Lesbian mothers in twenty-first century Australia: creating a political subject position

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Abstract

The creation of a political subject position based on the identity ‘lesbian mother’ was central to the achievement of law reform regarding reproduction and family matters in Australia in the twenty-first century. Authors identifying as lesbian mothers wrote submissions to a range of public inquiries, crafting detailed self-representations and often telling intimate stories of everyday experience of discrimination and marginalisation. This article understands the submissions as constrained by the practices of political subjectivity. They are governed by the rules of the authority to which submissions are addressed, even as they make claims for change. Investigation of available submissions from lesbian mothers from nine inquiries points to the classed and raced limits of the normative political subject which emerges and to the presence of historically dominant discourses of the good mother and the narrowed imagination of the marriage equality movement. Diversity in the submissions, however, also challenges the boundaries of the rules and avoids universal conformity to respectability. This analysis contributes to the scant historiography of lesbian mother politics in Australia and to the international literature on queer politics and sexual citizenship. It cautions against simple liberal readings of progress based in the achievement of rights and recognition for newly normative political subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-311
Number of pages20
JournalWomen's History Review
Volume32
Issue number3
Early online date8 Sept 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Australia
  • Lesbian mothers
  • political subjectivity
  • public inquiries
  • queer politics
  • reproductive justice
  • sexual citizenship
  • submissions
  • twenty-first century

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