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Commentary: Standing on the Side of Love

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We are humbled by the outpouring of support generated by our recent Bridal Bliss profile, "Love at First Sight." As the first lesbian wedding to be featured on ESSENCE.com, we expected the story to garner a lot of attention, but we never imagined that it would receive such an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. More than 4,500 readers "Liked" the feature, which generated more than 500 comments. As many of you noted, our love story is indeed unique. While we, like typical brides-to-be, raided bookstore after bookstore for inspiration for our wedding and bought all of the glossy wedding magazines we could find, we never saw any lesbian couples on those pages. It was as if our love did not exist. That experience was yet another reminder of how Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people remain virtually invisible within the media and our community. This void perpetuates hopelessness and despair among Black gay people that can lead to tragedy, like the recent suicide of Aiyisha Hassan, the 20-year-old lesbian and former Howard University student who hanged herself after years of struggling to find acceptance. Just imagine how disheartening it is to never see an affirming reflection of yourself. How challenging it must be to construct a healthy self-esteem without role models. It's what life was like for the little Black girl growing up in a time before dolls had brown faces. This is the invisible reality that many Black lesbians face each day. So when the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) teamed up with ESSENCE.com and invited us to share our wedding story, we seized the opportunity to present at least one image of Black LGBT love. We hoped that our love story and wedding photos would affirm other Black lesbians and give them hope if they too want to get married. By sharing our story, ESSENCE.com broke new ground and shed light on one example of how sharing stories about love can build acceptance. It is our wish that you continue the conversation beyond this feature around your kitchen tables, in your churches, and in your community so we can save the life of another Aiyisha Hassan. Your comments reminded us just how powerful images of Black love can be, and confirmed what we already felt in our hearts -- that images can inspire, empower, and ignite hope. We shared our love story with you and were overwhelmed by the love and support we received in return. Comments heralding the feature as "inspirational and courageous" and expressions of deep gratitude filled with newfound hope continue to flood our inboxes and our hearts with the warmth of your kind words. Our seven-year courtship has been a whirlwind of celebrations, trials and tribulations. And we wanted our August 7th wedding day to portray all of the laughter, love and tears of our journey. Encircled by a hundred of our closest family and friends, we stood under an umbrella draped in orchids and ivy and pledged our love to each other. In that moment, we realized how fortunate we were to have the unwavering support of individuals who are not afraid to stand on the side of love. It is this support that emboldens us to live our lives openly and honestly and display our love unapologetically. Thousands of readers were elated to see their full selves reflected in a love story for the first time, and so were we. We ask you, what will you do to stand on the side of love? Follow us Twitter: www.twitter.com/FIREFund
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