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Modern Family

One couple proves that modern is more traditional than we think

by Terrina Weatherspoon, Defense Media Activity
23 June 2016 The world has come a long way since two people were sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. The traditional idea of first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage has given way to reality shows where strangers marry upon first sight, people in love make a mutual decision to never marry, and children are sometimes never part of the equation. So two people who love each other, choose to get married, and who together are raising a child to the best of their abilities seems pretty traditional - even if both of those people are women.

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Jazmine Anderson and her wife, Chief Culinary Specialist Tamara Larrison, don't necessarily see anything modern in how they are living their lives. Except for maybe their kitchen design, everything in their life screams tradition. They are both patriotic and wanted to serve their country. They struggled through young adulthood trying to find their own way. They met each other at a time in their lives when they needed each other the most, with Anderson, a newly single mother who finally realized she couldn't continue to live a lie and Larrison on the brink of ending a loveless marriage. There may not have been kissing in a tree, but there was love, marriage, and a baby - and nothing modern about it.

Before the Navy

Tamara Larrison realized she liked girls in 4th grade, but that didn't stop her from having boyfriends. She was trying to do the right thing, or what she thought was the right thing at the time, by God and her family.

"My stepdad found an email to my then girlfriend the beginning of my senior year of high school," said Larrison, who is from Santa Maria, California. "That did not go well at all. My mom drove to my girlfriend's house and told her parents and then pulled me out of school until we moved two hours away."

In Long Beach, California, a little more than three hours from Santa Maria, Jazmine Anderson was also struggling. She realized in elementary school that she had no intimate feelings for boys, but was also afraid to express herself to the girls in her class. She chose to stay isolated.

I had a few boyfriends here and there because that is what I was 'supposed to do' but I felt nothing but friendship for them. I had talked to a few different girls, but I risked opening myself up to discrimination and I didn't know if I was ready for that." -Jazmine Anderson

With Anderson dealing with the loss of her brother, college financial issues, and a recent move, she was ready to get away and start her own life. Larrison was looking for structure, stability and opportunity; they both eventually ended up joining the Navy. They were ready for the chance to see the world. What they didn't realize at the time, was the world, much like their families, wasn't quite ready to see them.

Life under DADT

It was very hard. It didn't make sense to me that I am ready to risk my life for everyone in America and yet I can't love who I choose without fearing that it could affect my career and possibly get me kicked out." -Tamara Larrison

The hardest part for Larrison was going on deployment and knowing that if anything life threatening happened to her first wife (they were legally married, but never filed the paperwork due to Larrison's fears in regard to her career - and they have since divorced), there was no way she could go on emergency leave to see her; no way she could attend the funeral and no way she could even truly express herself at work. And vice versa, if something happened to her she would have to hope and pray that her unsupportive family would inform and include her ex.

"I love being me and talking about my life, so it was hard to not be able to share things with my coworkers at all unless I thoroughly thought it through as to how to turn it into a story that fit for me and my "fiance."

Anderson was also living a much different version of herself for a long time, even eventually marrying a man and having a child. She wouldn't fully reveal herself to her family and friends for years to come.
VIRIN: 160623-N-HV737-003

"Coming into the military I knew I could never be my true self if I wanted to make it a career," said Anderson. "I wanted a family. When I met my son's father I settled and got married. Our relationship never evolved into more than a friendship so when things got rocky I decided I would rather be alone and just continue to hide who I was than to live an unhappy life."

Larrison and Anderson met aboard USS Carl Vinson in September 2010 where Larrison was assigned. Anderson's squadron was attached to the ship and she went TAD to the same Mess as Larrison. At the time Larrison was in a same-sex marriage, but everyone, including Anderson, thought she was engaged to a man.

"Almost a year into our friendship she revealed to me that she was in fact married to a woman and the photos around the office were of her wife's brother," said Anderson. "We were both in the middle of separating from our then current spouses. Dealing with similar situations brought us closer together."

