It all goes back to the past (or does it?)

Whenever my mother and I argue, I’m transported back to the year 2001 when I came out.

My mother told me I shouldn’t live my life openly as a lesbian until my son turned 16.  He was a toddler.

She told me lesbians get AIDS.

She said other things, but those are the two that stick with me, the ones that I carry around in my pockets, even on days when I’m trying to travel light.

We had a disagreement the other day.


Xena, this lesbian misses you.

And there I was.  Back in 2001.  Imagine a younger, thinner Middle-age Butch.  Kissing Jessica Stein was out in theaters.  You could still find reruns of Xena: Warrior Princess on TV.  *Sigh*

There is nothing worse than believing that a parent does not accept you for who you are.  For who you have always been and will always be.  I feel judged for something over which I have no control.  I feel like I will never be good enough no matter how many good deeds I do.

I am 47 years old, and I still want my mother’s approval.

When I was an adult, my mother told me how she used to watch me and my brother play football through the kitchen window.  We used to play pick-up games of tackle football with the neighborhood kids on the stretch of grass in our backyard.

It is a pleasant childhood memory.

Our yard was bordered by a creek that formed a sideline that flowed quietly as we called plays in loud staccato voices.

Everything was measured in seconds.

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi …


Everything seemed electric and alive.

When we broke down time like that, we could feel each blade of grass, soft-sharp on the palms of our hands, staining our skin and the knees of our jeans lime green.  Everything felt electric and alive.  The grass, the dirt, the sky, the sun, our young bodies running as fast as our legs could carry us.

My mother says she was “mortified” watching me toss around my male playmates like sacks of flour.

The word “mortified” sticks with me, too.

It means she felt embarrassed, ashamed or humiliated.  In French, the word “mort” means death.

In my mind, my mother would rather be dead than have a daughter like me.  One who as a child could tackle a boy twice as big (wrap them up at the waist).  One who liked boy things.  One who still likes boy things.  One who likes girls.

When I was blowing off steam with W after the incident with my mother, I jokingly said I should transition to a man.  Maybe then my mother wouldn’t be so ashamed of me.

“This is my son,” she could say.  “Isn’t he handsome?”

“This is his wife.”

She could pay for the top surgery, we joked.

I wonder if this would make things better or worse.

I don’t have plans to transition.


This is where the secret meetings of butch lesbians take place.

For right now, I like being me.  I like wearing men’s clothes and baseball caps.  I like wearing neckties and my Timex Weekender watch with its oversized face.  I like watching ballgames and drinking beer.  I like tattoos, army boots, sneakers.  I like girls.  I really like girls.  The way they smell.  Their curves.  Their cleavage.  I like going to Home Depot and quietly nodding at the other butches as if we are members of a secret club.  I like getting my hair cut so short it feels like velvet on the back of my neck.

I wish my mother got it, got me.  At least a little bit, once in awhile.

As I start to lose interest in writing this post, I check my Twitter feed.

Marianne Williamson tweets:

“The past is over.  It can touch me not.”

— A Course in Miracles

Good Lord, don’t you hate it when the universe interferes with your sullenness and self-righteousness?  Curse you, universe!  Curse you, Marianne Williamson!  (Makes angry lesbian fist.)

Maybe my mother isn’t the one who needs to change.  Maybe I do.


17 responses to “It all goes back to the past (or does it?)

  1. Fabulous piece thanks for sharing. I’m not alone it seems my Mothers two phrases were “you can always turn back” & “Susan really doesn’t understand” she just doesn’t get it and never will. At 55 I no longer take part ownership of my Mothers issues they’re all hers. I sit back and see the whole person she is warts and all.

    • Yep. I hear ya. It’s irrational to expect other people to change.

      I know I have to look for support elsewhere, but I suppose there will always be that little girl inside of me who just wants to be loved for who she is.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. I don’t think the sting ever goes away completely. The best thing you can do is just live your life and be who you are and enjoy that. It’s sad that our parents can’t accept us or see us but it’s their loss more than ours. Your mom’s missing out and doesn’t even know it. She could be experiencing your life in high definition but she’s happy to see it in black and white and turn the channels manually. Sad.

  3. Love how that quote happened! …The Universe, (or as I am wont to say, ‘the Goddess’) is a bitch!

  4. Ugh. Sorry you’re feeling badly. I was fortunate enough to make peace with my mom before we lost her in 2012. As bad as losing her was, I can’t even imagine how much worse it would have been if we weren’t okay when the conversation ended. Sincerely wishing you both peace.

    • I went into therapy about a year ago to try to figure out how to mend my relationship with my mother. What I learned is that I need to set boundaries to have any relationship at all with her. When things settle down, I feel guilty. I try to make amends and lower my walls, but then something always happens and I retreat again. It is a cycle that I can’t figure out how to break. Thank you for your kind wishes.

  5. urbanmythcafe

    Nice post.
    This weekend, I am driving home to Erie PA to see my parents, and both of my siblings who will be in town. My mother is sure to drop some snotty remark about some way in which I am not good enough. My sister will do the same times ten.
    And yet, it is my mother’s approval that I have sought over the years. I learned a few years ago not to share any more with her.
    Strangely, my father, who has never made any nasty remarks about me, has been deemed by my mother as unable to handle the whole truth.
    So it goes.

    • Good luck with your visit. Weird how we are independent and grown but still seek our mothers’ approval. When I am in retreat mode, I do not share much with my mother. We talk about neutral things like the weather. I feel safest that way. Like your mother, mine insists that it is my father who can’t handle things.

  6. My mother never changed, she was always disappointed, and berated me to the day she died. I don’t know if she would have been happy if I had put on a skirt suit and heels and gotten a high paying corporate job – or if I had married and had kids. She might have found things to keep complaining about; she had an idea of the kind of mother/daughter relationship that she wanted, and we were never going to have it.

  7. First of all, I had to cut off contact with my mother because she was so scary. It still hurts and gives me nightmares. (And I’m not even butch, I just look like a middle class straight white chick with kids.)

    Second, I’m glad you’re out there. Every time I see an obviously butch woman out and about, I truly and deeply heave a sigh of relief and gratitude. Thanks thanks thanks.

    • We were at a pool party yesterday and talking about what it’s like to be a gay couple in today’s world. Someone said something about pretending to just be friends when I’m out in public with my partner. I explained how that doesn’t work with me because I look like a big ol’ butch woman. So, yeah, it’s not easy. But at the end of the day, it’s who I am.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. And sorry to hear about your mother-daughter relationship.

  8. I love this. Thanks for sharing, and so beautifully.

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