Today is the day that we take out to celebrate Mothers. We celebrate the new beginnings that they birth, the lives they nurture and support, the faith that they have in their families and also instill in their children. On this special day we will see many images of mothers, grandmothers and even great grand-mothers being doted on by their children and being surrounded in loved by their families and members of their communities. One image that is missing in the celebration of Mothers Day is the image of Masculine of Center (MOC) mothers. Somewhere in the celebration of motherly love we conveniently left strong Butch mothers out of the picture. These are the women that have to fight in a society that tells them that their masculine energy makes their love different from any other mother on the planet. The MOC mother that has the struggle of raising a boy to be a man in a society that not only tells them that they can’t, but also asks how dare they think that they have the right to do so. A better question is does anyone have the right to invalidate anyone’s ability to parent to “mother” their child based on one’s gender expression?
My supervisor at work loves to tell stories about her and her partner’s sons; both boys are tweeners and at the age when they are starting to put together what they are taught in their family about gender and what society teaches them.
Recently, her oldest teen has been concerned because he felt he wasn’t developing facial hair soon enough. He did a little research and discovered that his biological father was also light on facial hair which seemed a little odd because don’t all dads grow facial hair? He sat with that for a little while and finally came back with “It’s okay if dad can’t grow facial hair…mom can…” he left it at that. For him there has never been a question about who his masculine or butch identified mother is. That is just mom. Later on he came back and said “Mommy, when are we going to have some more Father/Son time.”
How often do we find that it’s our children who don’t care much about gender unless asked? Huffington Post writer Kimberly Dark wrote “See, unless someone’s picking on you about it, it’s really a totally forgettable detail.” For children this is true. They look at who takes care of me? Who feeds me? Who nurses me when I’m sick? Who helps me with my homework? It’s my mother. Regardless if she has short hair and wear ties to work or plaid shirts. She is mom. I’m not concerned about if she is a man or woman just that she is there for me when I need her.
As with our socially constructed views of gender we have these heteronormative parental roles that society tries to stick every parent in. Either you are a father or a mother. People refuse to attach words like nurturing, caring or compassionate to a masculine identified individual. This frame of thinking says that a mother possesses those qualities and CANNOT be masculine because masculine individuals do NOT possess these qualities. It stereotypes not just the mothers that Identify as masculine but also the fathers who want to give that same love but are taught that is not what a real man does. These are the gender perceptions that we must break down as we care continuing to have the conversation about family and what it means to us.
Motherhood within the butch experience is so complex ranging from woman who conceived children while still in heterosexual marriages to women who made a decision to fulfill their desire of having a child. Rendering butch mothers invisible separates them from important parts of their lived experiences. It becomes yet another item that we tell them they have to divorce themselves from in order to be accepted in this world as masculine identified.
The journey of raising a child as butch or gender-nonconforming can still sometimes be a challenge, particularly as it involves navigating a culture that continues to give the message to children that moms bake cakes and wear dresses, high heels or pearls all day. These same children are already dealing with the stigma that’s associated with having gay parents and especially hard hit are children in POC families where mom looks like a black male.
In the 2003 documentary Butch Mystique, one of the subjects talks about her son’s journey in accepting his butch mom “when he was 7 he wrote this letter …it talked about how he didn’t want me to be gay. He started seeing that his family was different than other family. He brings friend over now and he says this is just my mom. She cares for me, she loves me, she takes care of me and that’s what is most important.” In the documentary she is shown with her son tending their garden, to some they may look like two homeboys working together but it is mother and son enjoying their time together and working side by side.
As I browsed my own list of friends I was both amazed and excited to see pictures of all of my butch friends that are also mothers start to pop up on Facebook. Women who the world may normally see as hard because of their rigid stances or hard facial expressions stared loving at these beautiful children they had mothered. They talked of college graduations, marriages and new grandchildren and how blessed they were to have their children. Visibility of these Butch mothers breaks down the assumed portrait of what a mother can look like. Most times the straight world must be able to put you in a hetero gender box. So basically if you are butch that’s fine as long as I can look at you and say she looks like a man she is the man. She has never had sex with a man she has never been pregnant she has never physically delivered a baby. But when you take that same masculine face and say yes I AM a mother it once again shatters that gender binary.
It is up to our queer community to make sure that these mothers become visible. When we see them we should make sure to give them the honor that society is hesitant to give. I really don’t want to get overtly political, wordy or analytical at this point and I don’t want to take up too much time. I just want to celebrate all of the MOC mothers who are able to defy what people say a masculine being should be by exhibiting love and compassion for their children. Who take that same love and compassion and bestow it on young MOC women who may not have anyone that understands them to give it to them. Who use that same motherly love to show young women how to become strong MOC women because that is what a mother does. She listens, she cares, she teaches, she’s a rock, she takes care of those around her and those she loves. Today I celebrate my Masculine of Center mothers and friends. We love you and we need you to continue to be a powerful presence in our family.
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Carolyn Wysinger is a thirty something masculine of center womyn from Richmond, Ca. She is a writer & Social Entrepreneur. She earned her B.A. in English from California State University, Long Beach and her M.F.A. from Antioch University. She has created queer events like LA’s NFL Sunday Funday and the Long Beach Blue Party. She has served on the steering committees for BUTCHVoices and Black Lesbians United. She is a board member of the NIA Collective for same-gender loving women of African Descent. Her first book “Knockturnal Emissions: Thoughts on #race #sexuality #gender & #community” is currently available on Glover Lane Press. Twitter @cara_mel97 Instagram: theknockturnalproject