anthropologyBlack Feminismbooks

On MOTHER’S DAY — How Many Black Lesbian Mothers Do You Know?

To be honest with you I only know a few. And maybe it’s a coincidence that on Mother’s Day I happen to be writing a paper and on the section where I’m discussing Black LGBT ethnography and ethnographers and Black lesbian mothers. I’ve been reading through Mignon Moore’s book Invisible Families: Gay Identities, Relationships and Motherhood among Black Women, on (the invisibility of) Black gay motherhood and relationships and I couldn’t help but to think about the idea that it seems so true that Black lesbian motherhood has been somewhat like an underground-type club, and appears to be something one does not really see or know of unless they are a part of it.

It is interesting (but of course not surprising) to see how the lives of Black lesbian women who are mothers differ from what many — if not most of us — have learned as the norm on gender presentation, economics and such — how Black women mothers present this in their households. In Invisible Families, the book overall shows that when it comes to Black lesbians who are involved in relationships with other women and have children things are not so cut and dry, as they may appear to be. Moore says that ‘In order to understand how Black lesbian families function, we must draw from previous understandings of the roles, experiences, and ideologies of Black women in heterosexual households,’ since oppression and racial positioning has shaped how people operate and participate. Plus the idea of Black motherhood and respectability has been an issue and a topic that has been so politicized, and criticized even among heterosexual women so that really complicates who we’ve seen and how they are seen in a larger picture. This all makes things quite different that what those few images of mainstream white lesbian couples may display. Much of the info that is out there on lesbians and motherhood has been based on the white women’s experiences which is why the work in this book is so groundbreaking. It’s a first.

For her research, Moore says that she had to conduct ethnographic fieldwork and actually go to the field have an ‘in’ with this community because more traditional data collection methods just would not work. This insight kind of lessens my frustrations somewhat, and answers some questions since I’ve had a difficult time finding information on Black lesbian breastfeeding which is what I’ve been searching for but have yet to find, and is what drew me to this book in the first place — though I never found anything about it in the text. Moore said herself that even though she is a Black gay woman, what drew her to this work was not a desire to conduct fieldwork on this population, but because she had a moment when she recognized she had never been exposed to these couplings until she went to a BBQ that was filled with Black gay women and their families and then it dawned on her that she had never seen these families before.

What I also think deserves attention are Black lesbian single women who are mothers. I don’t want anyone to think that I believe that these studies are so necessary in order to ‘validate’ the life experiences of people. I don’t live by the idea that ‘you’re nobody unless somebody studies you.’ But I was in a conversation with a friend a couple of weeks back, who just so happens to be a Black lesbian single mother and neither of us could say we’ve really come across much that sheds light on other’s unique experiences, which would be nice to hear about as well because sometimes I do think it is beneficial to learn about how we relate to others. I think it may be helpful.

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