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).

 

Two Dogs, Gourmet Nachos, and Dancing in the Living Room

Sometimes I move through the world with a sword drawn, shouting about injustices and forcing everyone I meet to feel things through the bodies of the marginalized, even for just a moment.

Other times I move quietly; sword at my side, eyes turned to the mountains or the sunrise. I feel defeated and concerned that change will never occur. Unable to educate one more person who defends their privileged position while simultaneously telling me they “get it.” During these times, I am tired. Too tired to speak or write; battling the urge to flee into the wilderness, find my tree ancestors and never return.

I have not posted anything for a bit. My eyes and ears have been focused on the wild places; my thoughts turned inward. This morning, as I hiked with my two dogs up an icy, slippery trail, I pondered my lack of interest in writing. I have spent many days in the last month telling myself to write. I started drafts. There are always issues, wounds, and events that bring on righteous indignation about which I could write, but lately I have been asking myself, “what’s the point?” The people who need to see and hear are not reading my blog. I dug my heals into the frozen earth and pushed myself up the mountain, ruminating on my existential crisis. Who is reading my blog? My fellow gender variant and queer trailblazers! I heard a small avalanche in the distance as the sun warmed the snow, causing it to slip from its rocky bed and thought, “what can I offer my community?”

So rather than preach to the choir, this post shall outline how I attempt to remain whole, healthy, vibrant, and vital in the face of discrimination, ignorance, hate, and injustice. Maybe these words will act as a cozy, queer* blanket for other people who face injustice on a daily basis.

Ways To Stay Sane When the World is Such a Mess:

  • Eat really, really good food: Seriously. I buy the best locally sourced, organic food I can find. I spend time looking at recipes and trying out new things to cook. I thank all of my food before I eat it. A warrior needs sustenance. We can’t fight if we aren’t fed and we can’t get nourishment from processed chemicals. Gourmet nachos are the way to go.
    • Note: I am privileged enough to be in a position to buy really, really good food. I hope that one day local fresh food will be affordable to all people. I am so sorry that it is not.
  • Share above really, really good food: I like to feed people. I make feasts, I invite people over, and I feed them. It is so satisfying. It makes me feel connected and I get to have time with good people. I’m lucky because even if people can’t come over I can always feed my spouse! I made a chocolate cake after work the other day (double layer, round, huge and delicious) and the two of us ate the whole thing (not in one sitting). I also sent some over to my neighbor. Goodness.
  • Body love!: I am worried that people will think I’m nuts when I share this, but it helps me so much. I try to spend mindful time telling my body how much I love and value it. I write letters to body parts that I used to hate and thank them for existing. I stare at myself naked in the mirror and whisper, “So beautiful! An exquisite rendering of the human form!” I remind myself there is no wrong way to have a body. 
    • Note: I do not have Body Dysmorphia or Gender Dysphoria. I understand that engaging in this type of activity could be counterproductive or harmful for some people. It helps me, but is not universal. 
  • Time in the wild: I cannot live without connection to earth and wild places. I believe that all people need connection with nature, but our consumerist, indoor culture is great at severing us from the earth. May I suggest bare feet in soil? Arms wrapped around a tree? Watching the sunrise or sunset? Nature offers solace and comfort in the face of environmental destruction, discrimination, and hate crimes.
  • Dance! Dance! Dance!: I would be a sobbing mess, face down on the floor, if I did not dance as a way to resource myself. When I start to feel way too full of anger, sadness, despondence, or hopelessness, I get my groove on. Sometimes that is in a formal class, but more often it is in my living room. I dance the pain; I dance it and feel it and transform it through movement until it gives way to something else. Movement is life. It works.
  • Live your creative self: I also wholeheartedly believe in creative expression of all kinds. It matters not if that expression is oil painting, song composition, quilt-making, or writing. It could even be finger painting, sing-a-longs in the hot tub, dancing with your partner in your bathrobes, or building snow creatures. Someone built an igloo in our neighborhood park last week! If we stifle our creative selves, we block energy and lose vitality. We cannot be warriors if we feel blah.
  • Find your community: For me, this means hanging out with my fellow queers*. It is so refreshing to have some time with people who I don’t have to educate! We do call each other out on privileged blind spots, but I am grateful for that. I never want to stagnate and I hope that I am always examining my privilege. More often though, we just get to laugh and relax in an environment that isn’t threatening (until the board games come out, then it’s every queer for xemself!).

