Journey Story

What Will Life Be Like For My Interracial, Interfaith, Queer Family?

by Ashley DeTar Birt

There’s a scene in the first season of the television show “The Fosters” in which Lena, one of the mothers in a lesbian relationship, helps Jude, her foster son, remove polish from his nails after some kids at school harass him over it.

She sits with him and explains that there are times when she would like to hold hands with her wife, Stef, but is afraid to because of how others might react.

She states that this often makes her angry, not just at those who might harm her, but also at herself. Having your life dictated by others can make one feel ashamed and that it’s wrong to be yourself. Lena, however, knows better than this. Who we love, how we express ourselves, even what our families look like, should not be sources of shame but of pride. If that means that others take issue, the fault lies with them.

“There is nothing wrong with you for wearing nail polish just like there’s nothing wrong with me for holding Stef’s hand,” Lena says. “What’s wrong is the people out there who make us feel unsafe.”

I identify a lot with “The Fosters” and their portrayal of family. Although I do not yet have children of my own, seeing two women in an interracial marriage reminds me of my fiancé and myself. I see the way they handle their relationship and raise their children and wonder what it will be like once we are married and have our own little ones.

Will we handle life’s challenges as well as this TV couple? Will we be able to talk about race, sexual orientation, and self-acceptance with as much poise and love? Unlike the couple on “The Fosters,” my fiancé and I come from differing religious backgrounds: I’m on ordination track in the Presbyterian Church (USA) while she’s on ordination track in the Unitarian Universalist Church.

International Family Equality Day yesterday left me wondering what life will be like for my interracial, interfaith, queer family.

Some questions seem pretty obvious. Which one of us gets to be called “Mom”? What about “Mama”? Should either of us use “Mommy”? Are there other words? Better words? If I give birth, what if my wife-to-be has trouble doing our child’s hair? What happens when they ask about other kids having a mom and a dad instead of two moms? Whose Sunday School will our kids go to?

These questions are nice in that they have answers (we’ll pick whatever names we decide we like best, she’s been learning to do my hair, we’ll talk about how all families are different, and we’ll alternate until they’re old enough to make religious decisions for themselves). In the long run, they may provide a challenge but, ultimately, they aren’t that bad.

There are, however, other questions, scarier questions. Those are the questions about identity, about labels. What do we do the first time our kids realize that they get treated differently when only one of their moms is around? What happens when, because of whatever skin tone they may have, people don’t recognize one of us as the mother to our kids? How do I respond to a parishioner questioning how I could teach my kids anything other than the gospel?

Even worse, what will I say when someone tells our kids that, because they have two mothers, they themselves are an abomination?

The world we live in is a biased, bigoted place. The religion I hold so dear is often not great about things that don’t fit the mainstream norm. I’m excited for my future family, but I must admit that I also worry.

I worry that something about my children’s identity will cause them pain. I worry that my identity and my choice to follow my heart will result in harm my kids did nothing to deserve. I worry that being an interracial family will put them in two worlds, both of which run the chance of rejecting them. I worry that people will try to force a faith upon them based on what my fiance and I feel called to believe. More than anything, I worry that the combination of these things will be a weight that’s just too heavy for them to carry.

When these worries get the better of me, I go back to that scene from “The Fosters” and think about what Lena said. There’s nothing wrong with my sexual orientation or my relationship. There’s nothing wrong with loving someone who looks different from you or has a different faith.

What’s wrong is that others, because they don’t understand, will want to tear our love down.

As a mother, as a wife, as a person who loves myself, I cannot let them. The world may be unsafe for my family, but I will not let that be a reason for me to hold my head down. I will hold my family close and show them to be proud. I will not be ashamed not let the world shame my kids for being surrounded by love. I will teach them about a faith that says love, not hatred, is the final word. I will watch as my fiance teaches them that our faith, whatever it may be, becomes stronger around those who are different from us.

When I start a family, I will support it, I will lift it up, and I will honor it because that is what it will truly deserve.

Photo provided by Ashley Birt