“Aunt”s and Other-Mothering in a Queer Household

two momsI remember my Aunt Dee vividly. I remember her planning and executing my 5th birthday party to perfection. I remember her yelling my name, searching the apartment complex every time I ran away when my mother would come home high off her latest drug binge. I remember sitting in the living room eating freeze-pops and playing Pac Man on the Atari with my cousins, while she and my mother talked, listened to music and danced in the kitchen.  My time with her was the closest I came to a stable environment until I was 13 and went to live with my father and his then wife.  Being that young, I didn’t know she was a lesbian, but as I got older, I started to wonder. There were no clues, but there was . . . something (I guess it was my blossoming gaydar). I stopped wondering when my mom’s boyfriend called her “that dyke bitch.” I didn’t care. All I knew was that I loved my Aunt Dee, and she loved me.

She had skin the color of raw agave nectar and was a tall, long-legged elegant Alpha-woman. She was Bette Porter before The L Word. Except for special occasions, she was always in a turtleneck and jeans, even in hot-ass Phoenix, Arizona. She carried herself with class; even with that Jheri curl, she was killin em. She was the strong silent type, tough as old leather boots, but very loving and compassionate. I specifically remember her standing up to my mom’s abusive boyfriend. In that moment she went from having my heart’s attention to monopolizing it. Aunt Dee never cowered to anyone. She obviously had flaws and imperfections that I was unaware of, but her confidence was defiant and I loved it. She was all kinds of fierce. When I fell in love with a certain ex, some of it was because she reminded me of my Aunt Dee in many ways.

She lived in the apartment complex next to ours. I have no idea how she and my mother met; I don’t even remember meeting her myself. I just remember having her in my life and being ridiculously happy because of it. And I was so spoiled. She had two boys so I was the daughter she never had. Anything I wanted – all I had to do was ask and she would make it happen. We were inseparable. She was my Aunt Dee and I was her “Precious.”

I remember being at her house more often than being at my own. The environment there – just a five minute walk from my front door – was comforting, safe. Happy.  Around 8 years old, when my mother started selling, then using drugs, Aunt Dee’s presence in my life became a necessity. She was the mother I needed and wanted. She kept me focused on school and books and away from the crumbling world around me.

And then one day, she was gone. I don’t remember much – I was at her house playing Centipede and my mom walked in, obviously high. Aunt Dee grabbed her by the arm and they went into the back room. There was lots of shouting. I fell asleep on the couch. I remember my hair being caressed, my face being kissed, and then being picked up and placed in a car. I woke up back at my house. I don’t remember seeing Aunt Dee anymore after that.

I started coming out to my family around age 28. But I didn’t come out to my mom; my girlfriend at the time did it for me. After deciding to jump from being best friends to lovers (bad idea), and a night of amazing sex (great idea), she called my mom and told her not to worry about me anymore because we were together now and she would make sure I was taken care of. I don’t know what my mom’s response was, but it wasn’t supportive. And my girlfriend was surprised: “I thought she’d feel differently, especially since when we met she told me she was in a relationship with a woman for five years.”

Me: “I’m sorry, what?!  Aunt Dee! I fuckin KNEW it! All this time!”  Why had she told my girlfriend and not me? I started daydreaming about the what-ifs and wishes that they had worked out their relationship, that the crack epidemic skipped over my house, that the L Word wasn’t the only portrayal of “healthy” lesbian relationships that I’d been exposed to. They could’ve been the lesbian versions of Claire Huxtable and Vivian Banks (the 1st one of course)!

I had to know what happened. What was it, besides the drugs, that tore them apart? When I asked my mother about it, she ranted about my Queerness being a phase and GAWDUH being in the midst of sending me “a good husband.” I must’ve given her one of those cut the bullshit looks (that I got from her), because she took a deep breath, smiled and said, “If I hadn’t cared so much about what other people thought, I would have stayed with your Aunt Dee. Live your life, baby.”

So, life goes on until about a year later. My mom calls me up, smiling through the phone and tells me that she searched and found my Aunt Dee, who was living back in her home state of New York. I was over the moon. The little girl in me that I thought had died started filling my head with hopes that they would get back together so I could have my mommies back. I wanted this more than I ever wanted my mom and dad to reconcile (sometimes you just know certain folks aren’t meant to be together – and you wonder how they ever got together. Another story for another time).

Since then, they’ve visited each other frequently – and they seemed to have picked up right where they left off; it’s like no time has passed. It’s amazing how a true soul connection can endure time, distance and life’s complexities. Aunt Dee still has that amazing smile, and though they are now just friends, she’s still crazy about my mother and me. To this day she calls me “Precious,” and she reawakens that 7 year old kid in me. Even though she’ll always be Aunt Dee to me, she stands beside the other women in my life who I call Mama.

