The thoughts and opinions expressed in this post solely belong to Anti intellect – FUNKY DINEVA DID NOT WRITE THIS
The mother-child relationship has the potential to be one the most special relationships in the world. Nature and society combine to render motherhood one of the most exalted roles that a woman can ever undertake in her life. Because the mother-child relationship is often filled with beauty, it is easy to forget that there can also be an ugly side to the mother-child relationship. Many things have the potential to undermine the mother-child relationship, but homophobia, in particular, taints the mother-child relationship in a uniquely insidious way.
Prior to watching R&B Divas Atlanta, I had little knowledge of the singer Monifah. What I did recall of her, I learned from the movie BAPS. In the movie, one of the characters runs up to Heavy D, in excitement, yelling, “I’m the next Monifah!” It was clear to me, even then, that Monifah was a great singer, but I had paid little attention to her throughout the years. When it was announced that Monifah would be part of the R&B Divas Atlanta cast, blogs and other media outlets began to report that Monifah was a lesbian woman. As a Black gay man, I was excited to by the news that Monifah was a member of the LGBT community, and that she would be sharing her life on television. When I began watching R&B Divas Atlanta, I soon came to realize that Monifah, aside from being a great singer, was also a woman with a beautiful personality and spirit. In each of her scenes, she could be counted on to emanate truth, light, love, and a positive attitude. I suppose, it was this warmth and kindness that made me assume that Monifah was loved, as the whole person she is, by everyone in her life. I was wrong.
Part of Monifah’s storyline this season revolved around her relationship with her partner Terez. Monifah and Terez’s relationship was one of the most honest and moving that I have ever seen on television, regardless of the sexual orientation of those being depicted. Their love for each other, as Black lesbian women, was clear in every episode, every scene. I was glad to see such a beautiful representation of the Black LGBT community on television. Like I said earlier, because of the type of person that Monifah is, a person full of love and warmth, I made the mistake of assuming that everyone in her life loved her as the whole person that she is. I could not have been more mistaken. While watching one of the later episodes, my mouth literally dropped when I realized that Monifah’s daughter, Akemi, was homophobic. Like most homophobic people, Akemi proceeded to use the Bible, of course, to justify her homophobic views. Generally, I try to stay away from making assumptions, but I was blown away by Monifah’s daughter’s homophobia. It flew in the face of the narratives of homosexuality and homophobia that I had grown accustomed to: gay child, homophobic parent; not gay parent, homophobic child. I suppose, in a way, I am glad that Monifah let the world see her reality, because we absolutely need to remember that homophobia can poison both sides of the parent/child relationship.
It would be hypocritical of me to not state that Monifah has not always been there for Akemi. Monifah had Akemi at a young age, and was in and out of her life. Monifah has battled drug addiction and other life issues that have resulted in a strained relationship with her daughter over the years. The Monifah we see today, rooted in truth, love, and light, is the result of Monifah working hard to get her life on track. This is not to excuse Akemi’s homophobia, but it does give context to where her homophobia my be originating from.
One of the worst things about homophobia is the way that it can taint the relationships between family members, especially those relationships between parents and children. I know of too many cases where homophobia has resulted in a parent disowning their children for being gay. Fortunately, Monifah and Akemi still have a relationship, but it astounds me that someone, with a parent as loving as Monifah, would be able to call their mother’s love for another woman “perverted”. As a parent, as a person, and as a loved one, it hurts to be told that who you are and who you love is a perversion, a sin. True to her positive outlook, and ethos of love and warmth, Monifah did not let her daughter’s homophobia break her down. While sharing with her daughter that she would soon be marrying the love of her life, Terez, Monifah remained the beautiful person that she is, even though that beauty was not being reciprocated. I know it must have been painful to have your daughter reject who you are and who you love, but Monifah remained respectful of her daughter’s ignorant views. Once again, Monifah showed that she was courage and truth under fire.
I have often said that it is unfortunate that homophobia can result in mothers turning their backs on the child they brought into this world, but it is also true that homophobia can result in the child turning their back on the mother that brought them into this world. As clear between Monifah and Akemi, the homophobic pendulum can swing both ways. Monifah and Akemi, despite Akemi’s homophobia, continue to have a seemingly loving relationship. However, that is not the case for many gay people who find themselves cut off from their family.
On the show, Monifah stated that she believes her daughter’s heart will change as she grows older, that “experience”, in this world, will help her come to her senses by abandoning the homophobic worldview she currently subscribes to. For Monifah and Akemi, and all mother-child, parent-child relationships, out there, I hope that this is true.
Anti-Intellect is a DC-based social media activist and essayist.