What does it mean to be non-binary, a mother and black?
Nia Anderson, known on the ‘net as Nia Moss, is a person who wears many hats: model, cosmetology student, crafter of aesthetics and also, mother. After graduating from Syracuse University in 2015, Moss gave birth to their daughter, Sanaa. Moss spoke to Cherry about what motherhood has meant to them as they embark on this journey of parenting while queer, non-binary and black.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
CC: How would you describe yourself?
NM: I would describe myself as a black, queer mother, and simply, an individual navigating through the complexities of the all three — something not taught in black communities and households.
CC: When did you know you were attracted to people of the same gender — girls, women, et cetera?
NM: I think I knew quite early on, but couldn't necessarily grasp the concept of same-gender attraction at such a young age. Throughout elementary school, I felt asexual — having no sexual feelings or desires for “either” gender — leading my peers to believe that if I didn't like boys, then I must've liked girls. I now can see that my lack of physical and sexual desire could have been related to my lack of knowledge. Sexuality, gender, et cetera, was not discussed in my household. The same taboo holds true in many black households.
In high school, I dated men, including a trans man — someone who I'd been told was born a woman, but who identified as a male. At the time, I knew nothing about trans individuals. It was something him and I never spoke about, and instead we just focused on our connection and friendship, relationship.
In college, specifically at age 21, I began dating women. It was then that I truly noticed my sexual and gender fluidity. It was more natural for me to connect with a woman than it ever was for me to connect with any cisgender man. That was a defining moment for me in more ways than one.
CC: When did you come out or start coming out?
NM: Age 21, to my mother, when she began noticing that I was immersing myself in people I felt more comfortable around — those in the LGBT+ community. I later began coming out to my closest friends. Openly to ‘social media? A few months ago.
CC: When did you have your child?
NM: I had Sanaa on July 20, 2016.
It was unplanned, but she's my little blessing of an angel. She was conceived at a time of immense pain and grief for my family — after a loss — but she was born into love.
CC: What does being a mother mean to you?
NM: Motherhood means giving a human a chance at life: an opportunity to live, where the odds of being born are 400 trillion to 1. Motherhood is love, nurture, emotional, learning, growing, strength. Motherhood is difficult. Motherhood is rewarding. It's a gift. Being a mother is like being apart of a universe and a language that only mothers and their children understand. Black motherhood is even more extraordinary.
CC: What are your biggest challenges as a mom? What are your biggest triumphs?
NM: Biggest challenges: getting anything done when baby wants to watch movies, color, eat, throw toys at my head, go to the park and learn all at once. And all I want to do is sit down and enjoy like two seconds of peace. LMAO.
Seriously, motherhood is synonymously a challenge and a triumph. Inevitably, with one, comes the other.
CC: What has motherhood been for you?
NM: Lord! LOL. Motherhood for me has been an adventure, to say the least. It has been and will forever be a learning experience. In motherhood, your patience, resilience and lengths to which you will go (to provide for your family) are tested. There's a connection when you birth a child, and the depths of that connection and how instant it is differs for each mother.
To be honest, motherhood has been, by far, the hardest thing I have ever experienced. Women don't like to talk about the dark side of motherhood. My pregnancy and labor experience were challenging on their own. Baby blues soon turned into postpartum depression, which lasted over a year and a half. I knew that I loved [Sanaa] and wanted to provide the very best life for her. But it was a hard pill to swallow: knowing that I was being depended on— by this little human who I never met before— for survival and that she'd be a part of me for the rest of our lives.
Motherhood has been tears, sweat (literally), and sacrifice, but it hasn't changed what I want for myself. My path is different now; it includes my angel. I'm at a point in my life where I've moved away from my entire family to gain the space I so very much needed: to grow mentally, internally, and creatively, and to continue on the path I know I'm destined to explore.
It's not easy having a child when you're searching for who you are and your purpose, or when you're trying to juggle school, work, relationships, friendships, and family. It's not easy being a mother when those days come where you simply don't feel like it. There are zero off-days when you're a mother. However, I'm faithful in the process and confident that I wouldn't be dealt something I couldn't handle.
I'm happy to say that I feel better in my position as a mother than I did when my little nugget was first born. Don't get me wrong: sometimes, my days are trying. But it's about learning to navigate through this permanent life change. I'm learning to be more present with her and I'm focused on building our bond, a strong foundation.
I'm dedicated to teaching her the things I wish I knew growing up. The things they don't teach in school, and in black families and communities. I want to teach her how to break barriers, to be intuitive, to educate herself, to go after what she believes in, and the list goes on. I want her experiences growing up to be better than mine. How a child grows and who they grow into, is a direct reflection of what was experienced and surrounded her at home.
Most importantly, I've learned that you cannot be the best mother you can be unless you take care of yourself. This means mentally. This means doing things for yourself, big and small. This means putting your mental health first, above all, so that your mind can be clear and present — so as you accomplish your own goals and set your children up for the life you want them to have access to.
CC: What do you face as a queer mom (from straight people or people within the LGBT+ community) that other moms might not face?
NM: From cisgender people: the looks I get for being non-binary in the way that I dress, my choice to have a bald head and my sleeve of tattoos. Currently, I'm a relationship with someone of the LGB[T]+ community and I'm sure that's considered controversial in some households. But that's exactly why each individual has a single life to live: their own. I mind my business.
LGBT+ community: Many times, being queer and having a child will make others think that you're in a "phase." That maybe you're using the community as a ticket to explore since it didn't work out with your cisgender baby daddy. Personally, I'm an adult and have been genderfluid since I was a child, so it doesn't bother me.
Society has made queer mothers think that they are less of a mother if they're queer, and less queer, if you're a mother. Neither are true. Only you know who truly are. So allowing other to dictate the validity of your queerness or motherhood is so silly and ignorant. Half the people with uneducated opinions aren't queer and don't have kids.
So far, I've experienced more support from both groups of people, than hate. It's all love.
CC: What has been the most helpful to you on this journey?
NM: What has been most helpful to me on this journey is my faith in the universe, the creator, the purpose I am destined to fulfill — and all of the paths I'm meant to take along the way, no matter the level of difficulty. The support from my best friends and family has been unmatched.
It takes a village and a strong support system. This is not measured in size or the amount of people in your corner, but in the character quality and genuineness of those beside you, holding you up.
CC: What advice do you have to other queer moms?
NM: To be yourself, unapologetically. Don't be ashamed and don't closet yourself. You'll end up feeling more pain and the habit of dimming who you truly are for someone else's comfortability will subconsciously trickle down into how you raise your child. Do not make them suffer from your past pains.
If your fear is that you'll lose some people and their support, including family and friends: sis. let 'em go. They'll be alright. It's 2018. Focus on yourself, your child, and being your best self for you and for you child or children. Surround yourself with positive influences — people, things, activities. Be free, mama. 🍒