As the executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, Phyllis Harris (second from left) continues to improve the organization's efforts to provide support and education for Cleveland's LGBT community and its allies through numerous diverse discussion groups, youth programs, elderly supportive services and free HIV and sexually transmitted diseases testing. She has also created a strong family unit that includes two former partners in an effort to provide a successful and loving environment for her two children.
I am an African-American lesbian feminist mom.
I was about 18 years old when I came out. My mom said, "You came from my body. I know who you are. I love you." Because of her support, I am able to be who I am in a way that is healthy and I think that's important.
I was 28 when I fell in love with Amy. When we first talked about getting pregnant, one of our family members said, "Well, have you thought about the children?" as if this was really not a good thing to do. And my response was, "If you think about yours and how you raise yours, ours will be OK." I felt like we were going to change the world.
Austin is an amazing young man. He is 16 1/2 now. His mom and I split when he was just about 5, but she is still very involved in his life. He is with her every other weekend and on Wednesdays. That has been his schedule since he was about 5 years old. We were together for about eight years. If we could have been married, I would have been divorced.
When I met Kristen, we knew we wanted to have another baby. She knew she wanted to carry the baby. The way that I describe it is, I birthed my son and caught my daughter. Kristen and I went through the process to become legal guardians of each other's biological children simply for the protections that it offers. If something were to happen to either one of us, our children would stay together hopefully.
Even though Kristen and I are no longer together as partners, we're still partners in the co-parenting of these two children. Amy doesn't have legal guardianship over Austin, but there's no decision that gets made about his life that she's not included on.
My children are fantastic. They are kids who have lived through divorce. However it would impact anyone, it impacts them, and we really work together so that it doesn't get on them. We always want whomever our children are interacting with to know that they are loved and supported, and we are watching like any parent would.
We are a mighty force. — as told to James Bigley II