Marriage and ‘motherhood’: discontents from before I realized I am genderqueer

[I wrote this about three and a half years ago on my old livejournal account, not too long before I figured out that I am non-binary. I thought of it recently and realized it might have a place here, since I do a lot of dancing around my discomfort with applying certain female terms to myself, and being perceive din certain traditionally female roles, centering specifically around the institution of marriage, and the entire idea of motherhood. It’s been lightly edited on account of it contained my spouse-person’s birth name. Anyway, here you go.]

So, I’ve been realizing lately that I have a really complex attitude toward this whole “having kids one day” thing. ‘Cause I really, really want to do it, and it’s something I’ve had no real doubts about since I was about 19 (like, an in-my-gut, irrational knowing, which is something I don’t often experience, let alone give much merit to. This one is not to be ignored, though.) I am, however, intensely uncomfortable with the idea of being a “mother.” Or, probably more accurately, the idea of being perceived as a mother.

This really isn’t an odd thing for me, either. I also have issues with being (I guess at least semantically accurately) in a heterosexual marriage. I totally love my spouse-person and being married to him makes me immensely happy, but I hate that it allows my parents to lean back and think “well, obviously you were just straight all along!” when in reality my marriage is totally queer, (I can’t even give blood any more!) and that’s the only kind of marriage I could ever be happy in! This is one of the many reasons that I wanted to elope – there was no way I could handle the kind of heteronormativity that I’d have wound up performing in a wedding if people were there. It was the only way I could avoid the whole “being given to one man (my lovely spouse-person!) by another man (my father, with whom I have a complicated and problematic relationship to begin with)” performance without dealing with, at best, a major shitstorm temper tantrum from my father and serious emotional guilt-trippage. This way he didn’t have to take it personally, at least.

I also hate the whole idea that a big wedding allows family and friends to show their support and approval of the “new” couple. I’m sure that this is a lovely thing for many people, but I absolutely had to decide years ago that my parents approval/support of my relationships was not going to affect my choices; they forfeited that right when I was guilt-tripped for having the audacity to have fallen in love with a woman (literally, I was sat down and told how much it hurt my mother). This makes it really hard for me to be happy that they both really like my spouse-person (like, a lot, and with a level of positivity that my even brothers’ partners have never garnered) [Note: they no longer feel this way, because they decided that it’s somehow his ‘fault’ that I’m trans, or something?]. And I generally feel like commitments between pairs (or groups) of people are just that: commitments among those people, and not the domain of other people. I wanted my wedding to be private, because I feel like my commitment to my spouse-person is a very personal thing that is not accurately represented by the social construct of the wedding, and I wanted to avoid (at least in the moment) watching people project all sorts of unintended meanings onto it.

And this isn’t entirely true; there are plenty of people I’d have been happy to have witness the wedding in person – but, since my parents weren’t in that number, elopement simplified things greatly.

But right now I actually wanted to untangle my feelings around procreation. I think this surfaced back to my consciousness because my mother (for the first time ever, to her credit – I know she actually, seriously, doesn’t want to pressure me) played the “so… grandkids?” card the last time I talked to her. It was sort of deflected onto my older brother, but I’m sure she’s not actually picky about the source. And I’m like “well, yeah, eventually” but I don’t want to say that to her because it’ll be another nail in the coffin of me being the good, normal daughter [sic. Also, yeah, I’ve since blown the hinges off this particular coffin, so…] that somehow justifies her life choices. And I don’t want to be that.

But I don’t think there’s any way for me to privately have kids. So it’s going to a really stressful thing for me, ultimately, to try to walk that line between alienating people and making sure that I have enough space and independence to handle that part of my life the way I want it to be handled, and to be a parent without being a ‘mother,’ in the same way that I try (but often fail, at least in the ways I am perceived) to be married, but not, you know, in a straight way.

