Monday, August 25, 2014

Being Brave

I'm pregnant again, climbing up week 16 of my third pregnancy, and feeling confident that this one will make it. We've had ultrasounds, appointments, careful diagnosis of this healthy pregnancy, and that's a great relief, if not resolve for all the anxiety and uncertainty that is just the truth with being pregnant, and the added truth of pregnancy after miscarriage.

My son turned four about a month ago, and we told him about the pregnancy after the 13 week ultrasound that confirmed the health and well being of this baby. He was ecstatic and convinced that the baby growing inside of me is a girl. He alternately pretends he is inside of me or is the newborn baby, and talks frequently about wanting to hug and kiss the baby, and perhaps have the baby sleep in his room. He often hugs my belly. I know this will get more complex as the baby is more visible, and finally born in February.

This news has made it possible for Forrest to ask all kinds of questions. First he asks if daddies can have babies. Then, where is the baby inside of you? And what makes someone a mommy or a daddy?

As a bisexual queer cisgendered (mostly) woman who loves and cares about the liberation of my trans and queer friends and chosen family, I have started to imagine what it looks like to answer these questions in a way that includes all of us, that doesn't problematize the reality of biology that does not determine who we are. And I have begun to answer these questions in that direction.

Can daddies have babies?
Most daddies cannot have babies, but some daddies can. Most mommies can have babies, but some mommies cannot.

Where is the baby inside of you? Where does it come out?
The baby is in my uterus. I will give birth to the baby through my vagina. In order to give birth to a baby, you have to have a uterus and vagina. You and daddy don't have a uterus. Some daddies have uteruses. Some mommies do not have uteruses.

What makes a mommy or a daddy?
Being a mommy or a daddy is about loving a child, and choosing to be a parent. Anyone can be a mommy or a daddy, or a nana, or papi, or parent.

I have started to talk to Forrest about the difference between body parts and gender. I have started to be really explicit about the words for body parts and talk about how this is only one part of who we are.

I see Forrest take this in, and he doesn't look upset or confused. He changes the subject rapidly, as with all conversations we have, and circles around to it throughout our days together. Sometimes he declares-- Most men have penises, but not all men. Or he suddenly shares that he wants to wear a skirt like mommy. Or he gets confused about the gender of his classmate, and I suggest he ask his classmate what they identify as.

Am I making things too complex for Forrest? Will this damage him later? I imagine some folks might think so. But when I am with my son in nature, talking about the complexity of plant growth, or when I am trying to explain to him the complex and vast family we have chosen and been given through life and lineage, he doesn't blink. He just keeps on asking questions, and I keep on trying my best to answer. Mostly I just try to tell him that whoever we are is okay, and that we don't need to worry about other folks, or even ourselves, so much. That it's all good and all right. We get to be who we are.

Recently, I was walking in the woods with a family member. I was sharing my desire to make the categories of gender light for my son, and the process of possibility I want to hold for him. I told her that he says he wants to be a ballerina. I told her about his gentle nature, his heart filled desire for beauty and appreciation for it everywhere. I told her he asks to wear skirts sometimes, that I need to get on that and find him some skirts to wear.

She smiled and let me know that all of that would be gone once he started school and was exposed to other kids. Then he would get the message from his peers, and stop talking about those things. And I let her know that what she was describing made me want to homeschool my son.

I've heard a lot of talk about giving young people the education they need-- the resilience to handle harshness and criticism, the ability to function in highly competitive environments and difficult situations. If I hold this beside the desire to help my son explore who he is in a playful and possible way, I see a recapitulation of conformity and a continuation of the marginalization that I experience, that my loved ones experience. I refuse that in my life. I refuse to collude with my own erasure, and the erasure of those I love, in the name of resilience and mainstreaming.

And this includes my son, whoever he is, and whoever he will become. Maybe he will be a ballerina. Or maybe he will be a corporate lawyer (gasp). He did tell me yesterday he did not want to be an author, and he did want to be a big cat rescuer. I suggested he study zoology.


  1. Thanks for sharing… interesting questions. I don't really have any advice, but I wanted to point you to Jennifer Savage's writing (maybe you already read her stuff?) She often writes about gender and children over at Mamalode. Here is one of her essays to give you an idea:

    1. that was a great post you shared, thanks for it! no i hadn't seen that post before, so awesome to see other parents engaging this important issue, and trying to not squelch their children's being. thanks for reading my post, and responding!