Denise and her wife, Ebony, have made it their mission to advocate for LGBTQ+ families by sharing their home life with the world. On their YouTube channel and social media platforms, these moms speak candidly about everything from their fertility journeys to the tough questions they get asked regularly. They even get their kiddos — 9-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old fraternal twins Lucas and Jayden — in on the action.
Boasting four million followers on TikTok and more than 430,000 subscribers on YouTube, it's no surprise their humour and open conversations with their children have caught many parents' eyes. Recently, the pair won the #YouTubeBlack Voices grant, which seeks to invest in Black creators and artists. Although Ebony and Denise never planned to become influencers back when they posted their first video regarding Barack Obama being reelected in 2012, they're more than happy to be a sounding board for parents in the community.
After getting married in 2010, Ebony and Denise were on two separate wavelengths with family planning. "I woke up with the biggest baby bug the day after we got married," Ebony shared. "And I will say, 10 years ago, there weren't a lot of resources for parents in the LGBTQ+ space. We had no idea if it was possible or where to begin."
Denise, however, was hesitant about embarking on their parenthood journey. "I wasn't quite on board with Ebony just quite yet," she shared. "It took some convincing. I didn't also have the resources at the time either, and I thought, 'Wow, is this really something we can actually do?' Ebony was like, 'Yeah, of course. Let's do some research. Let's get some guidance from our doctors.'"
Ebony and Denise spoke with their physician, with whom they had a very close relationship. Eventually, Ebony underwent intrauterine insemination (IUI) and became pregnant after just one cycle. They welcomed their daughter, Olivia, in 2011. Once Denise got to meet her little one, she started mulling over the idea of becoming pregnant herself.
"I just turned to Ebony and said, 'This is it. I can't do this. I can't put my body through this anymore. This is going to be my last and final attempt.'"
"As soon as I saw Olivia, I was in love," Denise explained. "I was like, 'Oh my god, this is real. This is actually happening. We did it, we did it.' And then after Olivia started to get older, I started thinking that maybe I was capable of accomplishing this, too."
Unfortunately, becoming pregnant was a far more arduous undertaking for Denise. After six failed IUIs, Denise underwent IVF. Although the first cycle didn't yield a positive pregnancy test, she finally learned she was expecting twins after trying once more. "The second time around, I just turned to Ebony and said, 'This is it. I can't do this. I can't put my body through this anymore. This is going to be my last and final attempt.' And sure enough, it took!" Denise recalled. "The last two embryos took."
Now that their kiddos are getting older, Ebony and Denise's social media accounts are peppered with helpful videos, like how to talk to your kids about their sperm donors and how to explain what it means to be gay to children, so other parents can learn to navigate these often anxiety-inducing conversations. Read on to see how these moms tackle challenging topics.
How They Speak With Their Daughter About Homophobia
While the couple's inner circle is supportive, Olivia has already experienced her fair share of negative comments about her parents' lifestyle. Denise and Ebony first addressed this topic after Olivia came home from gymnastics visibly shaken one day.
"It started about two or three summers ago when Olivia was in a gymnastics class with another little boy who teased her for having two moms," Ebony explained. "It was in that moment I realised that we would be ignorant not to explain this side of our family and the feedback she will get because if we don't, she will not feel equipped or prepared on how to handle these situations when they happen. It's a constant conversation with her. She is aware that there are negative comments."
"We told her to say, 'I understand that you don't understand my family, and that's OK.'"
Although speaking with kids about homophobia may be difficult, making kids aware that some people may not support LGBTQ+ families is critical. "She wasn't upset by the fact that she has two moms, she was upset that somebody would be so mean to make fun of her," Denise shared. "She'd never encountered mean people or mean kids, and so that's when we realised we need to tell her about the other side of society and how some people may not agree with how we live our lives. Now, she's very equipped with navigating these situations. She's aware that we use our platform to discuss these topics, and it honestly helps her in her day-to-day."
To prepare Olivia for some of the remarks that may pop up in the future, Ebony and Denise gave her a script to use if she ever finds herself being teased for having two mothers. "Our model is to always kill people with kindness. We definitely don't want her to retaliate back in a negative way. We told her to say, 'I understand that you don't understand my family, and that's OK.' And just leave it at that," Ebony said. "We want her to interpret it as 'I understand that you don't understand.'"
How They Plan to Talk to Their Kids About Their Donor Siblings
There are a few topics Denise and Ebony haven't broached with Olivia just yet. The most important discussion they're currently trying to navigate is how to speak with her — and eventually their sons — about their donor siblings.
"For people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, there are a lot of different options when it comes to creating your family. We wanted all three kids to have the same donor so that their journey will be on the same linear path," Ebony explained. "We picked a donor so that when they turn 18, they can find out who he is. We wanted to make that process streamlined for them so they can go on that journey together if they choose."
"For people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, there are a lot of different options when it comes to creating your family."
Although Olivia isn't aware that she has 20-plus donor siblings — or "diblings" — just yet, Denise and Ebony plan to sit down and tell her soon. "We're not sure exactly what this conversation is going to look like," Ebony said. "We've reached out to other two-mom families or two-dad families who have children older than our kids to see what their experience was like."
After thinking it over, Ebony and Denise plan to take a direct approach. "We look at each conversation we're going to have with her for exactly what it is," Ebony shared. "There are still a lot of hurdles we have to go through and a lot more conversations that we have to have with her yet because she's becoming more aware and curious."
Denise hopes once Olivia processes the information, she'll be able to help her brothers understand the impact of having diblings when they get older. "Olivia is always trying to educate her brothers," she explained. "I'm sure when the time comes, she's also going to ask to be present because they feel comfortable around her. That's just generally how she is. She's a teacher in a sense, she's just that type of kid."