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Invisible Families

Invisible Families: Gay Identities, Relationships, and Motherhood among Black Women

Mignon R. Moore
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    Invisible Families
    Book Description:

    Mignon R. Moore brings to light the family life of a group that has been largely invisible-gay women of color-in a book that challenges long-standing ideas about racial identity, family formation, and motherhood. Drawing from interviews and surveys of one hundred black gay women in New York City,Invisible Familiesexplores the ways that race and class have influenced how these women understand their sexual orientation, find partners, and form families. In particular, the study looks at the ways in which the past experiences of women who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s shape their thinking, and have structured their lives in communities that are not always accepting of their openly gay status. Overturning generalizations about lesbian families derived largely from research focused on white, middle-class feminists,Invisible Familiesreveals experiences within black American and Caribbean communities as it asks how people with multiple stigmatized identities imagine and construct an individual and collective sense of self.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95015-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Two Sides of the Same Coin: Revising Analyses of Lesbian Sexuality and Family Formation through the Study of Black Women
    (pp. 1-20)

    As dusk falls, I pull up to the house feeling embarrassed at my lateness. The e-mail invitation said to come any time after 4 P.M., but I am arriving slightly after eight, and the sun has already set. I have been here before. The first time was to interview Ruthie Erickson¹ about the family she has created with her three-year-old adopted son, Lawrence. Ruthie is a thirtysix-year-old accountant for a large financial institution. During the interview, she talked a great deal about Lawrence’s godmothers, Dana and Angie Russell, who live on the second floor of the two-family house that Ruthie...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Coming into the Life: Entrance into Gay Sexuality for Black Women
    (pp. 21-64)

    Psychologists and psychotherapists have portrayed coming out of the closet, or acknowledging one’s same-sex attractions, acting upon them, disclosing them to others, and accepting them as part of a sexual identity, as a developmental process that most homosexuals share.¹ Variations on a core model describe six stages of this process. First, individuals have a subjective sense of feeling “different” from others of their same gender. Subsequently, they identify these feelings as homosexual, disclose the feelings to others, come to accept the feelings as part of an identity, and search for a community of like persons. They complete the transition when...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Gender Presentation in Black Lesbian Communities
    (pp. 65-91)

    Consider the way that Asa Bambir, Lynn Witherspoon, and Trina Adams explained gender pre sen ta tion in New York’s Black lesbian community to me:

    In New York I saw more of this butch-femme thing and I was a little floored by it, a little shocked, like why do people have to play these roles? . . . But at the same time I looked at it in awe, because there was a part of my childhood when I really liked wearing boyish clothes, but I never did. . . . So, I was very intrigued by it, and I...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Marginalized Social Identities: Self-Understandings and Group Membership
    (pp. 92-112)

    As Black people, as women, and as lesbians, the women in this book possess multiple social identities that are marginalized in society. People use identity as a “category of practice” to make sense of themselves, their activities, what they share with and how they differ from others (Brubaker and Cooper 2000, 4), and to construct meaning about who they are and how they fit in the world. All people experience identity-formation processes, but they have a particular complexity and nuance for those who occupy multiple marginalized social statuses. Many of the women I interviewed were the children or grandchildren of...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Lesbian Motherhood and Discourses of Respectability
    (pp. 113-152)

    In June 2004, I attended a backyard barbeque for a birthday celebration, and among the guests were two Black lesbians who had adopted a child. Soon after, another Black lesbian couple arrived with their newly adopted daughter, who was about nine months old. Everyone oohed and ahhed at the babies. I listened as the mothers complained good-naturedly about sleepless nights and the speed at which young children can crawl. The group of women at the gathering celebrated these children, in part because they represented proof of the two couple’s link (and by extension, other lesbian mothers’ link) to the broader...

  9. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER 5 Family Life and Gendered Relations between Women
    (pp. 153-179)

    Shelly Jackson, a thirty-eight-year-old city bus driver, lives with her three children in a high-rise housing project in East New York. Her partner, Shaunte Austin, moved in with the family two years ago. Commenting on how she and her partner divide the house hold finances, Shelly says that regardless of sexuality, each person should bring her or his own resources to a relationship: “I don’t give a damn who you’re with, you always need to be able to be independent and take care of yourself.” I heard echoes of Shelly’s remark from the overwhelming majority of the lesbian couples to...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Openly Gay Families and the Negotiation of Black Community and Religious Life
    (pp. 180-214)

    Black neighborhoods have always been a central location for gay African American social life. Nevertheless, prior to the 1980s, gay sexuality in racial minority communities was rarely shared or articulated openly in public settings, it was not recognized as part of the larger community narrative of discrimination and struggle, and gay Blacks tended not to openly create families together.¹ Recent social and political changes, however, including the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS among Black heterosexual women, Black political and religious leaders openly addressing issues related to gay sexuality, and amplified public debates about the legal status of same-sex marriage, have moved...

  12. CONCLUSION: Intersections, Extensions, and Implications
    (pp. 215-222)

    Throughout this book I have examined the ways race and class influence how Black women who are gay understand their sexual orientation, find partners, and form families, thus challenging a number of generalizations about lesbian family patterns that have been drawn from research almost exclusively focused on White, middle-class, feminist women. This effort bridges work in the lesbian and gay studies field that has not paid enough attention to issues of race and class with the literature on Black families that has remained silent on issues of sexual orientation. The population I study has also largely remained invisible in the...

  13. APPENDIX A: A Roadmap for the Study of Marginalized and Invisible Populations
    (pp. 223-238)
  14. APPENDIX B: Selected Questions from Invisible Families Survey
    (pp. 239-248)
  15. APPENDIX C: Questions from In-Depth Interview on Self-Definitions of Sexuality
    (pp. 249-250)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 251-268)
  17. References
    (pp. 269-288)
  18. Index
    (pp. 289-298)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-300)