23 Weeks to Birth: The Countdown to Baby T. Rex Saga (and a final update from K&W)

Hi

old friends and new!

Since we stopped actively updating QFM, a lot has happened. We continue to get hundreds of hits per month from all over the U.S. and world, so we’ll keep the site up until it stops being relevant or helpful. Since we started on this path, we’ve met more and more queer families making parenting decisions and the procedures themselves are becoming more accessible to folks with limited income. We’ve still got a lot to fight for to make the decision to parent or not to parent accessible to all!

Another thing that happened since we’ve last updated the blog is that KaeLyn blogged through her pregnancy for Autostraddle, where she’s a staff writer. We’ve included the links to that whole series here! Enjoy! We are so grateful for the people we connected with through this blog and the path it sent us on as parents. ❤ K&W

(Countdown to Baby T. Rex Links below the jump)

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My Top Five Promises to My Queer Childfree Friends

This post is by K.

Up until recently, I identified as childfree by choice. Even though my life circumstances and my personal decision have shifted, I have a lot of warm feelings and a deep understanding of the joys and principles of being childfree. I still contend that I wouldn’t do this on my own, that my relationship with W and his desire to actively parent, and the strength of our relationship are huge pieces of this decision.

Since I’m in my 30’s and this is the era of baby explosion for my generation, I’ve also watched a lot of my friends become parents and witnessed how their lives have changed. There’s a lot of fluffy mommy pieces on the internets about childfree folks vs. parents and, while it’s sometimes funny, it smacks of blatant sexism. Yeah, we need to build affinity with people like ourselves and absolutely, we all deserve respect, but we are battling this BS patriarchy together, whether that is by opting out of kid-having or raising awesome kids. So here’s my revised version of that top ten list. With a queer angle.


My Top 5 Promises to My Queer Childfree Friends

1) I won’t ever ask why you don’t have kids or when you are going to have them.

For queer people, especially, this is a really loaded assumption. For one, even if we want kids, it is not as easy as hopping into bed for many of us. (Of course, that method does work for some queer folks!) Also, some of us grew up in times or places when having kids as a queer or trans* person just was not a thing you could do. Or we have kids from a previous relationship, before we came out, and they are no longer in our life. Compulsory marriage and kid-having is a thing of the heterosexual world. Let’s not conform to that BS in queer communities.

2) I will continue to include you in my life.

Sure, shared experience is helpful. It’s why community is so important. I will probably make some new friends that have the shared experience of child-raising with me, but I will still need and want my close friends who share other experiences and identities with me. I will still be the person who wants to talk about politics and feminisms and theory, about pop culture and reality TV, about work and life issues. I also don’t want to relegate you to some obsolete pod of non-parent-friends and only do baby stuff with my parent friends. I want you in my life, in every way. In fact, I’m going to need childfree people in my life more than ever that keep it queer and keep it real while navigating the very heteronormative world of “mom-ness.” Please come over and talk about non-baby stuff with me and baby stuff, too.

3) I won’t act like my life is way harder than yours. 

Because that is some ridiculousness. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s gonna’ be pretty challenging and there will be days I feel like it’s the hardest thing ever, keeping a kid alive and healthy. But that doesn’t mean that you have it easy or that your problems are not just as hard or hard in a different way. This is not a competition. This is not “the struggle is real” Olympics. Let’s support each other through the hard times, like we always have, OK?

4) I promise not to take it personally if you don’t invite me out.

I’m going to have a live human person who needs me 24/7. For a while, this may make it hard to hang like we used to. However, I know this is about my life, not yours. If you choose not to invite me to things (like bars or late-night hangs or last-minute movies) because it’s damn obvious that I won’t be able to come, I will not take offense. I will take it as a sign of respect that you get that my schedule has changed. If you do still invite me, that is really awesome, too. I’m going to assume best intentions all the way around. Let’s both assume best intentions all around.

5) I will still be there for you, even if my life and priorities have shifted.

My kid is going to be my #1, obviously, but that doesn’t mean you’re not my #2 (OK, my #3 if Waffle is still around, which he probably will be). Will I still be able to dash out of the house to bring you coffee? No, probably not. But it is 2015 and there is chat and texting and Skype and a million ways to connect. I may have more strains on my time and energy, but for my closest, bestest friends, I will always have time for you. I’ll make the time. Just be patient with me if I have to go check on a crying infant halfway through our conversation.


