Shall I Be Mother?
queer mams and queer families
CN: Mentions of abusive mothers.
I always thought I’d be the kind of mother Mrs Flax (played by Cher) is in Mermaids. She’s fun and has her own life and lets the kids do their thing amidst the chaos of moving around. I always framed it as being a mother even when I was a teenager, long before I knew I was trans.
I don’t feel like Mrs Flax a lot tho. Spending time being a queer mam over the last few years has been mostly me having to be serious and I feel like I’m rarely having fun at all.
People compare me to Blanca from POSE. Its probably the nearest approximation to a version of motherhood I will get with being trans. Blanca takes in the traumatised queers and trans ppl who need a mother to look after them and she goes above and beyond to support them. In fact one of my favourite scenes is where she walks Damon into the dance school and says “we do not have the luxury of shame”. It does feel like the kind of thing I would say and do.
These romanticised scenes of support are the ones that are remembered, even by me. Everyone wants that loving supportive queer mam like Blanca. She is being constantly shit on and provides constant support to those who are horrible to her even in the face of them being shitty and that is part of being a mother.
But here’s the thing. Blanca had few but strict house rules and dead ass threw Lil Papi out when he crossed her boundaries and broke those rules. And that is also being a mother, although no one wants to see it. Even me half the time.
Being a queer mam is hard work and there are points where I don’t want to do it, points where I’m tired of being shit on by ppl I don’t owe anything to at all cuz I’ve tried to help them and they don’t realise that this isn’t gonna be like the fantasy.
Being part of a queer family isn’t all freedom and hedonism - its about growing and being able to work past your trauma with ppl who care and share a home with those ppl.
There is a queer woman holding her hand out willing to walk u across the fire and out the other side. Willing to get burned up all over again to make sure u can cross safely. But some younger queers see that woman and think she caused the fire and refuse her hand. They take their trauma from their biological/birth/whatever mother and project that onto the woman willing to contort herself to fill the space and get burned all over again, because that’s what being a queer mam is.
Being asked to clean up or to not cross boundaries or even just to take basic responsibility is always going to look like the bullying or abuse u have previously suffered from a mother when u refuse to see that queer life isn’t just hedonism or just getting stoned all day every day like ur still a teenager hiding in ur room. Its going to look like being a wicked stepmother when it comes down to the queer mam to hide the booze so yous don’t get tempted to drink after u said u wouldn’t or to sit down and have difficult conversations or ground u for violating major boundaries and acting like a child.
Everyone wants a queer or trans mother right up until the mothering starts.
Wendy Darling is always going to end up the villain in the end to Lost Boys who don’t want bedtime and even more so when she finally decides she’s not gonna spend eternal youth in Neverland being the one who is responsible when the Lost Boys won’t take responsibility and will happily spend an eternity trying to escape that.
When writing this I recounted the whole of the film Mermaids to myself (its one of my fav films don’t judge) and I started thinking about the big blowout.
Cher and Winona Ryder have a big row over the youngest daughter (Christina Ricci) nearly dying cuz Winona was too busy getting laid to look after her. They shout and argue, Cher slaps Winona and they talk and cry and laugh and make up. This is the first time in the film they actually communicate with each other in a way that they are both being heard and felt (and imo is the best acting in the film).
I recognise a lot of my own abusive mam in some of this scene. I was constantly arguing with her and Cher says some similar shit at the start. Unlike Cher and Winona, we never made up at the end; my mam threw me out which is a great thank you for raising my siblings for her but whatevs. Unlike my mam tho i try my best to move forwards and ask questions and work out what comes next once the anger part is over.
Maybe I’m a little more Mrs Flax than I think.
I make mistakes just like Winona says to Cher and I’ve been thru my share of that trauma. Thats why I try my best to help younger queer and trans ppl learn from that and heal.
Much like in Mermaids the fun part comes after the hard part with the arguments and the finally communicating, and the film closes with a scene of them dancing and Cher making the same dinner entirely made of snack foods. Not much has changed - they’re still all messy af, but they’re happy and they’re working on it.
Ppl get so afraid of blunt communication and conflict, and often see blunt communication as conflict which means the person communicating bluntly is the conflict too.
Queer mams are supposed to talk bluntly and tell u to clean ur room or tell u that shagging someone wasn’t ur best decision or are supposed to hide the booze while they wander round picking up the trail of filters and papers that u leave behind on ur way to bed as they come up to get u up for ur drs appointment. Thats part of the gig and its why ppl come to us for advice and care, and sometimes that care looks like tough love and on the rare occasion it looks like us walking away from or removing someone from a situation that is doing more harm than good, especially when its to us.
There is a queer woman holding her hand out willing to walk u across the fire and out the other side. Willing to get burned up all over again to make sure u can cross safely. She’ll wait as long as u need and will watch over u til ur ready, but if u wait too long she’ll be gone. Burned up in the flames.