Am I That Name? Middle-class lesbian motherhood in post-apartheid South Africa
Natasha Distilleris Chief Research Officer at the Institute for the Humanities in Africa and Associate Professor of English at the University of Cape Town. Her most recent monograph was Desire and Gender in the Sonnet Tradition (Palgrave 2008). Her latest book, Fixing Gender: Lesbian Mothers and the Oedipus Complex, is forthcoming in the second half of 2011 with Farleigh Dickinson University Press. She will be a Visiting Scholar in the Department of English, Berkeley CA in 2012.
Both homophobic groups and those concerned to argue for the validity of gay and lesbian families invest in conceptual frameworks which rely on sameness and difference to make sense. Lesbian mothers are seen as fundamentally different to other kinds of mothers (for good or ill), or their similarity is stressed in order to ensure that their families are socially and legally recognized. This article explores the experience of navigating the contradictions of sameness and difference that cohere to being a ‘lesbian mother’. It locates its analysis in the context of post-apartheid South Africa. It explores the possibilities of inclusion and exclusion into the definition of the human enabled by the South African Constitution and the language of rights on which that document depends.