Lesbian Daughters and Our Mothers
Does being lesbian uniquely define the ‘classic’ mother/daughter relationship by turning the Electra complex upside down?
Why such indestructible devotion to our mothers?
As embryos we are literally soft wired to our mothers through a one-way umbilical cord of life sustaining nutrients. Along with the thrum of blood flowing into our little beings came our mother’s psychic history etching canyons of love and fear onto the surface of our souls. As lesbian daughters we seem to have taken our mothers in to live in our core, we fell in love with them, defended them and raised them up as heroines and champions.
Perhaps, there is no other relationship quite as deeply binding as this one or, maybe it’s no different than any other mother-daughter relationship? Still, it is a question I have grappled with for a very long time and even thought to take up an informal survey asking every lesbian I meet or have ever known if I am simply a twisted anomaly of love and devotion or if there is some substance to what I suspect may be a unique facet of the relationship lesbian daughters share with their mothers.
Off with her head!
When I came out to my parents amidst the heartrending confusion of my first lesbian relationship my mom banished me from her life for nine heartbreaking months. There is irony in the amount of time which elapsed before my re-entry back into her life.
To make matters worse, the girl I had fallen so utterly and conspicuously in love with had saught the counsel of her family’s pentecostal church pastor who quite emphatically warned her away from me with threats of hell fire and damnation and ultimately informed her I was the devil. As you can imagine this did nothing for our budding romance or my self esteem.
Very young, I found myself looking down the long and lonely barrel of a certain truth: love must be conditional. However, mine for my mother was not. I still adored her and pined to be back in her good graces even as she rejected me for loving so freely.
It was Carl Jung, noted founder of analytical psychology, who took Freud’s Oedipus Complex on a long stroll around the block to analyze then, theorize what might be happening for little girls during the psychosexual stages of development and the Electra complex was born. Both Frued and Jung’s theories or avowed complexes detail a turning point or a ‘sticking point’ if you will, depending on whether or not they’re satisfactorily resolved according to opinion or civilized society and the rules imposed by what is deemed ‘normal’.
However, both sexual development theories only address themselves to heterosexual development with the opposite sex as the object of desire for each theorietical complex but, what happens when you apply these theories to homosexual psychosexual development? Of course, putting aside the impossible debate about whether or not homosexual emergence and expression is a natural occurrence or a deviant matter of choice which, could very well, take a series of articles to lay out to any agreeable satisfaction on either side.
Imagine, for our purpose, the argument is settled and homosexuality or more to the point, sexuality that falls anywhere on the broad continuum cannot simply be mentally willed away or moved toward its opposite end so that we might ask the following questions.
Does a natural born lesbian daughter seek to compete with her father for her mother’s affections having, in a manner of speaking, fallen in love with her? Does having the sexual orientation of a lesbian necessarily mean a daughter is stuck or fixated in an upside down Electra Complex?
In my experience, I adored my mom and have come to understand and even accept that she was and always will be my first true love.
This was very hard to admit because of the element of perversity implied by my sexual preference; however, I’ve found this sentiment is probably a realistic truth for many daughters up and down the continuum of sexual identity and orientation.
Closer than anything else
My mother’s love — though certainly humanly fallible and inherently conditioned to be conditional by her own mother ‘s love— is still the closest thing I have as a measure of unconditional love which exists on this mortal dimension.
On the other binary hand, do lesbians turn the Electra complex upside down by becoming ‘Mommy’s girls’?
In classical psychoanalytic theory, the child’s identification with the same-sex parent is the successful resolution of the Electra complex and of the Oedipus complex; his and her key psychological experience to developing a mature sexual role and identity. Sigmund Freud instead proposed that girls and boys resolved their complexes differently — she via penis envy, he via castration anxiety; and that unsuccessful resolutions might lead to neurosis and homosexuality. Hence, women and men who are fixated in the Electra and Oedipal stages of their psychosexual development might be considered “father-fixated” and “mother-fixated” as revealed when the mate (sexual partner) resembles the father or the mother. * Source
So then, does Freud and Jung consider lesbians to be both father identified and mother fixated much as a son would be in the Oedipus complex thus, simply neurotic and homosexual consigned to living in a perpetually unresolved psychosexual development phase?
I dare say human sexual behavior and desire will not succumb to such neat little psychoanalytical packages.
Once you get your mind around the reversal of roles and genders in the context of each complex this seems a far too tidy an explanation to me and clearly lands on the nurture side of the nature vs. nurture argument when applied to homosexuality.
Nothing in life’s so simple
I think in considering this subject, the inordinate and profound level of devotion I have seen displayed by lesbians for our mothers does, in fact, have a profound effect on our lives and may even influence those we are drawn to love but, I do not believe that it is a determinate factor in sexual orientation any more than saying all children who deeply love their gender matching parent will in turn develop homosexual tendencies.
Still, most lesbian daughters show an inordinate level of devotion and/or attachement to their mothers and I believe there is some correlation present that has gone, as yet, undefined. Perhaps, it has something to do with whether or not a lesbian daughter becomes a mother herself or some other influencing factor lesbians have in common. Whatever it is I’m curious about other women’s thoughts on the subject.
Who knows, maybe I’m simply full of…conjecture.
© S Lynn Knight, 2017