If we are successful in all this, we could have a babe at this time next year. And I imagine it will be absolutely ridiculously more hard than I could ever imagine. I bet it’ll be surprising in a lot of ways. I may fall off the face of the earth for a little while as I figure out how life works with this additional person in it. But I don’t think that means we have to forget about each other. I don’t plan to “close a chapter” on my childfree friends. I don’t plan to graduate into “true womanhood” vis a vis my uterus. Let’s not let the patriarchy tear us down like that, OK?

Autostraddle is Looking for Queer Mama Writers! (Paid Gig)

I can think of some cool queer moms who should totally submit to do this. Deadline is 2/9. See call for submissions below:


http://www.autostraddle.com/call-for-submissions-brand-new-queer-mamas-275381

Call For Submissions: Brand New Queer Mamas

We’re growing up a lot around here and we want desperately for this site to grow up with us. In fact, Laneia and Riese have made this their #1 priority for 2015 — to get more stuff on this site geared towards gay ladies in their thirties, like them!

First up? We’re looking for a columnist in a same-sex relationship who is either currently pregnant with their first baby, or who has recently (within the last few years) birthed a brand new human into this glorious world and would like to write  ~1,500-2,500 words about it every other week or so. Basically you’ll be talking about the joys, trials and tribulations of becoming/being pregnant, getting ready for a baby, and being a new mom. We’ll want some of this to be about the period of time immediately after your human burst onto this planet, but that can be done in retrospect if it’s been a year or two since that time.

To apply, send an email to riese [at] autostraddle [dot] com and laneia [at] autostraddle [dot] com with:

  • YOUR MOM in the subject line.
  • A brief cover letter that tells us who you are, your writing experience and the kinds of things you imagine you could write about in this column.
  • Either a draft of what would be your first column (preferred, but we realize you’re probably very busy and might not be able to pull this off for an application) or links to examples of your writing online that will give us an idea of your writing style.
  • If you have a clever title idea, we’re all ears.

Please do not send us any word documents!

The main thing we’re looking for is a witty and intelligent writing voice and somebody we can count on to meet deadlines. Payment is $50/post. Deadline is Monday February 9th!

While you’re all here, we’re also interested in hearing from adoptive parents, step-parents, and parents whose babies aren’t really babies anymore! And we’ve had multiple requests for a story about sex after childbirth. If you can speak to any of these things, please hit up our submissions page!

Also, if you’re in your thirties and have requests for the types of stories you’d like to see, let us know in the comments!

The Library is Open – LGBTQ Picture Books for Kids

Seriously, who doesn’t love picture books?! If you were lucky enough to grow up in a home with books and an adult to read them to you–unfortunately not everyone is–you probably have a favorite picture book. K’s favorites, in no particular order, were:

kaefavbooks

It used to be that there were very few kids that featured queer or, really, any non-normative characters. Heather Has Two Mommies was revolutionary in its time–truly groundbreaking–and still shows up on Banned Book lists regularly. While we would kill to have a copy of the original print of Heather Has Two Mommies  (before they removed the artificial insemination section), there are thankfully many, many books for queer families now. The world of LGBTQ* kids’ literature is ever-expanding to include books about gay and lesbian parents, friends, children, and trans* and gender non-conforming kids. While not always readily available at your local book store, thanks to the handy dandy internet, you can have a little queer library with some disposable income and a few clicks. Here’s a round-up of queer and trans* picture book lists:

1. 40 LGBTQ-Friendly Picture Books for Ages 0-5 (Autostraddle)

2. LGBT Children’s Literature list (Goodreads)

3. Books for Kids in Gay Families (a little dated language, but a HUGE list)

4. Flamingo Rampant (not a list, but an exciting new micro press for feminist, LGBTQ-themed picture books for and about gender-independent kids and families)

Get to reading!

