I Finally Explained Lesbian Sex To My Mom

I decided to break down how lady loving goes down to my 52-year-old Christian, Caribbean mom -- no judgment and no too-private details.
Publish date:
June 3, 2013
lesbian sex, talk with mom, Sex,

From music videos to movies, myths around same-sex relationships and intimacy are as overplayed as Beyoncé. For a culture that is so overly saturated with sex, it’s mind-blowing how few honest and healthy conversations we have about it. The sad reality is that most people get their (mis)information from a TV screen instead of an actual person that has lived and moved through the world in that identity.

Yes, what you do in the bedroom is your own business. But ignorance and stereotypes will persist until we talk about it.

This couldn't have rung truer in a conversation I recently had with my mom.

Leading up to Mother’s Day, my mom explained that part of what helped her move along her journey of acceptance was having a lesbian daughter who was an unapologetic advocate for everyone, not just herself. (I had no idea that my activism to push the needle for full equality was inadvertently impacting the people closest to me.)

She also shared why she felt disappointed at first and how she reconciled her religious beliefs. A little ways into our conversation, my mom asked a question she had had for years.

How do lesbians have sex? (Of course, she asked it in her own eloquent mom way…”Do you all use those male parts?”)

It was a question she'd asked me when I first came out. Not only was I mortified at the time, I was offended. I didn’t go around asking my mother what she did behind closed doors. Why was my sex life up for inspection? Me opening up about my identity was not an invitation for her speculation and curiosity.

But I couldn't believe after all these years, she still wondered. There had to have been something at the heart of the question.

Initially, I thought she wanted to preserve her angelic perception of her youngest daughter. What mother wants to imagine her child harnessing a piece of silicone to her waist? Then I thought, what mother wants to imagine her child having sex? Period.

This time around, I decided to break down how lady loving goes down to my 52-year-old Christian, Caribbean mom -- no judgment and no too-private details. But first I asked her why she wanted to know.

"What is the point of liking a woman if you always want to use a strap-on?"

And that was the golden nugget. That was the (mis)perception that had been prohibiting any further understanding of intimacy between two women.

After clarifying that not all or even most lesbian or bisexual women use "strap-ons," I explained that for women who do use straps, it’s about who is attached to it.

"That makes sense," she said and I could hear the clarity in her voice.

Both relieved that we had made it through that topic in a way that felt safe and supportive, we went on to talk about how she sees me as the next Ellen DeGeneres (this still makes me chuckle) and how she can’t wait for me to start a family with my partner. The two of us had certainly come a long way.

I recently had a life imitates art moment as I watched Tyler Perry's film "Peeples." Although I loathe Tyler Perry’s work, I’d watch anything starring Kerry Washington, repeatedly.

Washington plays Grace Peeples, a beautiful and successful lawyer that comes from a prestigious family. Her not-so-refined, fun-loving boyfriend, Wade Walker, decides to crash her family’s annual reunion in the Hamptons to ask for her hand in marriage. He discovers that this picture perfect family (what he calls “the Black Kennedys”) isn’t so perfect after all. Grace’s sister, Gloria, is a lesbian. She and her “bestie,” Meg, are dating but pretend to be friends in front of the family.

While I was excited to see Black lesbian characters depicted on the big screen, I braced myself for what was to come. What stereotypical plot lines will we see?

Confused lesbian? Check. Straight man attempting to seduce her? Check. Jealous, insecure girlfriend feeling the imminent threat of her girlfriend being “converted” by the almighty penis? Check. Threesome scene? Check. Homophobic Black family? Check.

Insert eye roll here.

At one point, the grandmother, Nana Peeples, explains to Chris (the man attempting to woo Gloria from her lesbian ways) that her granddaughter is “that way.” She proceeds to tell him that she can’t grasp how two women could possibly get pleasure from one another.

Oh my god, I thought. Nana Peeples was my mom. Nana Peeples was so many people’s mom…or grandma or aunt.

“I’m gonna need a couple pairs of scissors and a wet sponge,” Chris tells her, gearing up for a demonstration. Because, you know, a straight man is clearly the authority on lesbian sex.

Leaving the theater, I felt that much better about the talk my mother and I had. I’m a firm believer in the importance of storytelling, of baring our whole selves openly, honestly and sometimes publicly to demystify myths and illuminate our common humanity. Because too often, as evidenced by "Peeples," we’re not the ones telling our own stories.

That one honest and awkward conversation with my mother has certainly opened up a floodgate of questions that occasionally get dropped from out of nowhere. Sometimes they’re about sex; other times they’re about lesbians raising children or forming loving relationships.

I’m glad she’s asking. And I’m even happier she’s got her lesbian daughter to answer them.