By Dínea Elliott-Collins;
As part of the Unlabeled series, StereoType will share raw and authentic stories and perspectives from parents and caregivers from many different walks of life who have challenged their own stereotypes and mindfully transformed as a result of seeking a closer connection to their children. Unlabeled will highlight stories of learnings, breakdowns and breakthroughs, transformations, and so much more, as parents and caretakers seek to become more attuned to their own selves during their parenting journey.
I’ve always wanted to be a mother. I believe there to be no undertaking more significant. My spouse and I planned every detail around the arrival of our child and the incorporation of them into our family. When we thought about the kind of person we wanted to raise we continually circled back to someone who was healthy, independent, happy and free. Then we thought about what we must do in order to ensure our child was all of those things. We found that to be successful at providing our child an upbringing that would fully encourage these attributes to take root we’d have to become more open, more educated and get even more comfortable with rejecting stereotypes.
Our child has two moms who routinely get told we don’t appear to be mothers. For us, having worked so hard to grow our family, it doesn’t feel like a compliment when we don’t get identified as moms or welcomed into motherly spaces simply because we don’t present ourselves the way a stereotypical mom would. My spouse and I both favor androgynous fashion and we want our children to feel complete creative freedom around their identities and presentations so we continue to model that no matter how uncomfortable we’ve been made to feel at times.
It’s vitally important to me that my kids will know whoever they are is worthy of my love and acceptance and that I support their right to make whatever victim-free choices they feel they must to keep themselves unbound and their lives healthy and happy.
Whatever they want to wear, who they’ll want to date, what religion they’ll choose, what gender identity they’ll settle into, they’ll have the right to explore it all on their own terms and with the proper guidance when needed–; that’s something I could only dream of when I was a kid.
As a child it was TLC, Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah and DaBrat who motivated me and inspired my style but I completely lacked any social or cultural affirmation and was led to believe the things that made me feel and look my best were potentially harmful to me. As a Black queer woman I spent many years fighting to be my authentic self and be accepted, it’s what’s motivated me to ensure my family doesn’t have to endure the same emotional hardship without support. Finding and helping build community with organizations like @parentxhood has also helped immensely with that motivation. Creating bonds and memories with other Black LGBTQ+ moms who look like my spouse and I, taking trips with families structured like our’s, having our child a part of a community that makes him feel blessed and special for having two moms instead of shameful, it truly made an unquantifiable difference in our lives.
I’ve found a sense of support and a sense of belonging to help keep me fortified when society tells me the way I represent motherhood is unsavory.
Breaking the stereotypes that help deny me seats at tables where I very clearly belong is easier to do when I have community back up representing the same way that I do and just as loudly, it’s been helping me sleep better at night, it’s a true comfort. Living my truth at all costs and representing that for my children makes me feel like I’m laying the proper foundation for their self-love and self-esteem. I’m a parent who’s become very comfortable being vocal about why many stereotypes we hold so dearly are rooted in prejudice and meeting more parents like myself gives me hope for a brighter more inclusive future. The world becomes healthier and safer for everyone when we open ourselves up to the value in creating space for people to exist as they are and be respected.
My partner and I have so much pride in the family that we’ve built and the community we love and thrive in. We want to show our child that they are safe and accepted to be whoever they want to be, and that is, who they are now is always a very beautiful thing.
We are excited to highlight community members like Dínea Elliott-Collins and her beautiful & inspiring family @ladyboisandbabyboy that are raising their family with authentic love for each other while supporting their individuality.