My mom is a [recently out] lesbian and I approve of her lifestyle. However I really don’t want to see [my mom and her partner] being affectionate with each other. I know it sounds like a double standard, but this is my mom…and that’s very hard for me to deal with. Do you have any advice???
— Child of a lesbian mother
(gender and age not disclosed in email)
It does sound like a double standard. Before you hurt your mom’s feelings or you worry about being uncomfortable around her and her partner, you both need to share a clear understanding about how “being affectionate” is defined. Are you talking about holding hands, or are you jumping to a conclusion that they would want to make out on the living room couch?
Sometimes straight people who aren’t around gay couples much assume that “openly gay” people are going to behave in excessively and inappropriately sexual ways. When you think about how your mom and her partner would show each other affection in front of you, what do you imagine?
Wouldn’t it be fair for your mom to be affectionate with her partner in front of you in the same ways she might if she were with a man? Could she kiss her good-bye before going to work? Could they hold hands while they are watching TV together? Put her arms around her partner’s waist while they are preparing dinner together?
I don’t know if you have been involved with a significant other before, but it takes a lot of energy to always be reminding yourself to not reach out to the one you love. In most communities it is simply not safe for same-gender couples to show even the most basic affection. That leaves their home as one of the only places they don’t have to worry about getting “caught” being in love.
I encourage you to talk to your mom about what you or she mean by “showing affection” and try to use the same standards of appropriateness that you would if your mother’s beloved were a man.
While intellectually you probably already understand this, emotionally you might still feel uncomfortable. After all, your mom is newly out and is in a relationship that much of our society considers wrong or deviant. Give yourself some time to get used to it, and remind yourself that her expression of affection for her partner is also an indication that your mother is happy in her relationship.