Not long ago, Essence.com featured a lesbian couple in a popular, regular feature on weddings. The response surprised them.
The web editor told NPR of his decision to feature Aisha Mills and Danielle Moodie's wedding, one of the first legal lesbian marriages in Washington D.C., "I though, instead of just covering it as a straight news story, why don't we normalize it and cover the wedding as an amazing same-sex black lesbian wedding?"
The only reference the short feature made of their lesbianism was the legal implications. The rest focused, as all the Bridal Bliss posts do, on their personal stories, including how they met (Aisha "focused on the vision of love in front of her. It was love at first sight") and the proposal (a ring nestled in sushi at the restaurant they went to on their first date.)
Web editor Emil Wilbekin pointed out that in addition to 5,000 Facebook likes, "A lot of the comments were, you know, this is not something I would normally think about or I would normally know about, but I think it's amazing because I think what translates in this story is that this is really a story about love. And I think that regardless of your politics, and regardless of your values, you have to look at that and see that these two women love each other and are very happy." There were conservative and religious objections, he added. "We expected that. But what was more interesting were the people who were not exposed to this and actually took a stance against the people who were making the negative comments."
The brides thanked the readers in a followup blog post. They also wrote about not seeing themselves in representations of weddings in familiar language:
Just imagine how disheartening it is to never see an affirming reflection of yourself. How challenging it must be to construct a healthy self-esteem without role models. It's what life was like for the little Black girl growing up in a time before dolls had brown faces. This is the invisible reality that many Black lesbians face each day...Your comments reminded us just how powerful images of Black love can be, and confirmed what we already felt in our hearts — that images can inspire, empower, and ignite hope.
A Pew poll found a higher rate (64 percent) of American blacks saying homosexuality was morally wrong, compared to 49 percent of the country overall. But besides the perfectly natural introduction of a lesbian couple on Essence and the overwhelmingly positive response, there are other encouraging signs. NAACP head Ben Jealous recently made a point of reaching out to gay rights groups, and told The Root, "When [my brother] has been beaten up by the cops, it's been very clear that it's both because he's black and gay."