So in that spirit, we decided to sit down with five very unique families and discuss their lives and how they intend to express their very own queer cheer.
Stacy Brinkley & Debbie Swain
In America, our holidays are lost in a flood of commercial advertisements and unfettered consumerism but for Stacey Brinkley and Debbie Swain the horrors of the American strip mall don’t mean a thing.
“We don’t like the commercialism of Christmas and we don’t buy each other gifts,” says Debbie.
The women say that birthdays have become sacred in their home and that winter holidays are reserved for themselves. They turn off their cell phones and lounge around in their pajamas enjoying moments of freedom.
“It brings us closer,” says Stacy. “We stop the world and concentrate on us.”
Debbie hails from the U.K. and so she always plans a traditional English Christmas lunch with plenty of music, food and wine on Christmas day.
“I’m not really religious but I’ll give thanks for the harvest any day!” says Debbie.
Greetings from Gay Gentrification! Yes gurl, the homosexuals are becoming homeowners with South City quickly becoming home to some of St. Louis’ more unique gays.
Yes, Phil and Phill are an interracial gay male couple. Yes, they are the parents to two Jewish corgis: Noah and Isaac.
“My unexpected pregnancy,” says Phil Marks with a grin.
And yes, they enjoy a drink or two or three.
“I love entertaining with cocktails,” confesses Phil Rodriguez who has suddenly conjured up the perfection of margarita nectar.
Yes, our couple are gentlemen of “mutual affection” but they are also loving partners who hold New Years Eve as one of the most important days of their year. Rodriguez explains that the two celebrate the sacred dawn with family and friends either in Austin or Brownsville, Texas.
The gays throw the best parties and these two follow suit in an intimate celebration with a traditional white party for the New Year.
Rodriguez describes the event as a “traveling party” and both men admit that their gatherings attract an eclectic group of homo-bi-hetero and trans of all shades.
Sara, Shanon and Jackson Hamilton
Norman Rockwell would have appreciated a wholesome lesbian family like the Hamiltons. This couple began their holiday season with Halloween where they dressed Jackson up as a baby Dracula.
“It was the first year we took him out trick-o-treating,” says Sara.
Sara and Shanon Hamilton are lesbian parents whose individual families have also demonstrated the beautiful ability to love queer daughters.
“Both of our families are very accepting,” says Shanon. “They were more excited about us getting pregnant than maybe we were!”
The women say their holiday season is generally spent between the families where baby Jackson can be found enjoying simple pleasures such as jealous grandparents, Christmas ornaments and wrapping paper. However, this year the two say they will try to get both families to celebrate the holiday together inside their home.
“We are a unit,” say Sara. “We are THE Hamiltons!”
Colleen, Rob and PJ Carlton
“He is a little chunk of love,” says Colleen Carlton. Her voice beams with joy while Rob plays with their two month year old son PJ.
The Carlton’s are a modern family and PJ is one special guy.
“He was born of our heart,” says Colleen who knows YOU know that her son is adopted, “Family for us is surrounding yourself with people that bring you joy and love in your life.”
The couple are long time allies of the queer community and are active supporters of Growing American Youth. Colleen and Rob chose adoption in the same vein of many other queer parents: They wanted to raise a family. In return, PJ became the answer and the source of his very own personal holiday.
“We plan on throwing him a forever family party,” says Colleen who explains that forever family parties are a way to commemorate PJ’s entrance into their lives through legal adoption.
The handsome fellow is already two months old and the Carltons are looking forward to their first Christmas season with him.
Colleen says she knows PJ will grow to know how special he is around this time of year and that he has a huge extended family t hat love him unconditionally.
“On Christmas day,” says Colleen, “He’ll know it is all about family.”
The House of Mazzaratie
The life of the American queer has never been easy. We lose our homes. We cry. We fight. We fail. We find sanctuary. Our lives are held by stands of love that DNA could never replicate. The bigots know this and that is why they fear us.
The bonds that tie together the House of Mazzaratie are stronger than any genetic code. This “house” is composed of about 40 active members across the country who have made a life-long commitment to a surrogate family.
Current matriarch Danny “Pebbles” Mazzaratie is working to honor the legacy of late Mazzaratie founder Brieshia A. Mazzaratie through the lives of her 29 children.
“She created this amazing bond, this family,” says Danny. “Our focus is that we do not dishonor her name and we make sure the traditions she spawned with us are kept going and passed on to the other children in our family.”
These children are queer and black and beautiful. They come to Danny looking for the warmth and the safety of momma’s house and they find hidden strength within themselves. The house gives them identity and through that identity they find power.
“We’re cut from the same cloth,” explains Teonia Mazzaratie. “We’ve all gone through the same experiences, the same hardships and so the Mazzaraties are my real family.”
A traditional holiday in the house always includes a long day of food and laughter. Danny cooks while the sisters and brothers kiki and remember the past year’s up and downs.
“It is always a kiki,” says Danny. “We laugh, we share our stories and we have a good time.”
The holidays are really not much different than a typical Sunday dinner for the Mazzaraties.
“That was my mother’s big thing,” says Danny. “We always got together for Sunday dinners and if you had a problem with anyone in the house you had better figure it out by Sunday because it was expected that you were to be there.”
Because when family is needed, family is there.
BY: JOSHUA BARTON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: DARIN SLYMAN