I don’t want to lose my mother. Will I sacrifice myself for her?

an invitation to lgbtq+ Africans

My friend tells me that she doesn’t know if she could be out if her mother were still alive. I think about this every day.

Every thought I have about my womanhood, my strength, my grit revolves around my mother. And this is not just because she did bring me into the world biologically, but also because I choose her. She is my force, she is my source of strength.

We did not have an easy relationship. Once I became a teenager, her anxieties about my behaviour, my representation of her and her own decisions as a mother filled all the space between us, so that there was no way for us to love each other. Mothers will say they always love their children, but some of this love is death. Mothers have to understand this.

Over the years somehow, she has changed. I have more space to breathe, I have more ways to be myself. I have fought for this open field of relation, and I have shown her what it means to love a child. I think of her now as a good student. We text every day, we laugh at many things. Even when we fight, we forgive. My mother’s love feels friendly, it gives me a place in this world (even as I know there are many places) and I do not want to lose that love.

For all these reasons, my queerness becomes bait. I feel myself forming an antagonistic relationship to it even as I try to embrace myself. It often feels like an extension of someone else, like a temptation I play with as and when, even though this ‘as and when’ begins to become an every day. I do not know how to think around this, how to feel my way through this.

I don’t want to lose my mother. Will I sacrifice myself for her? Should I? Why can’t I marry a nice man and live a nice quiet life? Why can’t I simply have Sunday lunches with her, after church? Why can’t I simply be what she wants? What makes these questions painful is the knowledge of queer futures I hold. The freedom and expressions of self I have been lucky to embody. I know what it feels like to be me. I know what it feels like to feel at peace.

This cognitive dissonance – one of the many violences of homophobia – becomes a major part of how I experience myself. I hate that I am so beholden to her love, and I hate that I am so beholden to mine. On many days, I do not know which direction to go in.

For me, this isn’t simply about family rejection or homophobic societies, but about love. The costs of which we are made to bear, painfully. At the moment, these every day practices of love – for myself and for my mother – are what shape my relationship to my queerness. They are not perfect, and they are not complete. I practice many forms of it, in the hopes of another kind of every day – simply in the hopes.

 My friend tells me that she doesn’t know if she could be out if her mother were still alive. I think about this every day.

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One thought on “I don’t want to lose my mother. Will I sacrifice myself for her?

  1. Y says:

    Why must we choose? My mother swears her love is unconditional but even in the littlest of things like shopping in the male section, her face darkens. I just want to be me and worthy of love

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