When I think about black love, I think about my dear, sweet mother. She modeled unconditional love and stuck by me through my transitions. She was caring, precise, relentless and unconditional.
When I came out as a lesbian at 14, she was shocked and confused, but that didn’t matter. She worked through that struggle, and she became my biggest supporter. When I came out as transgender 12 years later, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said she felt like her daughter died. We grieved the person I was together and slowly began to celebrate the son I became.
I lost my mother to breast cancer in June of 2014, but her patient, hard-working love has inspired me and has sustained me. She grew with me, and I became better because she loved me. And if I want to continue to be the best person I can be and to create the best world that’s possible, then why not mirror the love from my mother in every aspect of my life?
“Black love is for everyone, and it doesn’t begin and end within the confines of respectability.”
My mother’s love translates to inclusion. Seeing her love in my community looks like intersectional approaches to how we value each other’s lives. It looks like expanding our definition of love and family to be more than just a heterosexual construct but one that belongs to everyone along the spectrum of gender and sexuality. It looks like elevating marginalized voices. Black love looks like listening to black women. It looks like following the leadership of black women like Tarana Burke, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, Alicia Garza and more who create movements for the advancement and inclusion of all people. It looks like believing people’s experiences.
Black love is for everyone, and it doesn’t begin and end within the confines of respectability. Love doesn’t choose people based on their income, style of dress, sexuality, sensuality, age or number of Instagram followers. Black love challenges us to work through the hurt of generational traumas and be better to each other. It challenges us to overcome our stereotypes and biases to care for the needs of people who may identify differently than us. Love is fluid and moving and growing. Love is having the patience to ask questions, not to invalidate other people’s truths but to complicate our own perception of reality.
My mother’s love was patient yet fiercely demanding. True love like this in my community demands more from us. It’s not always kind and it’s not always easy. We have to challenge ourselves to push past our comfort zones, learn more and change. If we discuss the value of black lives but we are really only concerned with heterosexual black men and how they’re treated, then our black love needs work. If we’re not centering the voices of black women or at least creating ample space for their experiences and honoring the contributions they make to our communities, then our politics are misaligned. If our politics aren’t queer or trans-inclusive, then how can we say we love blackness?
Our black experience isn’t a monolith. Our lives are as diverse as our shades, and who we love or how we identify doesn’t negate or invalidate our blackness but enhances it. Love is a choice. We must choose to commit to the freedom and liberation of all black people. We must decide to love one another, not in spite of our differences but because we are committed to celebrating all that we are.
“The black community is a family in itself. It’s time we love each other like family.”
As a transgender man, becoming a father didn’t happen accidentally. I decided that I was ready to commit myself to the development and protection of another life. I was ready to open up a whole new part of myself and change the trajectory of my life’s journey forever. My daughter, Soleil, is only 1 month old, and I’ve been brought to tears several times just thinking about how much I love her. The love I have for my daughter is nothing but infinite possibility. My responsibility as her father is not to dictate the person she’s going to become but guide her as she leads me to her most authentic self, to celebrate her expression, her genius and her choices.
This intentional type of devotion is for all of us to experience. We can feel it when we root for everybody black at award shows, when we celebrate our culture and creativity in movies, music, television and literature. We show it in the way we care for our elders, our spouses, our students, our rights.
I’m in the early stages of starting a family of my own. I get the opportunity to give my child the love that was given to me but this time even better. She will know that gender is a spectrum of possibility and that her blackness equals excellence. She will know that her parents work hard to create more love and understanding in the world into which she was born. She will know the unconditional love that can only come from the lessons I’ve learned about love from my own community.
Love is more than just something to celebrate on Feb. 14. When I think of love, I think back to my childhood. My mother’s undying love. My father’s unwavering support. My family’s unconditional care for my life. The black community is a family in itself. It’s time we love each other like family.