Death of a Reluctant Lesbian - Ode to my mother
I said goodbye to my motherʼs physical form five months ago exactly - ironically today is also Gay Pride Parade day in NYC. It's a double anniversary of sorts, as Mama passed on another very auspicious occasion, my sonʼs 11th birthday. Despite not having parade kind of energy today, I still wanted to do something to honor my mother, and our family.
Having just returned from the second cross country flight since her death, I found my bed littered with the "things" I collected from my recent trip. My mom's partner of 28 years, Sue, had graciously brought me home for a respite from my recent months' challenges and sorrow, and so that I could help sort through items of precious memory: photographs, remaining copies of her self-published poetry books, and yes, a rather substantial gay pride t-shirt collection.
Maybe I should have gone to the parade. After all my mother rarely missed one in the days we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and later, West Hollywood, CA. I affectionately called my mom the most reluctant lesbian you'd ever meet. Her reticense was not owing to any self-loathing at being gay. On the contrary, over the years her pride grew with every passing parade; hence the overflowing t-shirt drawer. But let's just say her Higher Self had a long hard struggle with her ego-construct and inner demons she battled throughout her life, which made it difficult for her to stand up for herself - and not just in ways of defining and defending her choice of whom to love. In the end, she did create the life she wanted, craved for and fantasized about. And in the process she taught me to identify, elevate and celebrate my core essence.
Mama, was a mildly more reserved but nonetheless strong and proud lesbian. My self-professed nickname of the "Spiritually Sexy" Diva Mama is due in part to the inspiration she has provided me. Our shared history has shaped the woman I am and it's only fitting that on this day of celebration in NYC honoring the openly passionate, proud and strong, I honor my mother, and all she has taught me about the pursuit of truth, creativity and happiness.
Mama was a published poet and writer, a dreamer, a dedicated mother and partner, and one of the most authentic souls anyone who knew her had ever come across.
Ignoring my still open and overflowing suitcase just hours ago, I decided to wait on the unpacking of some of the treasures I have now inherited. Instead I re-read a copy of a printed article she had given me just three days before she passed. A yellow edged copy, slightly crinkled and tucked behind her Masters Diploma; it was a piece published in the Gay News, March 22, 1984. I won't reveal the pseudonym, because some of my family members wish for me to protect her privacy (and so again rises the image of a "reluctant lesbian ghost").
Yet I knew the author's heart and honesty before any of my siblings, biological or the later adopted two; even before her beloved Sue, partner of 28 years. I didn't have a second mom back when the article was written. I had a father who slept in a separate bed and preferred his Ivy League office to our noisy home bursting with five kids and a dog. But I was old enough to remember when - and why - my mother wrote it. Even now, I can flash back to a single conversation, in Mamaʼs writerʼs room, where she shared that she had created a pen name. "Why?" I asked. Her answer was simple: “Because some people just wouldnʼt understand.”
And that was true - then. In the mid-80s not everyone understood or accepted, much less celebrated these kinds of lifestyle and identity choices.
But I did. Always had. My Mama came out to me when I was 12, and though her life wasn't always easy, and often it was difficult, Mama was a true pioneer, even though she never saw herself in that light. Mama didn't want the spotlight, but somehow, at least for all of us in her circle, she was our star, our beacon, our rock. It was with quiet strength, dignity and an internal fortitude unmatched and unmitigated that Mama led her life.