My Quiet Revolution
Ashly Rose, creator of @aliceonsunday and mama of two, shares her story of growing up in the South as the daughter of two military moms.
You probably already know about the Stonewall Riots if you are a part of, or ally with LGBTQs. In 1969, after a police raid at Stonewall (a gay bar), a 6-day protest/riot, led by drag queen Marsha P. Johnson, catapulted the movement in equal rights and liberation for this community. A year later, in 1970, to commemorate the riot, the first Pride Parade took place, and just ten years after that, my parents would meet at Faces, a bar that celebrated and centered the lesbian community in my home town.
Make no mistake: these events are directly related. It is the revolutionaries that come before us that pave the way for the people who live in the closet or only on the outliers of society, to step out and center themselves as worthy and deserving of love and light. It is because of people like Marsha P. Johnson that my mothers were empowered to live as proudly as they did and for whom they loved. It is because of this acceptance in themselves that they stepped out into the world that night in 1980 and found each other.
I am the child of two military veterans. Two female military veterans. Both of my moms were (and still are), if nothing else, proud. Even during an ongoing fight for equal rights and the potential for repercussions due to their lifestyle, my moms stood in their truths. Had shame or fear dictated their moves, like many of us, unfortunately, succumb to for one reason or another, they would not have been at a lesbian bar that night or any other night. They would have been more careful when deciding where they would be seen and with whom. They would've been protecting their interests and their incomes and their patriotic reputations. And my life may have never been realized.
As a young child, I don't think I could have possibly understood the complexities of their lives. My moms did what most parents do: shield their children from the harsh truths of the world for as long as possible. I knew the information they wanted me to know and was content to live as the sheltered, spoiled, only child that I was. Innocence and ignorance, however, have a way of declining if you're paying attention.
I grew up in a Catholic, military, family and went to a private Catholic school; I grew up in the South. My home life, however loving and nurturing and thoughtful it was, was a direct contradiction to the social and religious expectations and scrutiny foisted onto my moms and me. While my moms were proud individuals, they were not reckless parents. Precautions were put in place to protect their interests, myself included, from discrimination. For instance, there was never any official acknowledgment of me as my non-biological mother's child because of my parents' military status, and I know that always weighed heavily on her heart. There were also times when my uncle would travel with us and pose as my father to avoid any suspicion from military personnel and civilians alike. My uncle's strategic position within our family unit allowed my parents to move in the world as sisters-in-law instead of life-partners when the situation called for it. This was the duality of my parents' world: the realization that pride aside, there would be moments in motherhood that would require them to shrink back to protect our family.
As I got older, I became extremely aware of the prejudices and discrimination that people like my moms faced on a day to day basis and became very protective of them. Not in a secretive way — quite the opposite — I was very vocal and proud of who my parents were, and, in doing so, I allowed people to make their own decisions about the women living in my house, knowing the full truth. I could never accept this idea that my parents were less-than or unworthy in anyone's eye because I knew them for who they were. I knew them to be kind, honest, family-oriented, loving, and respectful. I knew that they embodied all of the qualities that the world deemed admirable, so I refused the opposing idea that they should be rejected for no other reason than their decision to love each other and me, their daughter. And, no, my moms are not perfect, nor have I ever defended through that perception; perfection has never been and should never be the goal. A fully realized human experience is.
I drew inspiration from the historical people that were unapologetically Queer and demanded their freedoms and the freedoms of the people who share their experiences. People like my parents. I found solace in the fact that the first Pride was not a parade but a riot. Marsha P. Johnson once said, "We believe in starting a revolution if necessary." That remark has always stirred in my spirit.
Being the child of lesbian parents, from my perspective, is a revolutionary act. My very existence is a reminder of the love between two people who came together and created a family despite all of the biological, social, and legal opposition. I never protested, waved hand-painted signs, or yelled at the top of my lungs for change. There are, after all, so many valid roads towards the tipping point. Instead, my revolution centered my parents in my life rather than dimming their light for the comfort of others. My revolution revolved around how fantastically they showed up for me when I needed them most (and even when I claimed to not) and how I actively attempt to show understanding and solidarity in every situation because of it. I am a living, breathing, thriving reminder that love is love-- the most compelling emotion of all-- and that it can win big time.
Recently, while having a conversation with a colleague, she described my moms as the "salt of the earth," and I was contented. With full knowledge of my parents' sexual orientation, she had measured my moms' lives by the content of their character above all else. That is what equality looks like from one angle. To be recognized for all of who you are is essential to a fulfilling life, and Pride Month is rooted in this sentiment. As June comes to a close, I remain hopeful in the future of this movement for liberation. I am proud of how far this community has come, and its intended destination.
I am proud of my moms through every milestone in the revolution, and today, and every day of every month -- not just in June.