Engagement in the above activities does not guarantee a happy happy joy joy mental state all of the time. Rather, the above self-care routines simply support my continued desire to exist. Sometimes I am blissed out, ecstatic, joyful, and happy, but at other times I am sad beyond all reason. I think if one is remotely awake in the 21st century, then one is sometimes sad. Besides, emotions are fleeting. Nothing is permanent. Beyond the doldrums are the sillies which roll back to the doldrums which move towards the sillies. Whoa, I just felt that wave I created. We live the tides of the oceans and there must be a reason for that.

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Each day that I wake, I will praise, I will praise.
Each day that I wake, I give thanks, I give thanks.
Each day that I wake, I will praise, I will praise.
Each day that I wake, I give thanks, I give thanks.

-Nahko and Medicine for the People

Gender 101

I am creating this post because people ask me questions about the construct of gender every day and it seems like it would be helpful to point them in the direction of a (hopefully) easy-to-understand document about gender. I feel that asking questions is a good thing and that one of the reasons gender is so misunderstood in our present culture in the United States is because no one asks questions! If we all accept the status quo, then we cannot evolve. So there.

Therefore, this is my attempt to break down the construct of gender to the best of my abilities.

1. GENDER DOES NOT EXIST ON A BINARY

What does that mean?

Man and woman are gender constructs that exist on opposite ends of a linear spectrum. For some reason we have built our culture around the erroneous belief that these are the only two expressions of gender even though non-binary gender identities have been a part of human experience for as long as humans have existed. Seriously. Look it up.

2. GENDER IS MULTI-FACETED AND COMPLEX

How do I know? My gender is multi-faceted and complex and I know who I am. I mostly identify as genderqueerfluid but I know people who identify as third gender, genderqueer, two-spirit, agender, pangender and a myriad of other gender identities and expressions and I believe that they also know who they are. I am shocked by the number of people who say that we are confused or kidding ourselves or freaks. How come no one questions my identity as a choreographer? What if most people in my life said, “Well, I’ve never met another choreographer and I really see you as an accountant so I am just going to talk to you as if you’re an accountant.”

Uh, what?

The above example is absurd, right? And yet the same thing is happening every time a transgender person comes out to their family and family members say “well, we still see you as [insert the wrong gender] and so we’re going to continue to use the wrong pronouns.”

3. CISGENDER VS TRANSGENDER

Cisgender: People who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth; if you were assigned “girl” and identify as woman you are cisgender.

Transgender: People who do not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth.

Binary trans identities: Some trans people are assigned “girl” and identify as “boy” or vice versa; they still have binary gender identities. Man or woman. That’s it. Binary = two.

Non-binary trans identities: No identification with EITHER man or woman. I was assigned “girl” at birth but am genderqueer or gender fluid or genderqueerfluid. I use they/their/them pronouns.

I AM NOT A WOMAN

MY PRONOUNS ARE NOT A “preference” THEY ARE MY PRONOUNS

It seems that we should stop assigning genders at birth and rather let people figure it out as they grow up. If we want to proclaim something at birth we could say “This one has a vagina!” Or “I see a penis!” Or better still, “Fingers! Intelligence! Soul!”

I am not an expert. But I witness and experience discrimination every day because I am queer and trans so I feel called to be vocal about gender, sexuality, heteronormativity, privilege, and social injustice. I invite comments and questions. I invite discomfort and growth. I invite the unfolding of something big and spectacular.

For more information, I invite readers to check out Beit Gorski’s website. Xe IS an expert (and an awesome educator to boot) http://www.beitgorski.com