Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Often when I think about lesbian mothers I think about foremothers. Foremothers are generally women that I haven’t met and women that I admire profoundly. Women after whom I want to emulate my life. Foremothers are important to me as a lesbian, but this isn’t about foremothers. This is about my lesbian mother. That term feels a little too familiar, since I haven’t talked to my lesbian mother in years now – long enough to elicit enormous guilt in anyone let alone someone like me who me prone to guilt. Nonetheless, I still want to pay homage to my lesbian mother.

What is a lesbian mother? A lesbian mother is a lesbian who meets and befriends you early in the coming out process, often before you can even say casually and aloud, I am a lesbian. A lesbian mother is the woman who helps you understand what it means to be a lesbian beyond the pages of a book or the confines of a barroom. A lesbian mother is first and always a friend and not a love interest. A lesbian mother is the woman with the confidence of being a lesbian herself who inspires you to want to be a confident lesbian yourself. A lesbian mother is the person with whom you can practice your lesbian look. A lesbian mother will gently correct you on all matters of lesbian etiquette from hair and clothes to dating and socializing. A lesbian mother will comfort you during your first rejection and celebrate with you after your first kiss.

My lesbian mother was a woman named Lynn D’Orio. I met her in the late 1980s. She was a member of the feminist collective at the Women’s Crisis Center. I joined immediately and she schooled me in the nature of consensus decision-making, understanding empathy in a group process, and having humor in the face of the impact of patriarchy on women’s lives.

Lynn was nearly twenty years older than me. I don’t remember her exact age because it wasn’t important. What was important is that she was older and wiser and most significantly she was able to share her wisdom without judgment. Lynn lived in a large and lovely house in Ann Arbor; I know because like all good lesbian mothers she invited me to her home and treated me as a friend and family member while I was there. She had matching furniture and a well-stocked kitchen. These are things that I aspired to have in my lesbian future.

More than physical things, however, Lynn had a confidence in herself and the conviction that she would do what she wanted to do in this lifetime and live the way that she wanted to live. This may be what I admired most about her when we were friends. It is definitely what I took with me from her as my lesbian mom.

Lynn’s confidence and conviction were tested when she was my lesbian mom. She and her partner of many years broke up. That brought her great sadness, but she handled it with strength and grace. During my own break-ups, I’ve chided myself for not emulating her more. Lynn went back to college to become a lawyer and in doing so left behind her life as a saleswoman. Now, years later and about her age when she befriended me, I find myself getting a master’s degree surrounded by young men and women in their early twenties. I now realize even more the challenges she must have faced returning to law school. I admire Lynn and even though we haven spoken recently, I remember her as a source of strength in my own journey.

I don’t think that I ever adequately honored Lynn as my lesbian mother. So writing this is in many ways my honoring of her friendship in my life. Lynn was a great lesbian mom to me, and I’m sure, as it’s her way, to many others.

Thinking about my lesbian mom makes me wonder: Who was your lesbian mom? How have you honored her? To whom are you a lesbian mom? How can you honor our community by being a lesbian mom to someone who needs one?

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #7 dated July 24, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 696

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