Since Blacks were brought to the Americas from Africa, family has always been the center of the African American experience. From two-parent households, single-parent, multi-generational, extended families and blended families, Black families are just as diverse and rich as the culture itself.
Brooklyn natives Chantel Tucker, 35, and Sheenah Gardener-Tucker, 36, of Charlotte, N.C. are no different. The two have been together for 13 years and married for 10 and have an 8-year-old daughter. The two met online and started a long-distance relationship that would blossom into a family.
According to 2014 data from The Gary Gates/The Williams Institute, Black same-sex couples are more likely to raise children than white same sex couples. Nearly half of Black lesbian couples are raising children.
“When you see me and you see the way I look at my two ladies, you know that I will move heaven and earth for them,” Chantel said in a recent interview with the AmNews. “When you see us, anybody will know, I got them. They are my life.”
While many might say their same-sex family is different, Sheenah, who works as a human resources coordinator and is obtaining her bachelor’s, and Chantel, who is an accounting manager, say they go through same ups and downs every other family goes through.
“Our family would not be as strong as it is had it not been for the roots that Sheenah and I put down in our relationship,” Chantel said. “Because we’re lesbians we had to plan and sit down and talk about this and want it. For a period of our life and our child’s life people might look at us differently but we had to recognize that we had each other.”
Sheenah got pregnant and gave birth in 2012. The couple first went to a fertility doctor who referred them to a sperm bank. The couple recalls the experience as similar to shopping for shoes or clothing in a mall but instead looking for the perfect man. After 17 hours of labor and having a C-section, they completed their family. The couple is looking at options to have more children.
It has become easier for same sex couples to have children in New York State. Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the Department of Financial Services to ensure that insurers begin covering fertility services for same sex couples who wish to start a family.
The couple’s daughter calls Sheenah “Mommy” and Chantel “Dobby.” The family likes to travel, play games, dine out and go to Myrtle Beach. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tuckers purchased their first home.
Sheenah says she’s aware of the stigma in the Black community when it comes to same-sex marriage and raising children.
“If you look at it realistically with the family dynamic that we all have, you can be raised by a mother and a father, a father and father or a mother and a mother,” she said. “Some kids don’t even have a mother or a father. They are raised by their aunts, grandmothers, you name it. Being male or female does not dictate what perception a family is to any child. We are just like everyone else. It is no different.”
Chantel said she’s even received criticism on social media about the makeup of her family.
“What lifestyle is it that we’re living that’s different from anything that anybody else is doing,” she said. “We love our child, we love each other, we pay our bills. We live the same exact life. It’s just that we lay down next to one another at night. Other than that, it’s no different.”
The couple says that what’s missing in many Black families today are good role models and some with no parents at all. A study released last month by the Statista Research Department found that over 97,000 Black children in the United States were in foster care in 2019.
“One of the things our family focuses on is making sure that we are not loving from the places within us that are broken,” said Sheenah. “We give our child the opportunity to speak her feelings. There’s never a day that goes by where our daughter doesn’t hear ‘I love you’ or doesn’t get a hug from us.”