June 3rd: My mother’s birthday – her 92nd, but she did not make it until that birthday, she died two years ago, a few weeks before her 90th. Since her own mother and her brother died at 89, she really wanted to celebrate her 90th birthday. But it was not meant to be. During her lifetime, my mother was an enigma to me. 33 years ago, I came out to her as a lesbian and right until the day she died, she was not able to come to terms with it. My partner of 23 years was always welcome but that did not mean that my mother and I talked about that relationship or that she ever wanted to know anything about it. On one level it’s understandable that a woman of her age (born in Berlin in 1921) couldn’t communicate about an issue that was a real taboo when she was young – or even middle-aged. But if you consider the enormous changes that have taken place during the last 40 years, she could have moved on that issue – as she did on others. I often thought: „Mom, please, open your eyes. Your daughter is an activist and is part of a big historical change – you could actually be proud of me.“ But she never was.
On Easter 2002, we told my mother the good news about our pregnancy. Since my nephews were teenagers alrady, she was very happy about having another grandchild, no matter whether there was a man involved or not. Of course, she was completely unfamiliar with the concept of our rainbow family. To her it was my child, and my partner had some kind of unspecified part in it; I never knew what she said to other people about our all-female family.
So many issues are involved when a lesbian couple wants to become a family. Whenever I wanted to talk with my mother about some of the details, she tried to flee. Whenever I wanted to share my thoughts about the challenges queer families face, she changed the subject. It stayed like that until she died.
If I leave politics aside – and wanting recognition for that integral part of my life – my mother did get involved in our family and the life of our daughter. Like many others, we experienced a new connection about a common topic: having a child, raising a daughter. She came to visit regularly, enjoyed spending time with her granddaughter. Although she was not able to help out with everyday chores due to her advanced age she enjoyed listening to my endless descriptions of our child’s progress.
Yes, I would have loved for my mother to be a proud PFLAG member but you take what you get – and I am grateful for the fact that my daughter brought my mother and me closer again. When my mother died, her 90th birthday was already planned but we had to celebrate a memorial afternoon instead – on June 3rd. Happy birthday, Mom.
To my international visitors: Welcome, thanks for visiting RFN! Stephanie is a German writer and activist. So brush up on your German if you want to read other posts!