A Lesbian Mom: Changing the World One Butt-Wipe at a Time

By: Shannon Ralph

3 children

My name is Shannon Ralph and I am a lesbian. I promise. Really, I am. I came to the sad realization recently, however, that the only tangible evidence of my lesbianism may very well be the 40-something-year-old woman snoring next to me every night and the cat at the foot of my bed staring at me with disdain. By all other accounts, I appear…at least outwardly…to be your everyday straight Midwestern housewife.

How did this happen? When did this happen? When did I trade raucous, radical lesbianism for mild-mannered motherhood? Okay…that may be a bit of a stretch. In the spirit of true disclosure, I have to admit that I have never really been a “radical” and I am fairly certain no one has ever used the word “raucous” to describe me. I’ve always been a good girl. A good little Kentucky-born and -bred Catholic girl. I got good grades in school. I went to a good college. I have always been very white-bread and boring. I never dated in high school or college. I had everyone convinced it was because I was serious about my studies and had no times for boys. In reality, however, I had no interest in boys. My crushes leaned toward a more feminine persuasion.

Shortly after graduating from college, I embraced my newly-discovered lesbianism wholeheartedly. I moved to Minneapolis, began going to the lesbian clubs, and made friends in the lesbian community. I eventually found the nerve to come out to my entire large Southern family and begin a long-distance relationship with a previous co-worker in my hometown in Kentucky. That long-distance relationship quickly warped into an extremely short-distance relationship (please insert your own U-Haul joke here) when the object of my affection moved to Minneapolis and we settled into a cozy –and by “cozy,” I mean cramped and decrepit– apartment in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood.

Fast forward to today. I am writing this on my laptop while sitting in my lovely four-bedroom home in south Minneapolis. My jeans are caked with flour from the shortbread cookies I baked this afternoon. There are screams coming from my bathroom as my four-year-old son, Nicholas, is sitting on the toilet imploring me to come wipe his butt. His twin sister, Sophie, is simultaneously shoving pink and purple crayons in my face begging me to color in her princess coloring book with her. Their eight-year-old brother (well, 8 next week…close enough), Lucas, is ignoring me completely as he plays Mario Kart on the Wii. Ruanita, the hometown girl I fell in love with thirteen years ago, is away at work as I play domestic diva and doting mother to our three demanding children.

Parenthood has changed me in ways I never saw coming. To say I was blind-sided is a gross understatement. Suddenly, being “lesbian,” a title I proudly displayed for years, became second fiddle to being “mother.” Yea…I would totally love to rally at the capitol, but unfortunately, that’s right during my son’s nap. Maybe next time. I found myself in uncharted territory. Friday night Vulva Riot shows were replaced by Pixar videos at home. Late nights drinking and getting my groove on (my pathetic white-girl groove) at the lesbian bars were replaced with evenings in bed by 9:00, desperately trying to garner a couple of hours of sleep before the first midnight feeding. Hours spent in lesbian coffee shops sipping lattes and perusing gay periodicals were replaced with hours spent sipping home-brewed swill (a girl with a mortgage and three kids begrudgingly has to be on a budget) and reading and re-reading The Rainbow Fish over…and over…and over, ad nauseum. I play Bunco, for God’s sake (albeit, I play with a group of lesbians, but still….)! How could I possibly be a lesbian AND a mother/wife/Bunco player? How could I rail against the establishment while living comfortably within the confines of the establishment? I admit to having a bit of a crisis of self when I became a parent.

To this day, eight years later, I still wonder how I could be the mother of three children. What happened to the idealistic lesbian ready to take on society and change the world? Well…she’s still here….somewhere..hiding beneath the snot-stained Underdog t-shirt. Her ideals are the same. Her tactics have just changed a bit. I still have a desire to change the world. However, rather than doing so through marches and petitions and letters to my congressman (all incredibly worthwhile endeavors that I no longer seem to be able to find the time for), I am taking on the world through butt-wiping and PTA cake walks and notes to my son’s teachers. I may not be the lesbian I envisioned myself to be, but I believe that I am the mother I was meant to be. And regardless of outward appearances, I AM still the same not-so-radical and not-so-raucous lesbian.

Though they drive me to the brink of insanity most days, my children bring me infinite amounts of joy. I am truly relishing motherhood, in all its poop- and puke-stained glory. But more importantly, I am living my truth. And I am living my truth out in the open. My neighbors…my friends…my family…my co-workers…my son’s teachers…our school administrators…the guy who works on our furnace…everyone I come into contact with knows that I am a lesbian and that I am a mom. By being an out lesbian mother…by raising my children with honesty and integrity…I like to think that maybe I am changing the world a tiny bit. If not the world, perhaps I am changing a couple of minds, at least. The more gay men and lesbians come out of the closet as parents, the more society will accept us as the nurturers and loving partners and parents we are. The more society will see our families as important and vital contributors. And when we are viewed as essential contributors to society, our laws will change to protect our families.

It may seem a bit outrageous to claim that wiping my son’s butt is changing the world. But that’s my story…and I’m sticking to it.

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