NEWS ANALYSIS BY KATE SOSIN
Court reporters love to talk about mothers. It is mothers who rush crying from courtrooms, mothers who are chosen to identify pictures of their slain sons, and mothers who wear black for months after their children are killed. Joy McCormack did all of those things last week as Berly Valladares, the gang member who supplied the TEC-9 gun that killed her son, was tried and convicted of his murder.
If all rules applied, the press should have had a field day with the family of deceased DePaul senior, Francisco "Frankie" Valencia, Jr. After all, he left behind not just one, but two mothers to mourn him. But what McCormack and Siu Moy learned this fall is something that a lot of gay parents have had to learn the hard way; not everyone understands LGBT families.
Moy and McCormack parented Frankie Valencia from the time he was a young boy until last fall, when gang members randomly shot and killed him outside a Humbolt Park Halloween party. Moy and McCormick spent last week in court at the first of what will be two murder trials. Valladares, 22, was convicted of first-degree murder Sept. 29 for providing the loaded gun that killed Valencia and injured his friend, Daisy Camacho. Narisco Gatica is expected to be tried this fall for allegedly pulling the trigger.
"In situations like this, people think about the mother and the father," McCormack said. "I don't think Siu's voice has been considered in this at all."
McCormack and Frankie's dad, Francisco Valencia, Sr., divorced at a young age. McCormack and Valencia, Sr., stayed close, and McCormack came out as a lesbian. Soon after, she met Moy, and they moved in together. Moy and McCormack raised Frankie and his brother, Victor, with help from their father. They called themselves the MMV family ( for Moy-McCormick-Valencia ) .
"The thing is, this is our normal," said McCormick of her family. "We really tried to raise our kids very intentionally." Sitting in the backyard of their Jefferson Park home, the couple recalled the early days: taking the boys to the park, museums and Great America. Every Sunday up until Frankie's last, they celebrated "Family Day." The couple now spends Sundays at the cemetery.
"Everything changed for us in less than a year," McCormack told Windy City Times.
When Frankie died, Moy was too upset to go to work, and she was fired from her job. McCormack says that had she and Moy been allowed to legally marry, Moy would have been seen as Frankie's parent, and she might have been able to keep her job.
Moy's family has also struggled to understand her relationship with Valencia, Jr. She said that some of her relatives had a hard time recognizing Valencia, Jr., as her "son." They call her frequently to check up on her because they know his death has affected her deeply, but they do not necessarily ask about her family.
Even friends of Moy and McCormack don't understand that both of them lost a son. Someone who followed the Valladares murder trial closely recently posted a homophobic comment on the "In Memory of Francisco Valencia" Facebook page. McCormack responded with an angry message.
But if anyone has failed to talk about Valencia, Jr.,'s family, it is generally the mainstream press. In almost a year of attentive coverage to Valencia's murder and family, it is nearly impossible to find even a mention of Moy. After Valladares was found guilty of slaying Valencia, the family held a press conference. A crowd of eager reporters waited for them to approach the microphone. Writers and cameramen puzzled aloud over who was the father, and who was the mother. This reporter pointed them out: "That's Frankie's mother. That's his other mother. And that's his father." One reporter asked for clarification of "other mother" three times. A moment later she would be the first mainstream reporter in the last year to interview Moy. Her question would be, "What is a co-parent?" Her report would misspell Moy's name.
"I don't think people want to deal with it," McCormack told Windy City Times. "There's no great title for Siu's role."
At times like this, the couple wonders if they should have raised Frankie and Victor to refer to Moy as "Mom." A clearer title might have alleviated some of the confusion. It also might have resulted in more support and sympathy for Moy in the last year.
Carlos Uribe, the national program director at COLAGE, an organization of children of LGBTQ parents, said that the media fails to mention queer parents a lot. "We see a lot of times that our families are isolated," he said. "And it's being left out of the media. "
Uribe also said that LGBT parents and their children who are affected by a lack of media portrayals. "We understand that our families are being discriminated against. It's not just our parents. It's our families."
If Moy was angry that she has been omitted from her son's story, she didn't show it. A quiet presence in court and in person, Moy cried at McCormack's side for the duration of Valladaras's trial. Frankie's name has been tattooed on her arm for a few years now, along with "Victor" and "Joy."
"We're just regular people," Moy said of gay parents, as she fought back tears. "We're just regular people. We're just regular families."
McCormack said that her son worked to educate his community about LGBT issues. He regularly attended gay-rights rallies, and he and Victor made shirts every year for the Chicago Pride Parade that read: "We love our gay parents."
Shortly before he was murdered, Frankie made a special trip to Andersonville book shop, Women and Children First. He bought a copy of Out and Proud in Chicago: A Visual History of Chicago's Gay Movement and shipped it to Joy and Siu. During his last speech at DePaul's Presidential Diversity Brunch, he pointed to his own family as an example of true diversity.
McCormick and Moy keep a picture that was taken on the day Frankie was buried. In the picture, the sun is shining though bare branches. It's a calm day, autumn day, without rain or fog. In the center of the photo, they say, is a message from their son. Unmistakably in the light, one will make out a faint rainbow against the clouded sky.