My Bi Mom Came to Visit...

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My Bi Mom Came to Visit...

I was raised in a lesbian family in Minneapolis and one of my moms came to visit me in New York this weekend. I thought I’d take a little break from the God talk and give you a glimpse of what my amazing 62-year-old mom thinks about dykedom, coming out, feminism and her hopes for my generation. Her words may not be from an ancient text, but they carry wisdom I learn from again and again.

What does dyke culture mean to you?
Dyke culture... I hear it in my context of years ago even if it has been reclaimed today. There are two images that come to mind from days gone by. First, I see a dark, smokey, lesbian bar with the "untouchables" hanging out drinking... a sorry lot that felt very marginalized. In contrast to that one, there was the blossoming lesbian culture I was a part of in the early 1970s who defiantly challenged the patriarchy. This was a political group who believed that "the personal was political" and that the lesbians were the chosen people who had the courage to enact in their lifestyle what the chicken-hearted feminists could only discuss in their salons.

Different times…

What was YOUR version of dyke culture in bloom?
The Michigan Womyn's Festival was the annual pilgrimage for the true believers... a place where one could break free of any and all male bondage; a place where you could eat brown rice and vegetarian meals as you danced on the tables topless. You could stroll hand-in-hand with your girlfriend to hear whatever woman-identified singer appealed to you. You could buy their records and various goddess figurines to take home from the promised land to sustain you until the following year's festival.

When did you come out?
It was a euphoric time that rode on the coattails of the civil rights and feminist movements. It was a time when one questioned every patriarchal assumption. It was a time when one could examine every nook and cranny of one's own identity. It was a time to stretch one's emotional and political boundaries and to throw oneself into the rapids of change. This is the context in which I learned how to swim and thrive with women partners.

ashley-mom

Ashley and her mom. Photo by Angela Jimenez.

What did you come out as?
Over time, I carved out my personal identity of being "bisexual." Coming of age in the '60s and '70s, I strongly believed in the idea of being able to have free choice in every possible domain. This was not welcomed news with many in the lesbian community. It was viewed as selling out and not facing what must surely be internalized homophobia. Bisexual-identified women lost respect and friends from many in the community. Those that chose a man as a partner after having been with women were banished from the inner sanctuary of the lesbian community in much the same way as in the Amish culture... you had to choose one or the other, and God forbid if you made the wrong decision.

What lessons would you pass on to my generation?
Ultimately, I believe one has to not "come out," but to come home. It is an honorable struggle to wrestle with oneself about where you feel most comfortable. You may face disdain from others, but you need to hold steady. One does not need to be owned by any political or social group. If marrying a woman feels just right, do it. If having a baby warms your heart, do it. If you desire many partners and shedding the confines of monogamy feels right (and you have the energy), do it. Stay true and open to yourself. Just remember, all of these conscious choices were built on the backs of many before you who had the courage to swim in the rapids.



Comments [29]

Beautiful_Dreamer's picture

Beautiful photo...

It's a beautiful photograph, you have a beautiful mother and she has beautiful wise words

The Dreamer

Gem's picture

Truly wise and inspiring

Truly wise and inspiring words... Here's to our foremothers!!!

Angela Jimenez's picture

oooh this is a beautiful

oooh this is a beautiful post. "Ultimately, I believe one has to not “come out,” but to come home." word. i'd like to hear from all of our mothers, in whatever form they take. thanks for her story.

lucia_2008's picture

1970's, good to hear from

1970's, good to hear from someone who was there with the rest of us. Thanks for sharing. Tell you Mother thank you!

Smile...life is good!!!

Ashley Harness's picture

She just read this and sends

She just read this and sends thanks back!

ann's picture

I'd like to see a return to

I'd like to see a return to large pagan women's festivals again. I don't know if the Michigan one still happens. Guess I'll look it up.

I guess I'd like to see LOVE between gay women. And women loving women. That doesn't mean women screwing each other. But women really loving the woman-ess of women again. Womyn finding womyn.

Just don't see much caring at all from lesbians now. A friend said to me recently, "gay women now are gay men." The male-ness is worshipped now, not the female-
ness. I guess that is why this generation has so much trouble 'getting' feminism - they are too male-identified.

Grace Moon's picture

it sure does still happen.

it sure does still happen.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Not2Taem's picture

Hmm... I'm not at all

Hmm... I'm not at all traditionally femme, and such a feminist. I think what you may be seeing as an emphasis on masculine traits is what I see as a welcome breakdown in the need to delineate what can be feminine. Strong women should not have to be femme to be feminine, or feminist.

I am Womyn. Hear me fucking roar!

Ashley Harness's picture

I have this conversation with

I have this conversation with my mom ALL the time. I think we needed her version of feminism (and the movement that came with it) to get to a broader version I think you're articulating.

LongBeachDogLover's picture

What a wonderfully,

What a wonderfully, supportive environment to grow up in.....

ann's picture

wow, great thoughts. "One

wow, great thoughts.

"One does not need to be owned by any political or social group."

My sentiments, exactly.

And great shot, Angela.

Not2Taem's picture

"come home" - Kind of sums it

"come home" - Kind of sums it all up.

Thanks for the positive note. Laughing out loud

~gk's picture

Great Mom story! And I

Great Mom story! And I completely agree with the coming home. My wife has been interviewing elderly lesbians and when they describe walking into the bars (during the 50s) many have described it as coming home. And as I drive up through the gates of Michfest, all those smiling womyn greet me with "welcome home." Whether it's a place within or a place you go to see yourself in others, home is sacred space. Thanks for the beautiful article.

Ashley Harness's picture

Yes. I think that's my

Yes. I think that's my favorite thing that my mom said in this piece. I'd be curious about your wife's research. Is she releasing it anywhere? I've been thinking about doing interviews with a bunch of the radical lesbian feminists I grew up around...

~gk's picture

She's supposed to publish

She's supposed to publish next year with Equinox Press, "Baby, You're My Religion" and has nearly 80 interviews. But definitely, if you're thinking about it, do the interviews. In general GLBT histories have been nearly invisible. If you need help, send a note.

LongBeachDogLover's picture

Sounds awesome......... :)

Sounds awesome......... Smile

yonks's picture

You look more like two

You look more like two sisters than like a child and mom

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

Ashley Harness's picture

Oh does my mom loooooove you.

Oh does my mom loooooove you.

yonks's picture

:oops: i know what you think

:oops: i know what you think but for once its true...

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

amanda's picture

it's cause of how you two

it's cause of how you two smile!

minniesota's picture

Wow, I love that photo of you

Wow, I love that photo of you and your Mom, Ashley!

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Kelly's picture

word

word

Ashley Harness's picture

It's all about the

It's all about the photographer. Check out more of her work at www.angelajimenezphotography.com.

peacekitty's picture

Me too, that's the first

Me too, that's the first thing I noticed. Great picture!

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

Xanadu's picture

*Awww* ... I'd like to be

*Awww* ... I'd like to be adopted by Ashley's mother Cool

Ashley Harness's picture

Maybe I'll start renting the

Maybe I'll start renting the moms out. I mean, it's a recession after all;)

yonks's picture

maybe i can adopt you, i'v

maybe i can adopt you, i'v baked cookies for you, don't forget to wash your hands.

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

Xanadu's picture

;-)

Wink

Steph H's picture

Truly uplifting, thank you.

Truly uplifting, thank you.