I know two-mommy and two-daddy households can be safe places full of love, affirmation and protection. I know because I have lived it.

As Queer Black women, we don’t have many role models. The connection and communication with our elders is rare. It’s important to recognize and honor the Queer women in our lives who have come before us, blazing trails that we may not have ever known we’d walk. And while it’s important to honor iconic figures like Audre Lorde, Lorraine Hansberry and Josephine Baker, it does our spirits good to remember the people in our personal lives on whose shoulders we stand. The women who gave us guidance, made sure to light the way and awakened the inner child that we didn’t know had survived.


72 comments on ““Aunt”s and Other-Mothering in a Queer Household

  1. This is excellent 🙂

  2. I grew up in a two-mom household as well, and I agree that those sorts of homes are as loving and as nurturing as a household headed by a heterosexual couple. Even though I live with my dad right now for an easier commute to and from work, I still talk regularly with both of them and I’m going to be spending some time with them this weekend. It’s going to be wonderful.

  3. Wonderful post!

  4. Nice and awesome blog. Thanks for sharing with all and opening up people’s eyes! I hope you had a great mother’s day!

  5. Wonderful piece. I never had a lesbian “aunt,” but I’ve been one and was thrilled recently to have made contact again with the two little girls (now adults) who were in my life, then lost, then found again.

  6. This brought me to tears.

    Somewhat awkward in the workplace, but totally unashamed.

  7. Amazing post, seriously moving. I’m so glad you had such good role models somewhere your life, god knows it’s hard enough for anyone who doesn’t fit the “norm” to find happiness.

  8. I’m so glad you got back in touch with Aunt Dee 🙂

  9. Oh, this story. Sometimes life is stranger than fiction, for sure (and about a million times for heart-breakingly beautiful). I’m *so* glad you and your mom have this woman back in your lives.

  10. Both sad and uplifting, what a beautiful Freshly Pressed post to start the day with, and it sounds like you’re a role model in your own right.

  11. Lovely writing and a beautiful and true sentiment.

  12. Great story, and good on you for finding your own way and surviving (and it sounds like thriving) after what must have been a difficult childhood.
    My heart goes out to your mother – she must have had her demons, and I’m glad despite all the difficulties you are still there for her. You have a good heart.

    My beloved sister is gay, has a great partner, is an AMAZING mother and an AMAZING woman, and my personal heroine – I love her to death.

    You’re so right, there’s nothing that says a family unit needs a man and a woman. What IS needed is people who love each other, can put the good of their kids first in their hearts (if they’re so blessed) at least until the kids aren’t kids anymore, and can also find their way to put each other first in their relationship – without losing themselves in the process.
    A tall order, but eminently do-able.

    And… despite the fears of the “Moral Majority”, having same-sex parents does not necessarily yield gay children…. but often yields open-minded young people that can think for themselves. My niece and nephew are the amazing products of their own wonderful selves and the care, love and plain good sense their mothers have shown them all their lives.

    God bless you, dear sister.

  13. I love this piece! My partner and I are raising 4 kids that we adopted, and constantly worry about how they will feel about it when they get older. I hope they can look at it like you do:)

  14. Thanks for sharing this. Everyone needs an Aunt Dee in their lives, regardless of sexuality. A good influence is a good influence.

  15. This is a very moving story.I love the sound of Aunt Dee . l looked for those kind of women in my childhood , my mother’s friends,aunts….I hung on their every word .not getting what these crushes meant till I came out.So glad you re-united and ,really. thanks for sharing

  16. I love this post – thank you. And these 2 lines are so wonderfully written – One day, others will stand on our shoulders and look to us for guidance. We must remember to continue to light the way.

  17. This is beautifully written. You’re a lucky lady to have folks like that in your life 🙂

  18. As always, thank you for sharing such intimate details of your life, so that we may be able to relate and celebrate. You were very blessed to have an Aunt Dee in your life. So was your mother. And yesssssss to the turtle neck and jeans!!!

  19. Beautiful! I teared.. :’)

  20. Your description of Aunt Dee was beautiful. Have you told her? You need to tell her about the shapes she created in your life. It’s so important.

    • Yes, I sent this to her before posting, to make sure she was okay with it. She loved it; it brought her to tears and that made my whole world. I 100% agree with you; we need to tell the people that mean so much to our lives and who we are. Give them their flowers while they’re here, and all that. Thank you for reading!