Larrison and Anderson would not officially begin their relationship until DADT was repealed.

After DADT

"Going from where the Navy was to where it is now - it's exciting," said Larrison. "The Navy has come a long way. I am happy with how far we have come thus far. I have only come across one boss who treated me different once he found out I was a lesbian but luckily the rest of my chain of command backed me and it didn't affect my career."

Although Larrison was happy, she remained very hesitant. She said there were still so many people who were used to things being a certain way and who were told essentially that it was okay for them to treat homosexuals as if they were not good enough to serve with them.

That way of thinking was not going to change overnight, so I remained hesitant on who I opened up to. Now I couldn't care less what people think and don't worry about who knows at all. -Tamara Larrison

VIRIN: 160623-N-HV737-004

"I will happily tell every person in this world how amazing and gorgeous my wife is and how handsome and cute our son is."

Anderson said it is a wonderful thing to not have to hide the person you love from the career that consumes most of your life. But Anderson revealed in the same breath, that it is still a scary situation.

"You never really know how people will react," said Anderson. "Some of your closest colleagues could become enemies. The hatred for my lifestyle runs so deep in so many people's hearts."

Although who I love can no longer end my career, the decision to be out can make for a very unsafe environment. Some families won't allow their child to play with ours because of it." -Jazmine Anderson

Both Larrison and Anderson commented on how far the Navy has come in regard to the acceptance of LGBT, even recognizing and openly celebrating their community.

"I believe policy will continue to change and get better," said Anderson. "However, no amount of policy will change an individual's heart. The biggest issue is the ignorant individuals amongst our ranks who will view our lives as an abomination and who will have no desire to try to understand that we are all the same no matter who we love, what color our skin is, or what gender we identify with."

First Came Love and Then Marriage

After meeting and becoming fast friends, Larrison and Anderson began confiding in each other. Both were going through a rough patch in their personal lives, and both were dedicated to their careers in the Navy. About a year into their friendship, they began to realize their friendship was evolving into a relationship.

"We went to talk to the XO of the ship about it," said Anderson. "We wanted to make sure there were no lines being crossed and no issues with it. We wanted to be together, but not at the expense of our careers."

"I love how real she is with everything and everyone in life," said Larrison. "There are no secrets. I love how outgoing she is. She is always initiating outdoorsy things. Her heart is so incredibly huge for everyone. There are a million things about her that I fell in love with and I find more all the time, but since the beginning just everything that makes her who she is has changed my mind, my heart, my life."
VIRIN: 160623-N-HV737-001

Anderson felt the same way.

"I would talk to Tam and she would tell me how she wants to surprise Angie (her ex-wife) with a picnic and a whole romantic evening," said Anderson. "But I would hear from her later that Angie wanted nothing to do with any of it. I told myself if I am ever blessed with someone so thoughtful and loving I would show that person how much they were loved and appreciated. At that point I had no thoughts that Tam and I would ever be together. You can always tell who a person truly is by how they treat the people who can do nothing for them. People didn't work for her because they were afraid of her; they did their best because they didn't want to disappoint such an amazing leader. I still look up to her."

Larrison and Anderson were living in separate states when Larrison realized she wanted to take the relationship to the next level. Larrison was living in California and Anderson was in Washington. It was during a trip to San Diego that Larrison decided to pop the question.
VIRIN: 160623-N-HV737-005

"I was coming down to visit Tam told me to bring a white dress because her roommate, who worked for a radio station, had gotten us tickets to an all-white party that was being thrown by Alicia Keys," said Anderson. "Once I'm in San Diego the day the event was supposed to take place Tam wanted to go out for breakfast at a place by Seal Beach. After breakfast we were supposed to head to the event. Tam wanted to look at the seals. So we walk down to the waterline to watch the seals. While we're watching the seals she pulls out a big box. We are always getting each other gifts so I didn't think anything of it. She hands me the box I open it up and a dozen or more butterflies fly out. The top of the box said will you marry me?"

When Anderson looked back Larrison was down on one knee with a ring.