Here are a couple on our must-have list, if you’re looking to buy us a present or whatever–you know…

Look at that adorable sperm and egg hanging out together!
whatmakesababy

Love this concept as a way of normalizing gender nonconforming or gender-free kids!
backwardsday

We got this book for our niece because she likes penguins. We like them, too.
tangomakes3

Let them have it, kid!
fabulous

Um, obviously for the anthropomorphic guinea pigs. Duh.
unclebobby

Having three!
mommiescando

The main character, Bailey, is the cutest.
10000dresses

Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

Here’s the reality. It’s been slightly over a year since W and K sat down and started talking about this baby plan. Since then, we have done a lot:

  • W read a poop-load of lesbian parenting books, pretty much immediately (leading us to realize that there are no queer parenting books yet);
  • K has, like, 85% come to terms with the fact that people are going to be weird and gender normative about all this;
  • K started fertility tracking, discovering that she is incredibly regular (yay?);
  • W & K decided on at least 1 possible gender-neutral name that we both do not hate;
  • We wrote lots of fun posts about stuff like debunking the “traditional family,” body love and parenting, and defining a queer fam;
  • We told our friends and family that we are heading down this path;
  • We started the blog because we felt isolated from other queer parents-to-be and because we felt there was very little out there for queer and/or trans* parenting issues.; and
  • We found amazing people IRL and in the blogosphere who get it, which made us feel embraced in a real way.

But it’s time.

make_the_donuts

We aren’t the type that typically sit back and take things slow. When we make a big decision, we usually find a way to bring it to fruition immediately. But here are the other things that have come up over the past year:

  • Money, money, money, money. We have lots of student loan and credit card debt that we want to reduce first, as we have a not-so-irrational fear that this might cost a lot;
  • K is going back to school in the fall to finish her Master’s degree, mainly because she found out that this is the last year she can transfer some of her credits from an earlier half-finished graduate program. So back to school, it is, because it is cheaper this way (see student loan and credit card debt, above);
  • We are really lazy about making doctor appointments and have been thinking about changing providers, anyway; and
  • We have been going on a lot of little vacations and trips and doodads, which is really counter-intuitive to saving money (see student loan and credit card debt, above), but we are kind of having an extended pre-baby fling. It’s just the truth.

It’s time, though. It’s time to take action. (Doo doo doo-doo! <–That’s a superhero theme diddy.) If we had the kind of parts that mash together in a reproductive way, we’d be doing this already. A little over a year in, we are fully realizing there isn’t ever really a good time. For some, there is never a time at all, because having kids in the way we want to do it is a privilege of us being comfortably middle class. The debt-laden, student loan-saddled, underemployed middle class, but still. So…by the end of 2014, we hope to be actually trying–like with the sperm and the egg salad. We’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, we hope to keep this blog more actively updated with posts about LGBTQI+ parenting issues and intersectional parenting issues, reach out to more guest bloggers (We keep finding awesome guest bloggers who are also super busy people.), and keep it fresh.

In the meantime, here is a very important video of a giant panda putting their baby panda back to bed:

“Mommy” and Me

This post is by K. I’m getting crushed at work lately. Just totally crushed. Doing awesome activist and progressive work that I’m proud of, but feeling like it’s hard to get back to center. Work/activism is my #1. As we keep moving down this path towards eventually trying to get knocked up (which should start late summer/early fall of this year), I get closer and closer to having to make work-life balance decisions that I’m sort of dreading. One of the reasons I planned to be childfree by choice is that I have created a life where work is my primary goal. Not just work, but work to advance goodness in the world–advocacy and activism. My mom used to say, “KaeLyn is always rooting for the underdog!” because I would try to reform the bad kids in my kindergarten class or help the loner kids that other kids made fun of. Helping others, serving needs greater than my own, is important to me. Up until recently, I didn’t see myself having kids because I didn’t see how that would fit with the other priorities in my life. I barely make time for myself. How could I make time for a kid? If I had to rank how I spend my time it’d be like this:

  1. Work – primary job
  2. W time
  3. Work – second job (seasonal)
  4. Family & Friends
  5. Volunteer work (3 nonprofit boards, mainly)
  6. Self time (tv & netflix, internet, coffee breaks)
  7. Sleep?
  8. Self time (meaningful stuff like creative writing and reading–that I rarely do)