  21. This is perfect && I’m glad everything worked out for you.

  22. This is perfect && I’m glad everything worked out for you.

  23. Inspiring. My mother and siblings are still get used to the idea of me being a lesbian, and some still believe it’s a phase. I’ve let them think what they want, knowing that eventually they will come to terms with it. By no means do I let them sweep it under the rug, or pretend it isn’t there, because every once in a while, I will tell them about a girl. But nothing serious.
    It’s just lonely to be the only lesbian that I know of in such a small town. Thanks for your inspiring post.

    • I understand completely. When I came out I was living in Kentucky. Which is great if you’re a gay White male, but as a Black Queer woman – with children to boot – it is very lonely. But the support systems are there. Sometimes we have to dig a little deeper, but when we find that loving circle, it’s life changing. Thank you so much for reading and connecting!

  24. You have a lot to say. I’m glad to hear part of it. Family is whatever we want it to be.

  25. Great post. Love trumps labels every time. 🙂

  26. What a beautiful. powerful, touching story I love it and I will re blog on my own personal blog. This truly is a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  27. Reblogged this on LivingWithHealthyOutlook and commented:
    A wonderful story about Having Two Mothers and coming out as an GLBT.

  28. Oh, my! You have me in tears. Such a touching story.

  29. This is a beautiful story. This hits me in all sorts of ways and made me tear up. Lovely and loving.

  30. PS: You have me wondering if I knew her. I was in Phoenix in the very early 90s.

  31. We need more stories like this. Thank you.

  32. What an inspiring and beautifully written memoir. Thank you! I grew up in a straight household – it was awful and killed two of my siblings. I had a straight version of your Aunt Dee and she saved my life. We all need our Aunt Dees!

  33. Teared up at “Though she will always be known as Aunt Dee, she stands beside the other women in my life who I call Mama.”

  34. You write fantastically !

  35. […] “Aunt”s and Other-Mothering in a Queer Household […]

  36. Thank you for such a lovely post. How fortunate for you for love to have found you when you were so young, even if it wasn’t in its ‘normal’ form. Moms are moms and they are the ones that love us unconditionally – period.

  37. Great post.

  38. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

  39. I love that you’ve shared this story.As a lesbian mom and surrogate mom to several kids it means a lot to me to hear your words. Wonderfully written and very touching.

  40. […] “Aunt”s and Other-Mothering in a Queer Household […]

  41. Glad that Aunt Dee came into your life when you needed that love and tenderness. Every child needs someone like her in their life. Thank you for sharing.

  42. This made me a little teary-eyed, especially when I read that you were able to reconnect with Aunt Dee. That’s so great!

  43. […] “Aunt”s and Other-Mothering in a Queer Household […]

  44. Reblogged this on Another stab at the dark for something productive and commented:
    Yet another answer to my always troubled question of “What makes a family?”. A wonderful and quite timely read.

  45. […] “Aunt”s and Other-Mothering in a Queer Household […]

  46. Thank you for wrting this. It inspiried me to think of the woman in my life who loved and cared for me. I am not gay, but a couple of my nieces are, and I appreciate your story.

  47. Reblogged this on LitiGamers and commented:
    A lovely read.

  48. […] “Aunt”s and Other-Mothering in a Queer Household […]

  49. beautiful and emotionally honest. Thanks for sharing your story.

  50. I am a straight woman who has spent 37 of 53 yr of my life in and around the gay community. In the straight world i am judges in tbe gay i am accepted. I have a lesbian padtor and i see the strength that the seniors gay and lesbian have at my church. They paved a way for the begin.ing of acceptance. Your aunt dee is pretty special.

    L, G, B, T, or S? Just be you!

  51. I am a straight woman who has spent 37 of 53 yr of my life in and around the gay community. In the straight world i am judged in tbe gay i am accepted. I have a lesbian pastor and i see the strength that the seniors gay and lesbian have at my church. They paved a way for the beginning of acceptance. Your aunt dee is pretty special.

    L, G, B, T, or S? Just be you!

  52. being loved by two mommies and both mommies loving you so much am sure must be wonderful. glad to know that you found Aunt Dee. congratulations on the love found and on being freshly pressed on a lovely post.

  53. […] “Aunt”s and Other-Mothering in a Queer Household (wiseedits.wordpress.com) […]

  54. I loved your story. Everyone should have an Aunt Dee in their life! And best of all, you are now in contact with her again! I hope you’ve made some plans to spend some time with her again! That will be another good story I hope to read. Good luck to you!

  55. […] * Wise Edits “Aunt”s and Other-Mothering in a Queer Household […]

  56. […] “Aunt”s and Other-Mothering in a Queer Household […]

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