By Kimya Afi Ayodele
In this installment of unsung African American SGL and Transgender heroines and heroes in honor of Black Herstory/History month, I introduce you to the Holloway-Welch family. I believe that they are herstory makers because though our society has begun to sometimes acknowledge, accept and respect the many definitions of family as they relate to same gender couples, we do not often see African-American same-gender couples with children. In the words of Leseliey Welch, “The straight community thinks our relationships don’t exist and the African-American gay community often thinks we don’t have long lasting relationships.” The Holloway-Welch family is proof positive that this is not the case.
Stephanie Lynn Holloway is a 31-year-old artist and graphic designer. She has had her artwork exhibited at art galleries in Detroit, Royal Oak and Southfield. She is currently employed as the marketing coordinator for BD’s Mongolian Barbecue restaurant chain, where she creates advertising plans for the 30 restaurants nationwide and in Mongolia. Stephanie is also the family cook and has years of experience as an accomplished gourmet chef and caterer.
Leseliey Rose Welch is a 29-year-old lecturer and research area specialist in women’s studies at the University of Michigan. She is also a Doulas Care Outreach and Education Coordinator at the Center for the Childbearing Years in Ann Arbor. She has a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and a MPH in Health Behavior and Education with a certificate in Women’s and Reproductive Health, both earned at the U of M. Leseliey also currently teaches a women’s studies course on feminism and activism at the U of M. Additionally, she has dedicated her 10-year career, thus far, to providing HIV/AIDS education locally and internationally in South Africa, Tanzania and Jamaica working primarily with traditional healers, LGBT/SGL and womens’ groups and individuals.
I recently sat in the couple’s warm living room beautifully littered with their daughter’s brightly colored balls and singing stuffed animals and asked them to speak to me about their decision to conceive. Leseliey says, “I’ve always wanted a baby.” Stephanie agrees and says that she knew this about Leseliey at the beginning of their relationship. Once the decision was made, they began the process of artificial insemination at home. Leseliey was to carry the baby. They conceived after their second month of trying. They were ecstatic, but surprised since they believed it would take up to a year. Zoe Rose Holloway-Welch was born, healthy and happy, on March 8 last year; she was one month early and had an unexpected one-week stay hospital. Leseliey and Stephanie then decided to leave Ann Arbor and purchased a home together in Ferndale so that they would be closer to their supportive families.
Leseliey’s mother, Linda Welch, provides essential family support to both women and her grandchild. “It’s important for people to know”, she said. Zoe also has her grandma Carol, Stephanie’s mother, great-grandparents, many blood and unrelated aunties, and other family members, as well.
Zoe, whose name means “life,” was planned out of love and conceived during a time of grief as her grandfather, Leseliey’s father, had recently died. She is currently crawling, bouncing to music and waving bye-bye with an absolutely infectious two-teethed smile. Her mommies have been together for five years and plan to have more children. In the mean time, Zoe seems content playing with the family pet Siamese cat, Luther V.