I know I’m going to have to slow down for a bit. Even though W wants to be the daytime parent and will split the work evenly with me, if not slightly more (I proposed a 60/40 split. LOL.), I will have to back off. I am lucky to have a job where bringing a kid to work, on occasion, wouldn’t be a big deal. But right now, I often have an evening meeting every night of the week. And those aren’t social meetings. Those are work and volunteer work meetings. I am going to have to quit at least 1 board. I am going to have to scale back my 2nd job. But I’m unwilling to give it all up. I don’t believe that makes me selfish. I think I’ll be a better parent and role model because of it. I applaud stay-at-home parents and I think they are deeply undervalued in our society.  Personally, I would not be happy in that role. I have a lot of privilege and comfort in my life and I want to use that to make meaningful change, to amplify the voices of those who do not have the kind of safety and privilege I have, to make things a bit better for my future kid and everyone else.

A close friend who I hadn’t seen in a while recently asked me if I was getting more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy (see my previous post on my mommy issues). It’s a hard question for me to answer. I am becoming much more comfortable with the idea of having a kid with W, and the idea of being a parent. Forever. I am getting more and more excited about it every day. In fact, these days, I’m more worried that we won’t be able to conceive than anything else. I am meeting and talking to more queer parents who added kids to their families or are trying to in multiple ways. That is really exciting, too. I am imagining a future with a kid, with W, and it will be super fun. Do I feel like I’m more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy? Ugh. The word “mommy” still sounds heavy to me. Sound like gendered expectations. Sounds like people getting up in my business about pregnancy and parenting decisions that are no one else’s business. Sounds like people assuming things about W and me because we look like a heteronormative couple.

Like with all of my identities, being a mom is an identity that I get to own–nobody else gets to tell me what it means. Only I can decide that. I need to own it the way I own being bisexual, queer, Korean-American, adopted, a women, a feminist, a vegan, an activist. I can be all those things and also be a mom. I can be a mom without being a “mom.” There is power in that knowledge. I am trying to remember it. I also need to accept that the “mommy stuff” exists. I will be affected by it. People will try to define it for me. And sometimes, maybe I will even play into that stereotype. When I told another close friend, who is also childfree by choice, that W and I had made a decision to plan for a future kid, she jokingly said, “I can’t wait for the first time you get up at a rally or press conference for some progressive issue and say, ‘As a mother…'” I laughed because she is totes right. I am totally going to milk that sh*t when it makes sense to to advance one of my causes. So I’m bracing myself. I’m going to give up some of my work priorities to spend more time as a parent, as a mom. I’m going to make life decisions differently because I’m a mom. Having a kid will affect me in ways that I can’t even begin to imagine now. I know that and I’m thrilled to see what is ahead. Some people (who do not know me at all) will see this as the natural order of things–that I gave in to my maternal instinct, that I changed my mind, or whatever nonsense. I will know that’s not true for me, but I don’t need to feel silenced by other people’s assumptions. I know who I am. W knows who I am. Future kid will know who I am. And that is enough. So yes, I guess I am becoming more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy.

Lesbians are Not Better Parents a.k.a. Put Down that (Racist, Classist) Study Right Now

Every time some new study (like this or this or this) comes out that praises lesbian parents for being the cream of the crop, we look at each other and groan. Inevitably, this study spawns many posts and articles, which then clog up our Facebook walls with self-righteous shares. Don’t get me wrong. Same-gender couples have a reason to want to prove themselves. There’s a lot of hate out there and, especially when it comes to the fight for marriage equality, the issue of same-gender couples not being acceptable or safe parents comes up over and over. The stereotype about predatory LGBTQ pedophiles is still out there, deeply rooted in some parts of the U.S. and world. We have reason to celebrate being declared not only fit to parent, but better at it.

Cue the music:

OK, I get it. But let’s shine a brighter light on those studies. As the researchers themselves will often assert, the study conclusions are more about the lack of difference between same-gender and different-gender parents than anything else. The success of lesbian parents is less about inherently being better people (Of course, we are, but you know…forget that for a second) and more about the kind of lesbian parents who are studied. For the 2010 study that got a lot of attention, the subjects were studied for 25 years. The study originated in 1986. If you were alive back then, think back to 1986. Remember where queer and trans* rights were in 1986. Or, rather, were not. 1986 is the year that the SCOTUS upheld Georgia’s sodomy laws, which banned oral or anal sex between “homosexuals.” It is the year that Surgeon General published the first government publication on AIDS and safer sex practices for gay men. It is the year after Rock Hudson died of AIDS and the year before ACT UP was founded. Yup, that’s 1986.

