Queering Up Pregnancy, Part II

Gender Inclusive Parenting 

Some of my friends keep apologizing when they accidentally gender my fetus. They sometimes refer to the baby as “he” or “she” and immediately apologize, knowing that I use “they/their/them.”

There is no need to apologize.

After this happened for the umpteenth time, it occurred to me that people do not know what I mean when I say I am not gendering my child. Wanting to be respectful, they think that any gendered terms will offend me. This is not the case so I wanted to write a post about my views on gender inclusive parenting.

Lots of people tell me I’m having a girl. This may be true, but I know that my child’s genitals have little to do with their gender identity. I may very well birth a girl. I could birth a girl with a vagina or a girl with a penis or a girl assigned intersex. All those people could be wrong and I could birth a boy; a boy with a penis, a boy with a vagina, or a boy assigned intersex. Or my child could be non-binary.

The point of not gendering my child is to give them the chance to discover their gender identity on their own. Even though my worldview, values, and lifestyle will influence the formation of my child’s identity, I do not want to impose a socially constructed identity on them.

I am not a fan of gendered social conditioning. Gender assignments at birth come with a script that the child is expected to follow. Example:

The doctor sees a vulva, assigns “girl” and suddenly everyone has expectations for how that child can and should behave. She is given a costume that contains a fairly limited color palate, is expected to wear her hair in a certain way, is expected to carry out specific gendered roles, and is expected to exhibit specific gendered traits FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE. 

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The doctor sees a penis, assigns “boy” and suddenly everyone has expectations for how that child can and should behave. He is given a costume that contains an even more limited color palate, is expected to wear his hair in a certain way, is expected to carry out specific gendered roles, and is expected to exhibit specific gendered traits FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. 

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I do not want to do this to my child. I do not want to hand them a gender script from the moment of birth. My hope is that I will create space and experiences for my child to explore their identity in a variety of ways so that they can decide who they are and what they want. Most people would not want their child’s career paths picked out at birth so why do we approve of gender paths?

It starts here: IMG_2213

and ends here: hetero wedding

And check this out:

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Both of the above pairs of shorts are children’s size 7. The orange ones are for girls, the white for boys…. These shorts exemplify gendered social conditioning stemming from a misogynistic culture which dictates that girls show more skin. Size 7! These are not tween or teen clothes, they are for young children and the message is clear: objectify girls’ bodies. I don’t mind the short shorts, I mind that they are not available for boys! Shouldn’t boys wear short shorts if they want to and girls wear long shorts if they want to? I want my child to have options.

I do believe there are some people who align with gendered traits and roles. If my child’s gender identity is congruent with their birth assignment (i.e.: they are cisgender), I will absolutely celebrate them! If I give birth to a girl with a vagina who loves pink, long hair, dolls, and is heterosexual, I will absolutely celebrate her! I do not have an issue with cisgender identities, I just do not want to assume cisgender until proven otherwise.

There isn’t a model for gender inclusive parenting, so I leave room for lots of hiccups as I embark on this rather trailblazey journey without expectation or attachment. I just know how hard it is to discover one’s true identity when immersed in normative scripts and I hope to create space for the developmentally appropriate formation of gender identity without imposed limitations from me (or as much as I can in our very gendered world).

 

Queering Up Pregnancy Part I

That’s right. I’m growing a human. I have been growing a human for several months but have wavered in my decision to post my experience due to fear of retribution. It’s hard being queer. It’s hard being genderqueer. It’s hard being a survivor. It’s hard living in our current political climate as a queer/genderqueer/survivor. One wonders about safety most of the time. But I’ve had lots of time to consider my situation and research the idea of genderqueer pregnancy and have formed the conclusion that my story and my experience may be beneficial for other genderqueer gestating people. I know I’m not the only one out there, but my oh my are we difficult to find and man oh man there is nary a resource out there for us. So what has it been like for me as a genderqueer pregnant person? Here are a few points:

  1. I feel more solid in my genderqueerness than ever before. This has been an exciting new discovery. I thought pregnancy might induce gender angst but it has only served to strengthen my understanding that I am NOT a woman. I am also NOT a man. There are plenty of gestating men out there, but I’m not one of them. I am a genderqueerfluid pregnant person.
  2. There are no clothes for genderqueer pregnant people
  3. Pregnancy has made me less concerned with the experiences of cisgender people and bending over backwards to help them understand my identity. My current attitude is basically thus: I am genderqueer. I am pregnant. You don’t understand? Sorry, can’t help you.
  4. I LOVE my pregnant body. As someone who struggled with body image and disordered eating for most of life, there was some concern that pregnancy and subsequent weight gain would be challenging. Not in the slightest. My pregnant body is sexy and exciting and I am proud of the 28lbs I have gained thus far. I will say the extra boobage isn’t fun and I hope I get some of my muscle back (it has been replaced with adipose in certain areas) because I like to climb mountains, but the fact that this whole process is ending in a child means nothing else matters much.

So aside from my gender identity, how else am I queering pregnancy? Let’s consider the dominant cultural narrative around pregnancy: A cis-het woman is impregnated by her cis-het husband. They discover the sex of their child in utero (erroneously labeling it “gender”), buy gendered clothes and decorations for the nursery, have a baby shower in which they receive gendered gifts for the baby, pick out gendered baby names…(remember, this is the DOMINANT paradigm. I know some cis-het couples do not align with this narrative either).

How does my pregnancy differ?

  1. I’m single
  2. I’m not a woman
  3. The necessary ingredient for conception was donated
  4. I’m old (and so happy about that)
  5. I won’t know the sex of my child until they are born
  6. I won’t know the gender of my child until they tell me
  7. I don’t have a nursery
  8. I haven’t bought ONE thing (I am the lucky recipient of many hand-me-downs)
  9. NO BABY SHOWER
  10. I will birth at home (if all goes swimmingly)

No part of my pregnancy was inspired by Pinterest. There are so many ways to be pregnant! There are so many ways to be human! It always intrigues me that societal norms determine, not only how most people do things, but how valid one’s life is. I am certain that some people look at my choices and are horrified:

HOW COULD THEY BRING A CHILD INTO THE WORLD WITHOUT A HUSBAND/PARTNER?

WHAT DO THEY MEAN THEY WILL WAIT FOR THE CHILD TO DISCLOSE THEIR GENDER?!

THEY HAVEN’T BOUGHT ANYTHING? WHAT THE…?

Why can’t we all just celebrate each other and our diverse humanness? I am so lucky to be surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues who may not totally relate to my choices, but who offer unconditional love and support. Similarly, I offer love and support to my cis-het friends who are gendering their children (far be it for me to tell someone else how to parent). These friends also say they will love and accept their child if their child decides their assigned gender doesn’t fit. I have two cis mostly-het friend couples who are trying not to overly gender their children- they use gendered names and pronouns but prefer gender neutral clothes, are open to other pronouns, and outright defy rigid gender roles. Queer parenting does not necessarily mean parenting by queer people; it could just mean parenting outside the norm.

I’m curious if there are other genderqueer gestating people out there and what they might add to this conversation. I sometimes wonder if my fluid identity makes this process easier for me. I can sort of flow into femininity, or at least allow other people to gender me in that way for this short period of time without causing too much angst, but I wonder how it is for people whose genderqueerness is more stagnant.

Stay tuned for more queer pregnancy thoughts.