This post is by K.
I always thought if I started a blog, it’d be about sexual justice. Or rape culture. Or sex-positive sexuality. Or feminist rants. When I’ve dabbled in guest blogging, it’s been on those issues. I never ever, ever though it would be about parenting. In fact, the thought still kind of makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Not because I’m not excited about being a parent, but because I have worked SO HARD to be seen as more than the stereotypes of my gender.
Children assigned female at birth are generally socially conditioned to care about things like weddings and babies and home-making. And pink. All things pink. Even those of us that don’t follow the social script know that we are supposed to. My parents never pushed that girly stuff on me, but I got the message anyway through TV, peers, and subtle social cues.
I remember my older cousin asking me once, when I was a pre-teen, what I imagined my wedding would be like. I had never really thought about it before. So I made up a scenario that sounded fun. My supposed “dream wedding” included a waterfall, silk bohemian skirts, black tank tops, and flip-flops. It sounded more like a trip to a fancy hotel pool than a wedding. Looking back, there was some truth in my made-up story. I did end up having a very casual, affordable, and unique wedding that involved flip-flops and non-traditional apparel. Sadly, there were no water features.
Fancy wedding stuff never appealed to me. Being someone’s wife never appealed to me. Being someone’s mom never appealed to me. When I was little, I couldn’t articulate why I wasn’t into these things. I just wasn’t.
I played a lot of make-believe as a little kid. My mom would say that I had an “overactive imagination” a.k.a. I was awesome. My favorite games involved animals or pretending to be animals–usually of the canine variety. When we played “house” at school, I always volunteered to be the family dog. My cousins and I would record fake radio talk shows on my little plastic tape recorder. I used walkie talkies to play super spy on my parents. My mom could never get me to play with dolls, though I did play WWF (World Wrestling Federation) with my Cabbage Patch dolls once. I wanted to be a veterinarian, then an artist, then a marine biologist, then a writer. I asked my mom if she would bail me out of jail for cutting whale nets for Greenpeace.
As I got older, I continued to fail at most things lady-like. I bombed my home economics group project when I put 8 T. of pepper instead of 1/8 T. into our pizza dough. I was equally bad at tech ed. (Seriously, I’m lucky I have all my fingers.) I took a child psychology course where we had to carry around a hard-boiled egg with glued-on googly eyes for a week and pretend it was our baby. I broke my egg baby mid-week because I left it in my locker all day and it fell out when I opened the door. I not only neglected my egg baby, I irreparably shattered it. I broke my baby. My mom boiled me a new one so I wouldn’t fail the assignment. I still don’t know if the teacher noticed my egg was a little bit darker and spottier when I turned it in. Parenting–not my thing from an early age.
I wasn’t and am not butch or masculine-presenting, by any means. I’m pretty bold with my makeup. I prefer dresses over pants. I had a good number of sleepovers with girl friends over my formative years–hairstyles and boy-crushing was discussed. I just don’t think that means I have to conform to gender stereotypes about family. The reality is, I don’t like being in a gender box. I am femme, but refused to identify as such for many years because of gender stereotypes within LGBT communities.
I realized that I was OK with marrying my queer spouse when I realized that W gets me. When he calls me his wife, which I’m still getting used to, he doesn’t mean that he expects me to clean his house or make him babies or make his dinner. Moreover, he understands why I have strong feelings about marriage as a feminist and queer. There are a lot of issues I care about more than same-gender marriage and I think the reason marriage has gained momentum is that it is a middle-class issue that is palatable to straight allies. It has been framed as an issue that is about lesbian and gay people being normal, or just like everyone else. It is SO NOT QUEER.
I don’t want to be just like everyone else. I don’t want privileges that still exclude people in our own communities. But I do want my rights and I do love W and we had a pretty fabulous time at our weddings, both the private, legal paperwork one in Canada and the official celebration with our loved ones.
It took me a long time to get used to the idea of getting hitched. Some days it totally freaked me out. Nice people would ask well-meaning questions that I didn’t know how to answer. There were no engagement rings. I wore a leopard print dress that I got for $35 at Marshalls. There was no wedding party or walking down the aisle. The things that were important about our wedding for us were that it was child-friendly, dog-friendly, accessible, and gender-inclusive. We hired childcare and dog-sitters during the ceremony and had a picnic-style reception. We made sure folks knew where the single-stall, gender-neutral restroom was. Our officiant, bless her, worked really hard to use no gender pronouns when referring to W. Our readings, including our vows, all came from children’s books. We spent about $6k on the whole affair.
But we did it out own way. It was awesome. I realized that W and I can make things awesome because we get each other. I know we can do the same thing with having a kid.
W has always wanted kids. He thought he gave up that option when he got with me. I was pretty clear from the beginning that I prioritized my work and activism over marriage and kids, that I wanted to change the world and birth social justice. For the first decade of our relationship, he took a backseat to my career. It’s true. And I’m pretty happy and fulfilled in my work life. I realized, in the last year, that what my partner thought he’d be doing at this point in his life was raising a family. And I realized that I wanted to support our family in growing in ways that work for both of us. So, we had the conversation. W was really weird for a couple of days. He later said that he couldn’t believe it was real, that he thought I’d back out or say, “Just kidding!” and he was afraid to get his hopes up. But I was serious as a heart attack.
I have said “No kids!” for quite a while. In fact, if I wasn’t with W, I probably would still be planning a childfree future. People assume this is because I think I’d be a bad mom or because I hate kids. I kind of encouraged those ideas over time because I got tired of people telling me I’d change my mind. The reality is, I have never bonded immediately with babies or small kids, but I don’t hate kids. I am not fearful of them. I know I’d be an awesome parent.
I never wanted a kid because I didn’t want my identity to be eclipsed by becoming a “mom.” There’s a lot of baggage tied to momminess, the first and most prevalent being the stereotypes of the good mom and bad mom. The assumption that moms are always the primary parents, that moms are innately better at parenting, that moms do this and moms do that. I plan to go back to work after I have our kid. My partner works evenings and nights, so he plans to be the primary parent during the daytime. We want to make parenting decisions together and neither one of us plans to be “the mom.” I know it’s going to be complicated for W, too, who will likely confront the trifecta of transphobia, homophobia, and sexism in his life as a primary parent.
If we lived in a world where we could bust out of the gender binary, where we saw people with kids as parents in equal standing, not as moms and dads, this wouldn’t be an issue. But we don’t live in that world. I still struggle with the reality that people will make assumptions about me as a feminine-presenting cis woman, as a pregnant woman, as a woman with a kid. I will probably freak out a little. I will need W to remind me that it doesn’t matter what others think. He’s better at remembering that than I am. I will process it and find ways to deal. W will have his own struggles as a trans* father. We’ll support each other through it. This blog, a couple years ahead of any actual child, is part of that process.
I recently asked another queer mama with a cisgender male partner how she maintained her queer and feminist identities after having kids. She paused and said, “I’ll have to think about that.” I think the answer is that we need to create spaces for queer families to dialogue, learn and unlearn, and to support each other.
I hope this blog and my other friends IRL and friends-to-be in the blogosphere will be a part of that network of support.