On top of this, the 2010 study only looked at a sample of parents who used artificial insemination to have kids. OK, now remember all we know about the cost of insemination procedures. Yeah, some of the parents may have used the turkey baster method, but more likely is that they were recruited for the study because they were inseminated by a fertility specialist. And that costs big bucks. It also means the couples were relatively young because they were able to conceive through insemination.

It also didn’t take into account the many same-gender couple who are raising kids from previous relationships, who got pregnant accidentally or on purpose through sex with a partner, or who are single and LGBTQ. Many of the folks I know who are LGBTQ parents have kids from previous relationships or partners–especially those who came out later in life. I only know a handful who conceived through fertility treatment. Those I do know have done so in the last decade or so, as LGBTQ rights have come a long way, as well as reproductive technology.

So who, in 1986, was able to, with their same-gender lesbian partner, have access to artificial insemination? Middle and upper class lesbians, mainly. Most likely, though I haven’t seen this data, they are probably college-educated and mostly white. The author of the study admits that the studied group was not geographically or socially diverse and suggests future studies try to correct this.

Studies like this are important to prove that queer and trans* parents are just as capable of raising kids as heterosexual couples. This info is necessary to combat the stereotype of the superior “traditional family.” However, writing a headline or status update that basically says that same-gender couples are better parents is not really true. Or at least, that hasn’t been proven. It ignores that these studies are looking at a small and very privileged few.

There-is-no-normal

From the awesome Strong Families Movement–Click on image to check them out!

What it may prove may have more implications for reproductive justice than lesbian and gay rights. It may show that families where pregnancies are planned and wanted have more successful parenting outcomes–even more reason we should support and fund the health care people need (contraception, abortion, fertility care, etc) to plan pregnancy. And even more reason we should support parenting options like adoption–especially for same-gender couples who want kids but can’t get pregnant (by choice or by chance). It may prove that talking openly with your kids about self-identity and issues like sexual orientation and gender identity result in better parenthood outcomes. It may prove that relying less on outdated gender stereotypes results in emotionally healthier kids. Of course, we need different studies to prove these things, but if we want to draw sweeping conclusions, these conclusions make more sense than “Hey Conservatives! Gays are better parents than you!

Even more troubling than making the sweeping conclusion is what it means when you create a higher standard of parenting for LGBTQI parents. Based on a standard set by very privileged LGB couples. The pressure to be perfect LGBTQI people and couples is already out there–the pressure to be normal, to have healthy relationships, to not make us look bad to the public or each other. But the reality is that our communities experience intimate partner violence at about the same rate as heterosexual couples. You can bet that child abuse, unfortunately, does happen in households with one or more LGBTQI parents. Let’s not sugarcoat the truth in the quest to be seen as valid and capable parents. Let’s not forget that there are many LGBTQI parents who live in poverty, who have children from previous relationships or partners, or who are single parents. Let’s not forget that class and race play a part in how we frame same-sex parenting…and how we make invisible members of our own community.

Bisexual Parents are Twice as Likely to Be Invisible

 

This post is by K.

I’ve been openly bi/pan/queer since I was 17. I came out as bisexual to my parents and close friends during my senior year of high school. I’d known for a long time that I had the feels for the ladies. In 7th grade, I told my girl friends at a sleepover that I thought I might be a lesbian. DRAMA! I don’t remember what they said, but it couldn’t have been that bad…because…I don’t remember what they said. However, I developed a crush on a cisgender boy shortly after and decided that I definitely wasn’t a lesbian. Phew.

But my crushes on girls didn’t stop. I just stopped talking about them. And I got a funny feeling whenever Christina Ricci came on the screen in Now and Then. By the time I was in high school, I knew who I was–a bisexual chick.

It didn’t help that I lived in a relatively small-town area, where, back in the 90’s, there was no GSA (gay straight alliance). There were no out lesbian or bi girls. So I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to explore or think about my sexuality. There was no one to potentially date–though two of my closest girl friends from high school later came out as queer. I guess we found each other, whether we knew it consciously or not. I even found out that one of my friends had a major crush on me. And I realized, years later, that I had a bit of a crush on my other friend, though I didn’t have words for it at the time. If only we’d actually felt safe to be out…well, high school could have been so much more fun.

