I'm From Driftwood is a 501(c)(3) non-profit forum for true lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) stories. The first full week in February, to commemorate Black History Month, every story will be from a member of the black LGBTQ community. These stories will reinforce the fact that there are black people in the LGBTQ people, and that there are also LGBTQ people in the black community.
Amber, who was born in Okinawa, Japan, grew up in Atlanta, Ga. Amber believes that coming out as queer in the black community can often lead to struggles, estrangement from family, and other unpleasant outcomes. Despite this, things can also go well, even if it is not a common occurrence:
While that certainly has been the case for a lot of people, it wasn't my experience. I think it's important to get that story out; it's not always going to be this really terrible experience. You're not going to feel completely alone and estranged from your family, because with people of color, our family unit is incredibly important, and you go through a lot with your family. Feeling estranged from them at any point is especially debilitating.
However, it was not a terrible experience for her, and she believes it's important for others to keep in mind that things can go well. Before heading to a Super Bowl party in 2004, Amber was talking to her mother on the phone:
Right as I was about to get off the phone, she asked if I had anything that I wanted to talk to her about. I said, "No, I think I covered everything. Everything's going well."
Her mother kept pushing her and triple-checking that there wasn't anything Amber needed to say. When Amber insisted that there wasn't, her mother asked her about her friend:
"Well, what about Allison?" Allison was this girl that I dated, so she was asking if I wanted to say anything about Allison. I said no, there wasn't. She waited a little longer before saying, "OK, I'm going to have to walk you through this."
Amber was stunned and remained silent as her mom persisted:
She said, "OK, Mom, I am..." And I was silent, because I had no idea what I was supposed to say. She said it again, and I just started crying. I never finished the sentence. I said over and over again, "I'm so sorry. I tried for so long to be perfect, I didn't mean to disappoint you." I was broken-hearted, and I felt like I had broken her heart. She just kept saying she was OK. "It's OK. I love you."
She recalled a series of conversations that she had with her mother when she returned home for the summer, about what it meant to be bisexual:
The questions that she asked centered around... I mean, the first question she asked me was, "OK, OK. So you're walking down the street, and Denzel Washington is coming at you from this end, and Halle Berry from the other end, who do you look at?" They were really ridiculous questions; they weren't asked out of malice, she was just truly trying to understand.
In 2008, Amber's mother suddenly and tragically passed away. When she was dealing with the grief of her passing, she Googled her and read some of the obituaries that were online, as well as what other people had to say. She stumbled across an article that one of her former students wrote:
People say incredible things about my mom. They talk about her eloquence, her beauty, and her grace, and her way of making everyone feel comfortable and at home. All of those things mean a lot to me, but this student wrote this article. He said what meant the most to him was that she was the greatest LGBT ally Virginia Tech students had.
Fighting the urge to get choked up, Amber remembers how much that one comment meant to her:
Out of all the things I've ever heard about my mother, that absolutely meant the most to me. I feel so blessed to have had that in my life, and I wish that other people could be as lucky.
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