Open Letter

By Jo Benson


You were right.

Those words are a big moment for you and me. You told me when I was four, five, eight, twelve and three times when I was eighteen, that one day I would know what you meant, and I would say, “You were right.”

I’m lucky to have the opportunity to have you as a mother and mentor who teaches not through lessons, but by example.         Patience is one of the many things you’ve taught me. Patience has allowed me to take time to reflect and understand our relationship. It has allowed me to see you as a human being, even though you might not be ready for that yet.

I have learned that patience is one of many incredible requirements of being a mother. Though I never intend to be one (unless cats count!), I don’t value these lessons any less. You’ve never said anything out loud, but I know some people put a lot of stock in how inevitable it is for all women to want to be mothers at some point in their lives. Make no mistake–I am never having non-kitten children (ever), and not because I’m a lesbian, but because I have no interest in becoming a mother. I feel the need to say that because I want to stress how valuable motherhood is, and I want you to know that I have been making a conscious effort to understand how important motherhood is for you. The story of how you became my mother makes our connection as a mother and daughter unique. I have a profound appreciation for mothers, because I am the product of a woman who wanted with all her heart to be one. That is extraordinary.

“I am the product of a woman who wanted with all her heart to be one.” Tweet this quote!

I’ll say it again. You were right when you said that you, dad, and my sister would always be on my team. I didn’t believe you, because you couldn’t read my mind. I thought you were lying, because I was thirteen and realized, for the first time, that you weren’t immortal or omniscient God. You were just as human as me. And felt like I was scared, insecure, and wrong all the time; it bothered me that you could feel all of those things too. Maybe you were concerned that I could see it–how you were terrified, sometimes, because motherhood was really just a lot of guesswork.

Now it humbles me, because a year later I would tell you I was a lesbian, thinking the world would crumble all around me and it didn’t. You stood vigil so I wouldn’t have to, prepared to stand against anybody who wanted to hurt me because of it: physically, emotionally, or otherwise, even if they were family. You are my unwavering, unconditional support system. I know that if every person on the planet had at least one person like that in their lives, the world would be a different place. I have three. Having such a strong support system gives me the desire to better our world and community, because I would be a different person without it.

I grew up knowing our story. I’ve always known that my sister and I are adopted, my birth parents are alive and well, and you were my parents; perhaps not through blood, but simply because all the stars aligned. You never hid it from me. I don’t think you regretted that, ever, even when I was six and angry and hell-bent on “finding my real mom.” I wonder how much strength it took to hand me a lunch and say, “Okay, go on. You’re free.” You were right when you said I’d never leave. But the day I left for college, I turned back and saw you crying.

I remember when I learned how different my life could have been considering the adoption laws in Iowa state allowed the birthparents to change their minds in the first two weeks (months? Whatever). You had to stay with your sister out-of-state to be with me. I don’t know what you gave up to be there. I know that, on the last hour of the last night of the last day, my birth father came to reclaim me. I understand why he did: he didn’t want to be a father, but his family was struggling to survive and a baby meant money from the government. He took me from your arms in the middle of the night, and in anger, you gave him one diaper and an extremely stinky baby. What you asked him as he had to change his first diaper, right in front of you, was “Do you really want to be a father?” He struggled and took me anyway. The conversation with his attorney, a man whose two daughters are adopted, would change his mind the next day. The nightmare was over.

You always came from a place of understanding and a desire to see my sister and me happy. People make connections through love and respect. I know we have that connection. We have that connection through my sister, music, our differences, and our ability to mutually heal and protect one another. Through everything, you have been my unwavering support. Even though others may question the validity of your motherhood because I did not come from your womb, the story of my adoption proves that you are more my mother than anyone else on Earth. When other queer people struggle to find a support system, and even find peace within their families, I know that I am lucky to have you. It was a journey to get here, to a place of understanding where you and I see each other eye to eye. You knew! You used to say that one day, I would understand why you did the things you do.

And you were right.

  • Jo


Jo is a third-year undergraduate at St. Cloud State, double majoring in Women’s Studies and Rhetoric. She is a white, cis-gender lesbian passionate about feminism, cats, writing, and Magic: the Gathering.


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