With a full heart, I often proudly introduce myself as a queer, Black, woman from the heart of the south. But I’ve got to be honest with you, it’s been a journey getting here. Like many others, the path to firmly standing in my queerness was riddled with uncertainty about my identity and the risk of losing the people I love. For many years, I carried around a weight that didn’t belong to me, a weight that far too many young people in the LGBTQ+ community are forced to bear.
In reckoning with these truths, moments like Dwyane Wayde introducing his daughter to the world as Zaya, were both exhilarating and freeing. This outward display of a love that knows no limits and transcends the margins drawn by society proves that children grow up more whole when they are loved for all of the reasons that make them different, not in spite of. This is the kind of love that reaches beyond kind gestures and sweet sentiments. It welcomes you as your whole self.
My understanding of limitless love, like many others, has been a constant and evolving journey. I was introduced to never-ending fondness and devotion right at home. I was reared on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by my mother and grandmother. My mother, only 20 years my senior, was a fierce free-spirit. My grandmother, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, was my beacon of stability. They were polar opposites of one another, but their one unwavering commonality was their love for me, which reached far beyond the standard conception of love. I was their air and they were mine. While I had an amazing family, whom I knew loved me beyond understanding, I often wondered if they loved me beyond condition.
As the product of a religiously conservative upbringing, I understood being queer had the ability to alienate me from the bulk of my family. Namely, the two people whose love meant the most, my mother and grandmother. Instead of living in my truth, for quite some time I chose to hide. I tucked pieces of myself away in the deepest of my crevices. It was not until I left home for college, I felt comfortable to explore the parts of myself I’d buried. By concealing those pieces from them, I had also concealed them from myself.
In 2017, I moved to Washington, D.C., for graduate school. My childhood best friend, her parents and her little sister seamlessly became my bonus family. At a time where my life was in constant fluctuation (I lost my mother and grandmother within months of one another, ended a relationship, came out and began my first queer relationship), my bonus family altered my understanding of a love with no limits. On my “coming out day,” they gleefully removed the weight I had been carrying all these years and responded with a sincere “OK, that’s cool. So what do you want for dinner?”
One type of family is given to us and we’re expected to protect each other and love one another. Another type of family is chosen. We love each other because we want to. My bonus family accepted me when I was my most fragile. They did not love me in spite of my sexual orientation, but because I am who I am. My bonus dad often reminds me, “You belong to me,” and that there is nothing I could do, no part of myself I could reveal he could not accept. They loved me and continue to love me because of all of the things that make me different.
The wholeness I feel in this moment of my life, is a wholeness and love all queer people, especially children, deserve to feel. It is a love like Zaya’s. It is a transcendent love. And it cannot be bound.