"Of course I'm crying," said Anderson. "Then she tells me there is no event and the white dress is for us to do an engagement photo shoot. It turns out her friend had been following us since the restaurant taking pictures of everything. We had an amazing photo shoot by the water."

But the proposing didn't end there. Anderson told Larrison that EVERY girl deserves to be proposed to. So during a San Diego Pride ceremony Anderson planned to propose on stage in front of the crowd. When that didn't work out she was not detoured. She realized the crowds and the stage didn't matter, only her love for Larrison. So she got down on one knee in front of one of the tents and just asked.

"I said yes!" said Larrison. "There were a lot of people that stopped to watch and take pictures, which was nice. We ended up getting a few of the photos so now I can look back on them whenever I want. It was really sweet. I love her so much."
VIRIN: 160623-N-HV737-006

Three is Company

Anderson brought more than just herself into the marriage. She brought her 2-year-old son Anthony, or AJ as they like to call him. For Larrison, that little boy was not baggage; he was part of a perfect package.

"AJ's father is still involved in his life and our relationship with him is focused on AJ and successfully co-parenting," said Anderson.

Anderson is proud of the fact that there is no ill-will between her and AJ's father. They get along fine and there is no drama. And to AJ, the entire situation just equals more people to love him. Larrison came into his life at such a young age, that AJ doesn't remember a life without her in it.

"He will ask who named him, Jazmine or me, and he asks me to show him baby pictures from when he was born," said Larrison. "It's adorable. All he knows is Jazmine and I are his mommy and mama and that is just how it is and always has been."

Larrison loves kids and said that AJ is one of the best children in the world. But admits she may be a little biased!

"His heart he got from his mommy for sure," said Larrison. "I was able to have him come live with me for a year and a half while Jasmine was doing work ups and deployment and it was an amazing time for both of us. We were able to bond and became very close. He is my world!

Larrison's family still isn't very supportive. She said she wishes she could share all her stories with them, but realizes she is a lot more fortunate than a lot of gays and lesbians in that she is still able to have a relationship with them. She will take what she can get and be thankful and appreciative for it.

"My brother is very supportive and loves Jazmine and AJ just the same," said Larrison. "The rest of my family have come a long way but are still not supportive of my choices. They love me and treat AJ and Jazmine very nice and love them but still do not and probably will never be supportive of our life."
VIRIN: 160623-N-HV737-002

Anderson's mother is still getting used to everything. Anderson didn't come out to her until her and Larrison started getting serious.

"My family was skeptical at first," said Anderson. "Even though my family has never had anything bad to say about the LGBT community, I think it was just something to get used to when it was so close to home. My mother told me it is not easy to see and hear so many people having opinions on my life, and she is trying to understand it all herself but after losing a son to cancer she will not let who I love take her out of my life."

Then Comes Baby

"We definitely want to have more kids," said Larrison. "It has been a dream of mine to be pregnant and I have wanted to carry a child since I was in high school. I can't wait and we already have a name picked out. We are hoping for a girl, but we will be happy either way, and the name can be used for a girl or a boy."

The name is Jordan Taylor Amari (the initials JTA for Jazz, Tam, and AJ.)

"People have this idea that because I dress a little boyish I don't love being a woman," said Larrison.

As a woman with the ability to carry a child, I want to make sure I get to experience all of that. I love being a woman." -Tamara Larrison

"I have no desire to give birth again," said Anderson. "But it has always been Tam's dream to be pregnant and be a mother and I want her to experience that. I also want the child to be as much ours as possible."

Although the couple agreed a sperm donor would not be out of the question, they came up with what they believe to be a better option. They asked Anderson's brother to donate.

"My brother Brandon was happy to assist," said Anderson. "All he asked is for us to talk to lawyers and write up the paperwork to diminish any legal rights he would have over our child. All Brandon wants out of this is for us to be happy and for him to be an uncle and nothing more."

Love, marriage and babies. Nothing could be more traditional.