I came out in college 100% with rainbow lasers (PEW PEW) and I never looked back. I now identify as queer, because queer feels more true to who I am: political, unapologetic, overly analytic, glittery, & activist. I am still, at my core, bisexual, which I’d define as finding people of many genders attractive. By primarily identifying as queer, I unfortunately aid in the erasure of bisexual identities and stigma around bisexuality. I make things even more problematic when it comes to how others perceive me.

Being out as bi is a constant process of coming out. When I’m dating a guy, people usually assume I’m straight. When I’m dating a woman, people usually assume I’m a lesbian. When people don’t know who I’m dating, they assume I’m straight unless I’m in an LGBTQI space. Then, they assume I’m a lesbian. We all make assumptions. I get it. I’m guilty of mislabeling other people, too, though I actively try to turn off that part of my brain and not assume anyone else’s sexual orientation–regardless of what they look like, their gender identity, or who they are dating.

So what does this all have to do with parenting? Well, what is the most heterosexual assimilating thing you can do? Make the babies. I just know, with my cis femme looks and my (hopefully) future baby bump, that I’m going to have to deal with a lot of assumptions. Even more so because my spouse is an openly trans boi and I don’t out him as trans unnecessarily in our daily life. (“Hi. I’m K and I’m cisgender and this is my spouse and he is transgender. I’ll have the #3 meal with a large diet.”) So people will definitely assume I’m straight. Or, if they see us together, they might assume we’re both lesbians.

Similar to the lack of resources for trans parents, there are also very few resources for bi parents. I have yet to encounter an organization, book, or online resource (other than blogs) specifically for bisexual parents. If anyone knows of something, please send it in my direction.There is a growing number of resources for gay and lesbian parents.  Much that is bi-inclusive in that bisexuals get lumped in with gay and lesbian parents, but specific issues for bi parents are never addressed–and it’s assumed bi parents are in same-gender relationships.

I have three sets of couple friends who are bi/pan/queer, but are in what appears to the world as heterosexual marriages/relationships. For all these couples, both partners identify as bisexual and they have kids together–conceived the old-fashioned way. I have other friends where one partner is bisexual and the other is not, but they are in different-gender relationships that read heterosexual to rest of the world. I can’t speak for their experience, but I have to imagine it is often silencing to be sitting with other moms or dads, with other couples, letting them assume you are straight. Or uncomfortable constantly coming out and correcting people when they assume you are straight because of how your family looks. Or sad to feel left out of the pride parade…literally, when people assume you are an ally when you’re actually in the family.

Some of my queer couple friends are made up of one lesbian/gay person and one bisexual person. I know from talking to them that people, in our own LGBTQI community, typically assume they are both lesbian/gay. And then there is us, W and me, who sort of fall into the male-female couple category, but who are both actively invested in being out as queer, because we don’t want to become invisible to our own communities. But W defines queer for himself in a different way than I do for me…which is what I love about queer as an identity, but it also can add to the invisibility of my bi-ness. I fear being invisible to my own community. I was for quite a while and I don’t want to go back.

What does it mean to be an openly bisexual/queer parent? For me, it means politely correcting people when they make a verbal assumption about my sexual orientation, whether they assume I’m a lesbian or straight. I’m not going to go around with a bi flag sign around my neck, but I will kindly correct people if they mislabel me, as I do now.

W and I work opposite schedules, so we’ll have plenty of times when we are out with future kid alone. It will be interesting to see how other parents interact with us and how other queer families interact with us.

It also means that I plan to be out to my kid. Being out to your kids, as a bisexual person, is a deeply personal choice. I want my kid, when they are old enough to understand concepts like gender and love, to know that there are many identities out there. I want them to know that a woman can love a woman, or a man, or a genderfluid person, or all of the above, or none of the above, or…something else. I want them to know who I am, all of me, and that it is perfectly fine to be bisexual or lesbian or gay or straight or asexual or some other identity. There are things I will keep from my future kid, for sure, but I don’t want my sexual orientation to be one of those things.

