A SHARED PASSION
Desiree Michelle Flores & Leslie Anne Mackrell | NEW YORK
We grew up on opposite U.S. coasts and are thankful to have been brought together by jobs at the Ms. Foundation for Women in New York City, where we’ve lived for over a decade. One of us (Desiree) hails from the farm fields of Tulare, California and was born in nearby Delano, also the birthplace of the United Farm Workers. The other (Leslie) was born in South Carolina and grew up in upstate New York, outside of Albany. We currently live in Inwood, a wonderful neighborhood at the top of Manhattan.
We met in 2007 when Leslie interviewed and was chosen for a job at the Ms. Foundation for Women where Desiree had been working since 2001. As close work collaborators, we became fast friends, each with an admiration for the other’s professional instincts and colorful sense of humor. Our natural tendencies are so different, something we believe sparked interest and curiosity. We worked on many strategic plans and noticed they were better when created by both of us. One of us starts in the clouds and the other in the weeds which we’ve found makes for a winning combination!
We started dating in 2010 after Desiree ended a ten-year run at Ms. and moved to Boston for graduate school. Around that time, Leslie finished her tenure at Ms. and began work at a New York City consulting firm. While we had been close friends and co-workers, the discovery that each of us had developed deeper feelings for the other came as a mutual and huge surprise. We say the biggest and best surprise of our lives! That said, beginning a relationship at this time of intense transition was part crazy and perhaps part self-torture to say the least! We made it work and both knew early on we wanted to go through this mad world together.
Although we come from different places and cultures (Desiree is a Mexican-American/Chicana and Leslie of mixed European/Irish descent), we’ve found the importance we each place on family to be exactly the same. We each come from big extended families that mean the world to us. Our hope is to one day have a family of our own and experience the joy (and extreme exhaustion, we’re sure!) that comes with raising kids.
We were married in Hudson, New York on May 17, 2014. It was a miraculous and magical day for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that all our family was there. Like so many LGBT people, we each had to navigate in our own ways the fact that this was the first gay wedding in our families. Fears and expectations of all kinds are heightened when any couple gets engaged, and they are certainly magnified when it’s a couple seen as nontraditional. In the end, it was the most joyous celebration made perfect by all our friends and family who showed the most perfect, tremendous support and pride. We watched love trump fear right before our very eyes that day. In many ways, it was the human reflection of all the research and polling that tells us people, especially Latinos, are not only supportive of their LGBT family members but celebrate them because familia truly is familia. That day, the Irish became Mexicans and vice versa! Our only regret is we couldn’t get a mariachi band in Hudson!
Being legally married is something we are so grateful to experience in our lifetime. Yes, the civil and government benefits are important and certainly due to us as a human right - - however, the feeling and certainty of it is just as special. We think people should always feel the right and power to marry or not marry and live the life they want to live. For us, we truly love being married and calling each other “wife.” It feels like the universe unfolded the way it was meant to for us and so many (through hard fought advocacy, of course). It’s important to note we place huge importance on advocating for all issues affecting the very diverse LGBTQ community’s lived experiences. With roots and ties to Latinos and other communities who often live at the intersections of many unjust disparities, we fight for undocumented LGBTQ people, LGBTQ homeless youth, trans criminalization and resiliency, the young queer African-American activists on the front lines in Ferguson, Missouri and so many others unable to separate their identities. They are not only the “next generation” but the current power of our movement.
We are grateful to be living in a time when our lives are possible, recognized and increasingly lived with greater support. We are also grateful for efforts like Familia es Familia who provide crucial information and allow us to tell our story. It is but one small story in a sea of others across the country that proves the arc of history really does bend toward justice – and love.