Year: 2018

Working Paper Number: 417

Unit: FaSRU

Author: Susan Holland-Muter


This working paper interrogates how two of the lesbian mother participants from the author’s doctoral study 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. An examination of how they construct and perform their mothering identities and manage their relationship with their children as lesbian mothers produces the counter-narrative, ‘private resistance/public complicity with good mother ideologies’. The working paper explores the participants’ evaluations and decisions taken as they negotiate their, at times, conflicting interests while mothering and enacting their lesbian sexuality. These negotiations reveal the dynamic, complex understanding required of coming out processes and performing motherhood in their constructions of their queer worlds. Their queer world making reveals lesbian motherhood as a site which does not reinforce the binaries of being in/out of the closet, a lesbian/mother, good/bad mother. As such, this paper claims that lesbian motherhood should be considered through the lens of ‘borderlands’.