Lastly, it means that I plan to write and speak about my experiences as a bisexual parent, adding to the growing voices around the diversity of queer families. We need at least one Google hit for “bisexual parent” that is…actually for, by, and about bisexual parents.

What’s in a (gender neutral) name?

 

Choosing a name for your kid is a kind of a big deal. We are both the oldest siblings of our families. Maybe that’s why we get along.

W is the oldest of three. His younger sisters both have names that are gender-neutral-friendly. His youngest sister’s name could be masculine or feminine, depending on how you spell it. His other sister’s name is easily shortened to a gender neutral version. Both W’s sisters are cisgender women and fairly gender-normative in their gender expression. Of course, W is the only one who has a very feminine name. He has one of those names that is just not gender-neutral at all, like Rose or Sarah or Penelope. There is no male name that sounds similar, even. So he has a chosen name that works for him, but mainly goes by his last name, which, as you may have guessed, begins with a “W.” W still uses both his given name and chosen name in different situations, but we both think it’s kind of funny that he is the only one out of three siblings that has a really girly name. Coincidentally, K also has a name that could be gender-neutral or easily modified to be a more masculine name.

Sometimes it’s a problem for W that his name is so feminine, but not for the reason you’d think. Anyone who looks like W, regardless of their gender identity, and has a name like W’s legal name, is going to have some awkward moments. At work, W goes by his legal name, by choice and for convenience. W hasn’t changed his first name or gender legally. He doesn’t feel like that’s something he wants to do right now…possibly ever. W could be out as trans* at work, but it hasn’t been necessary so far and it really doesn’t bother him, because he feels his gender is masculine, but somewhat fluid. He binds and wears men’s clothes at work. He presents as himself full-time, which is a little bit his legal name/identity and a lot of his chosen name/identity and living in that fluid space is comfortable for him.

Now, we should say, that for many trans* people, it is very important and very necessary to change their name and/or gender legally. Many trans* people are very uncomfortable and deeply hurt by being called their given/legal name. That is totally valid. For W, specifically, it just isn’t a big deal. His coworkers usually assume he’s a super butch lesbian and, well, at some point he did identify that way, so he doesn’t really mind.

However, getting a job with a name that doesn’t match your gender expression is another thing. When you show up for a job interview looking like W does, like a preppy 6’1″ dude, things can get awkward…and hurtful…fast. At one interview for a security job at Sears, W showed up for his interview a little early. The hiring person greeted him by his given name, looked at him for just slightly too long, and disappeared for almost an hour. He was left waiting in a hallway. Eventually, the hiring person came back out and told him the position had been miraculously filled and they were no longer hiring. OK… Any gender non-conforming person, whether cis or trans*, can tell you many stories of being treated like a freak. Or being misgendered…one way or another.

So for us, picking a name for our future human that is gender-neutral is pretty important. We don’t have a problem with gendered names and could really care less what people name their kids. But for us, our kid, we want them to have a name that is gender-neutral and unique. As we’ve started talking about names, we have found that even when talking about gender-neutral names, we have different feelings about what would make sense for a kid who is male assigned at birth (a “boy”) or a kid who is female assigned at birth (a “girl”). We like Spencer for a girl (female assigned at birth), but not as much for a boy (male assigned at birth). Those gender things just can’t stay out of our head, though ironically we tend to like names that are more masculine-associated for a girl and vice versa. One name that we just recently decided on, over dinner, that works for any gender, is Remi/Remy (spelling yet-to-be-determined).

We don’t plan to raise our future kid gender-neutral. It’s a nice idea, but it’s just not possible for us. We live in the real world. We want our future kid to live in the real world. They are going to see gender all around them, absorb gender norms whether we like it or not, but we do want them to have options.

We want them to be able to play with green plastic army men, like W did as a kid, or with pound puppies, as K did as a kid. Or, more specifically, we want them to be able to play with both, or whatever interests them. K’s heart will probably break into a million pieces if their future kids wants to be a “pink princess,” regardless of what gender they are assigned at birth, but we want it to truly be their choice.

