- May 11, 2014
Post submitted by Joce Pritchett, who lives in Mississippi with her wife Carla Webb and their two children. Stay tuned to HRC Blog throughout the month as we continue to highlight some of the heroes of HRC’s Project One America.
As a young Mississippian growing up in the 70s, I was taught that there was only one lifestyle that was acceptable: the Ward and June Cleaver life. I became an expert at looking for that. It’s ironic that now at 46 I look at my life and I realize how much we resemble the Cleavers.
I met my wife, Carla Webb, ten years ago. I was home from graduate school in Atlanta and she had recently returned from her endodontic residency in Boston. We dated for a year and jumped in with both feet. When I turned 38, we decided to have children. Because none of the fertility specialists in town would treat “unmarried woman” with in-vitro fertilization, Carla and I needed to travel back and forth to the Fertility Institute of New Orleans. Soon, our little girl joined our family. Four years later, our precious son was born. We gave both of our children Carla’s last name as a middle name to give us just a little more security in her parenthood. Because, while Carla is their biological parent, she is not their legal parent as long as we live in Mississippi.
As gay Mississippians, we grew up and live in oppression and fear. It is so thick around us; we don’t even realize it’s there. We adapt and assimilate and proudly share our stories about how my aunt allowed Carla at the dinner table last Christmas, not even realizing that total equality with our straight brother, whose wife has been part of the family since their engagement, is a valid desire.
Some of us fly through life living just under detection. We think if we act straight enough, are educated enough, are successful enough, we will be accepted and some of us are. We are accepted as long as we don’t hold hands, kiss in front of anyone, act “too gay.” We participate so as to fit in and have some basic level of acceptance.
Mississippians live under the umbrella of our dark, difficult history. I have lived in constant fear that our children could be taken away from us by the state if we fight them too openly. My civil engineering business is dependent on state contracts that could vanish if I’m too vocal. Fears that we could be gunned down in our driveway if that faction gets too angry with us. In 1964, burning crosses were made out of wood. In 2014, they are made out of disappearing contracts and dental patient referrals, job firings, random school expulsions or other subversive threats.
That is why I am standing with the HRC and others fighting for equality in our state. To look the cross-burners in the face and let them know I’m a real person with a job, a family, a mortgage and grocery bills, just like them. I am their niece at the dinner table. I am their Sunday school teacher. I am the parent of one of their child’s friends.
This is my Mississippi, too, and to quote that brilliant young Kenyan actress, Lupita Nyong'o “our dreams are valid”.
It is for families like Joce and Carla’s that HRC is invested in a comprehensive, multi-year campaign in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. Together, we will fight to secure the vital protections necessary for loving, committed couples and their families.
This Mother’s Day, we honor Joce, Carla and all mothers who, in ways both big and small, help build momentum in the fight for full equality for LGBT Americans.
Let Joce and Carla know you stand with them—and for all loving, committed LGBT couples and their families—in the fight for true equality. Send them a note of thanks now.
For more on HRC’s Project One America and our mission to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South, visit http://www.projectoneamerica.org