Navigating the good lesbian and the good mother discourses: Lesbian motherhood as a site of queer world making
The presentation interrogated how two of her lesbian mother participants navigate the conflicting hegemonic discourses of the good mother ideology and the imperative to be out. The analysis draws on in-depth narrative interviews based on the participants’ subjective cityscapes of Cape Town and their sexual life stories. The presentation will examine how they construct and perform their mothering identities and manage their relationship with their children as lesbian mothers. Through a focus on the counter narrative ‘private resistance/public complicity with good mother ideologies’, the presentation will centre on the participants’ evaluations and decisions about when to prioritise their own needs, and when to prioritise the needs and interests of their children. These negotiations will reveal the dynamic, complex understanding required of coming out processes and performing motherhood which do not reinforce the binaries along the lines of being in/out the closet, a lesbian/mother, good/bad mother. Their enactments of their mothering and sexuality, their relationships with their children, partners and families extend the practices and meanings of hegemonic motherhood and lesbian sexuality; contribute to the kaleidoscope of what is seen to be a family and family practice in South Africa and the terms on which family relationships are navigated.
Susan Holland-Muter recently completed her PhD within the Sociology Department, UCT. Her doctoral thesis is entitled Negotiating Normativities: Counter narratives of lesbian queer world making in Cape Town. She is currently completing a post doc with FASRU where she is exploring lesbian motherhood and intergenerational negotiations around sexuality and gender normativities and practice in the family.