We want them to be able to make up their mind about their gender expression or their gender identity, or change their mind. If our kid turns out to be gender non-conforming, we want them to have a name that works for their gender expression, whatever that is. Of course, if they want to change their name to match their preferred name and identity, that’s cool with us, but we want to at least try to give them a name that is not hyper-masculine or feminine. So, future kid, as of March 2014, we are calling you “Remi/Remy.” You get to decide what that means for you.

Doing Away With Gendered Parenting Roles

“Two moms are better than one!”

“Moms do it best!”

“He’s a really good dad!”

“Just wait ’til your father gets home!”

As we began exploring what parenting might look like for us, we knew pretty early on that W was going to be just as active and probably slightly more active in raising our future kid. In our Western cultural norms, this means that W, being a dude, is a super-duper amazing dad. Or a Mr. Mom.

Because deep deep down (OK, actually not that deep down), we equate “parenting” with “mommy.” W wants to be a great dad. But he’s not a Mr. Mom. He’s a Mr. Dad.

PROOF: Go to the Parenting website right now. Parenting is the largest magazine for parents in the US market, known for their 3 magazines: Parenting, BabyTalk, and Working Mother. Just go to the regular homepage. Count how many times you see mommy vs. daddy vs. gender-neutral articles. Yup, told ya’ so.

The outdated notion that women are better at parenting is boring, cliché, and simply untrueWhile it may seem like not-a-big-deal, perpetuating the idea that mom=parent is dangerous. There is no biological argument to be made that kids need a mom and a dad, though that is exactly what has been argued in court time and again by anti-same-gender marriage folks. Any person can be a great parent. Or a horrible parent. Any person can be a nurturing parent. Or a stern parent. Or teach their kid to cook. Or to throw a baseball.

This way of thinking is also damaging to single parents. If you need a man and woman, single parents are lacking one half of the ideal parenting structure. The unspoken stereotype is that a single parent is, or should be, someone who is looking to not be single anymore. About 1/4 of U.S. families are headed by single moms and about 6% by single dads. Our system doesn’t do nearly enough to support single parents, making it so that many single parents live in poverty, but the issue with single parenting is not that the person lacks a partner. Some single parents may feel that they would prefer a partner. Some are happy with their families, just the way they are. It makes the stigma even higher for single dads, who are either viewed as super men or as incompetent idiots when it comes to parenting, by nature of their gender. (Also see, man can’t cook/clean stereotypes.)

It is the reason we can’t stop talking about “working women” or ,”Can women have it all?!” As long as women are the ones expected to do most of the housework and parenting, it doesn’t matter if they are also the CEO of a Fortune 500. They truly can’t have it all and not because it is too high of a goal. Because the gendered system is flawed. This is the reason K never saw herself having kids. Because you can’t have it all. So K picked career and community activism and social justice over family. Even now, K is having to think about which boards she will resign from, how many after-work meetings she can rationally commit to each week (since W works nights and someone has to be home). Until parenting is gender neutral, seen as something that anyone has equal skills and responsibility for, and until we really address reforms that make it possible to work AND parent, like, you know, PAID PARENTAL LEAVE, we’ll have to keep reading annoying pseudo-feminist pieces about women “having it all.” Noooooooo!

Lastly, this thinking continues to put gender into a binary system. What about folks who, like W, don’t identify strongly as Man or Woman. Like many people in the transgender community, W doesn’t feel strongly that he is the man of the family, but he definitely isn’t a woman. He is definitely not cisgender. So he leans towards the man box. But just slightly outside of it.And, of course, there are also people who identify as genderqueer or genderfluid. What about them?

One of the discussions we had early on was whether there was another word for “dad” that would be more fitting for W. We found some lesbian dads and queer parents using “Baba,” but we’re not sure if that works for us. There really aren’t widely recognized words yet for parents who fall outside of “mom” or “dad.”

Until we start challenging the notion of gendered parenting roles, all of us, not just queer parents, we will continue to struggle to break free from the weight of socially ingrained parenting stereotypes. First step, change the way we talk about parenting. Celebrate all types of parents and families. Affirm that a good parent can be a parent of any gender or relationship status. Stop saying that kids need “male role models” or “a mom’s love,” even if you have the best intentions. Maybe one day we will be like Sweden and have a gender neutral toy catalog. Until then, keep on keeping on, mamas, papas, babas, and parents of all stripes.