am erican Working Class Partnered 4 years Zoey Lesbian African Am erican Middle Class Partnered 6 years Ebony Gay Black or African Am erica n Working Class Partnered 10 years Ulani Lesbian Black Middle Class Partnered 2 years
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179 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Clare Walsh graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Forest Resources and Conservation in 1982. She pursued a Teaching Certification and graduated with a Master of Science degree in Education, Science Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Kansas in 1990 From 1990 2004 she was employed as a teacher of math and science at the secondary level in Camp bell County School District in Wright, Wy oming. Clare again looked to further her education South Florida in 2007. She returned to the University of Florida in 2007 to p ursue a in 2013. Followi ng graduation, Clare will be a visiting assistant professor in s ociology at Texas Tech University