Lesbian and Gay Parenting Questions & Answers Column With Arlene Istar LevDear Ari

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Long-Lost Lesbian Love

Posted By on August 31, 2010

Dear Ari:

Once upon a time a young lady and I in high school fell in love, but when my mother found out about it, she removed me from the school and I was never to speak to this girl again.

Seventeen years passed, and I was in a heterosexual marriage with children, but she never left my heart and mind. Within the last few years I have legally separated, became a single parent and will be divorcing. Yet within this time I somehow found her (she lives in the south and I in the north).  We’ve reunited, seen each other and are now long-distance dating.  She has also separated from her long term lesbian partnership and it’s very sticky.

Anyway, we are making plans, in about a year, to live and be together.  I will be moving down south (needing a change for me and my children) with her, but I have to deal with divorce, custody and coming out to my mother who will probably hate me for being with her and think I am a liar and a fake, and talk to my children about it all. (My children are 3 years old and 11 years old). I’m afraid that she’ll outcast me as her daughter and try to plot with my husband (whom she hates) to deem me an unfit parent and will try to take my children away from me. I am a great parent and have been doing it alone with no help or much support from family or the father.

I love this woman and am trying to be wise in all my actions and emotions, for the well-being of my children, myself and my girlfriend. I need help on how to handle this trying situation…
— JD

Dear JD:

First of all, I am so sorry to hear of how your mother separated you from your first love. That must have been so painful, and it is a kind of pain that we hold deeply inside, often not sharing with anyone, due to the internalization of shame related to homosexuality, particularly when we are young.

It is also an amazing story that you found each other again. So romantic! I can’t help but wonder if how you “somehow” found her involves the Internet. Certainly the Internet has made it easier to track down long-lost people. If I may disclose for a minute (is the advice columnist allowed to disclose?), I too have searched for my first love, but have not been as fortunate as you.  It’s hard not to wonder if she too is off living a happy lesbian life – I confess it’s hard to imagine her being heterosexual!

My first comment regarding your situation is what a strong hold your mother still seems to have over your life. Despite seventeen years in a marriage, and over a decade parenting, you are still reacting to your mother’s opinions as if she were the lord of your life. Why does your mother hold so much power over you and your children? So much power that you think she would plot with your (ex)husband, whom you say she “hates”? I think moving away from her might be a good idea, but even more important than that, is to learn to stand up to her.

So what I would do first of all is to tell her that you are a lesbian. I would do this with pride, and excitement. I would not ask her opinion about it, and I would not tell her in a voice that is at all curious about what her opinion might be. I would tell her in the same voice that you might use if you just won the lottery. I would not link this to meeting up with your new love, at first.

When she reacts to you, which she will probably do given your description of her, I would listen politely (unless she become abusive, at which point I would stop her, or walk away) and then nod your head, thank her for her thoughts and opinions, and reiterate how happy you are about being a lesbian. Your work is to model to her, that although she may have opinions, she does not get to make decisions about your life. Preparing to do something like this may take developing a support system, or finding a counselor to help you with this. Changing our relationships with our mother is no easy task!

I would also suggest that you come out to your children (if you haven’t already) so they are comfortable with your identity and relationship, before your mother can poison their thoughts. It is okay, you know, to forbid, yes forbid your mother to talk to your children in ways in which you do feel uncomfortable. I know this may be a big step, but it is important to say that the control your mother has over you is really in your head, not in the real world.

You say that you are worried that your mother will try to take the children away from you. It is very unlikely that she will have any power to do this, and in truth the opposite is true: if she does not act respectfully to you and your partner, you can control her access to the children.

You mentioned moving down south, and I surely hope that your partner was not from the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. If so, it sounds like your girlfriend may be moving north. But if you are moving south, you do need to realize that laws protecting queer families are generally stronger in the northeast (and west), and you may be going to live in a community that is more homophobic than you are accustomed to. I’m certainly not suggesting that you do not move south, only heightening your awareness of how gay issues are viewed, legally and socially, in different parts of our country.

Good luck JD, and let us know how it turns out.