As the nation collectively realizes some hard truths about racial discrimination and injustice and many advocate for systemic and sustainable change, it has become increasingly clear that while motherhood may unite us, other identifying aspects of our person may sadly divide us, leaving many mothers without a tribe or, perhaps, with a tribe that often unknowingly doesn’t feel truly inclusive or reflective of that mother’s truth.
When we talk about mothers writ large, our language is prescribed in its gender normativity. Mothers are heterosexual and married say all the memes complaining about husbands and the casual way in which we assume that a new mom acquaintance will have a husband who is part of the fabric of the family. We aren’t trying to be cruel or thoughtless when we fail to consider that a mom may not be married, may not be heterosexual, but in the unspoken way in which we don’t not assume, we tacitly imply that a mom who fails to check those boxes is somehow ‘other’.
When my friend, a mother of two beautiful little girls, quietly came out last year as gay after a ten-year marriage to a man, she lost her mom tribes. Most people didn’t even know what was going on at the time and had they known, I am sure that the vast majority would have been accepting, supportive and kind, but my friend felt that her truth left her an island in the sea of motherhood.
When this friend recently posted an open invitation to all to join her for a pride walk across the Ravenel Bridge to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, I went. It was a small group of mostly women. While many may not have attended because of prior commitments, the very public nature of the walk may have also deterred those members of the LGBTQ+ community who did not want to feel exposed to the judgment of passerby’s.
My friend and her partner carried two large pride flags that she had made herself with QVC pipes, tape, and her personal flags because she couldn’t find any locally. As we began walking as a group up the bridge, some people walking past vocalized their support while the vast majority ignored us. Some cars honked their support as they drove by, but one man gave my friend the middle finger.
As a white, heterosexual, married woman, I benignly live in the comfort of the majority.
I know that I am the overwhelming demographic of any mom group and have never been concerned that I would not be accepted. I take my acceptance as a right when it is truly a privilege. My friend – an incredible mother, a Pinterest mom who makes the most incredible cakes for her daughters’ birthdays, and who routinely makes hard sacrifices for her family – she feels in her soul that this privilege may be revoked at any moment upon deviation from the accepted standard of motherhood.
While I, and others, may individually stand in solidarity with all members of the LGBTQ+ community and all other mothers who feel that they would be unwelcome in any situation for any reason, I know that my voice isn’t loud enough or strong enough to stem the tidal wave of exclusion that they feel. My voice is small, but I send this piece into the universe, a tiny pebble in the pond of motherhood, with the hope that the ripple it may cause will send back a crash of change for my friend and all moms who feel that their story is yet untold.