My experiences as a lesbian mother have been as varied as any mother’s. For me, being part of a small but closely-knit gay and lesbian community in Hawaii has given me a kind of support that few mothers find in the isolation of mainstream American society today.
[…] In late 1976, the handful of lesbians and gay men I knew decided to form a support group. Within a month of our first public announcements, up to thirty people were attending meetings. We have now grown from the original group of six to a non-profit educational organization providing support, services, and social contact to hundreds of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people in Hawaii.
As one of the few mothers active in this organization, I have sometimes found difficulty in attending events for which child care was not provided, or encountered prejudicial attitudes because I chose to bear and raise heterosexually-conceived children. Much more often, though, I have received support and affirmation as a lesbian mother from my community. Recently a lesbian couple told me that observing my parenting has given them hope that they could successfully raise a child, something both want but hadn’t thought they could do as lesbians. I am often acknowledged as a good mom — and when the going gets rough there are some gay and lesbian parents of now-grown children to whom I can turn for advice. I believe my experience and awareness as a lesbian mother enriches this community. My openness about my sexual orientation and the comfortable level of communication I’ve fostered with my children serves as a role model to other lesbian and gay parents.
When, a few months after my son’s birth, I took a part-time job, a gay male friend did child care every week — and usually cooked dinner for us too — for free. He did this not only because he enjoyed my children (they weren’t always enjoyable!) but because he feels it’s important for gentle, caring gay men to be part of children’s lives. (This same man and other gay brothers provided free child care at our annual women’s conference for several years.)
When my daughter was dying of brain tumors in 1980, it was two of my lesbian sisters who came to our home, softly singing and talking and comforting both of us through that last, long night. Later, when the shock wore off and the reality of her death hit me full force, it was lesbian sisters who took me into their homes and hearts, giving me the support and safety I needed to work through my grief, remorse, and pain.
Today, the lesbians and gay men in our community are my son’s friends as well as mine. They play with him, exchange information and ideas with him, and provide him with role models of nurturing, interesting, kind adults who enjoy a cooperative way of life. He is welcome at and enjoys many of our social events, and I see that his participation brings enjoyment and awareness to the non-parents in our community as well. One night at a party a group of gay men included my son in a dice game they were playing, apologetically telling him it would cost him fifty cents, fairly high stakes for a ten-year-old. However, they hadn’t counted on his luck with the roll; by the end of the game, they were all out fifty cents, and he left with a pocketful of change for the weekend!
[…] I do believe that having an openly lesbian mother who feels good about herself and being raised in such a community gives children such as mine a foundation of acceptance for the wide range of human differences with which we are blessed. In addition, these children will exercise an informed freedom of choice which few children raised in today’s repressively heterosexist society enjoy. It’s not all roses, both my son and I have been the subject of a few rude remarks due to my lesbianism. But as my son once said, “That’s a dumb thing to tease anyone about!”
What’s it like, being a lesbian mother? Is it difficult? Is it challenging? Is it fun? YOU BET! I wouldn’t miss any of it!
Karen Anna, “Life as a Lesbian Mother” from We Are Everywhere: Writings By & About Lesbian Parents (1988).
Anna’s author bio:
I live on the island of Maui in Hawaii, where I work as a counselor/advocate for battered women and their children, do free-lance photography, raise my son, tend my plants, and edit a monthly newsletter for the gay/bi/lesbian community.
My photographs have appeared in The Blatant Image, Common Lives/Lesbian Lives, On Our Backs, Yoni, Honolulu Magazine, and Best of Photography Annual 1987. My multi-image slide shows are becoming a legend in their own time.
While at work I saw this guy. He was a middle aged local kanak. He had the huge gauges, choke choke piercing on his face, along with choke tattoo’s on his face and body. Really strange looking guy that people blantly stare at him because of all his piercing and tattoo’s. Well, that guy happens to be one of the most sweetest guy. While passing an old white lady struggling to get a bag she wanted from a high place, he stopped and helped her get it down. The lady was in shock, but very thankful, by calling the guy cute as well as sweet. Meanwhile i’m there looking at it all happen from a far thinking that was such a wonderful thing to witness. Something simple.
Moral of the story: No judge, duh! Also, local people are by far nice. I mean, we got some of the coo-coo ones, but the nice aloha showing ones makes up for it.