7 comments

  1. Thanks for writing this — and sharing it to this blog. Oddly, unexpectedly even, I relate to a lot of this. It’s hard to explain but I’ve been thinking about a lot of the topics touched on here lately. I don’t like the idea of one day being perceived as a mother, if I ever do fulfill my dream of becoming a parent. That’s part of why, when you posted your Gender Perspectives volume 9, I so badly wanted to read “The pros and cons of using traditional versus gender neutral/otherwise alternative parent titles”, and asked you to fix that link. I am comfortable in an identity as a cis woman — but not a type of cis woman that people are family with. I’m not straight, and I’m also not traditionally queer. But my non-normative sexual and romantic orientation should have nothing to do with becoming a mother. I am still female, so why do I feel so disconnected from the idea of being the traditional female parent? It’s hard to say. It may be because I’ve never wanted to become a mother via pregnancy. It’s also likely at least in part because most of the role models I had for mothers are so different than the type of parent I hope to be, most of all my own abusive mother. I just don’t know. I also relate to aspects of not wanting people to see a potential marriage of mine as heteronormative — so much so that these kinds of concerns were determining factors in me deciding to identify as aromantic.

    Of course, there are also aspects of this story of yours I don’t relate to, as was to be expected, and I know your story is your own and very different from *my* life. I fully appreciate reading it. I’m so sorry things are so difficult, frustrating, etc with your family. You write really well and convey everything clearly. I always enjoy reading your posts and this one doesn’t even feel years old at all. It sucks that you can’t get the respect you deserve, the respect for your queerness and the queerness of your marriage and the queerness of your potential parenthood and all of it. And yeah, I can get how a marriage can end up being private if you want it to be but children, often not as much so. But just remember you are allowed to set boundaries every step of the way, or at the very least you should be allowed to. You’re entitled to want it to be private, and to not be okay with certain types of… input from others, or commentary, or any of it.

    1. Lol, I wrote: “I am comfortable in an identity as a cis woman — but not a type of cis woman that people are family with,” but I meant “are FAMILIAR with.” Not sure what that typo says about my state of mind as typing, lmao…

    2. Thank you for sharing! I definitely think that the sort of discomfort you feel with traditional ideas of womanhood/motherhood are pretty common, if not totally ubiquitous. It is one of the reasons that I feel kind of weird pointing to these sorts of feelings in myself as contributors to/signs of my genderqueerness, because they both are and are not. Like, they are actually experiences I *share* with lots of women, so obviously they’re not definitive of gednerqueerness; it’s more like “I have these experiences, plus a bunch of stuff that I’ve never been able to articulate at all, so that’s why I keep pointing at these experiences even though I don’t think they’re actually what makes me genderqueer, they’re just what other people want/need to hear in order to be willing to accept my self-definition blah-blah-blah”|

      It’s…yeah. I don’t even know a lot of the time :P

  2. So there’s something I’ve really been struggling to understand — meaning, “understand in a sufficiently adequate way to articulate it back to someone” — and I’m wondering if you perhaps have a resource to recommend? I myself (being cis) have no problem with being perceived “as a woman” — but I have bucketloads of issues with “being perceived in certain traditionally female roles.” I hate much of what “being a woman” is often associated with, past and present. I also get that this is not the same as what you are saying about yourself — at least, I “get it” conceptually.

    Have you ever come across a piece of writing (or a particular writer) that you think talks through this sort of distinction really well? Something you’d suggest as a good starting point for a cisgender person wanting to better educate herself? Would be much obliged, if you do.

    Best, alice

    1. Oh goodness. That really is a big question, and one I also struggle with, so probably I am not going to be much help here. I totally get that lots of people struggle with the traditional definitions of male and female while still identifying with one or the other (and of course, the way womanhood especially is traditionally treated and modelled is something most people are uncomfortable with, really!). And obviously there is some difference between those people and me/other non-binary folks, but I honestly don’t think it can be very easily articulated and nailed down.

      A big part of it is that I think that there is as much variation in individual’s experiences and understandings of their gender as there are people. And I think that in some cases you could take a woman and a non-binary person and find that their experiences of gender are pretty damn identical, and that it’s only the way they’ve wound up framing and expressing that experience that’s different (i.e. framing that experience as an experience of womanhood or an experience of genderqueerness). A lot of it is in the individual interpretation and coping mechanisms for what I think we both agree is a massively broken system of categorizing people.

      Really, at heart, the only difference I know exists for sure is that people end up identifying differently. I’m not sure there are solid reasons for why that happens, and I mostly don’t even think it’s important; whatever works for any given person is fine and valid. *shrugs*

      Which, I mean, this is a roundabout way of saying that I don’t really understand the distinction you’re pointing to any better than you do, but also I kind of think it’s better not trying to articulate or define it, since that leaves the field more open to everyone to define their own reasons for identifying the way they do, without feeling like maybe they’re breaking a rule because they don’t fit the usual way these distinctions are drawn.

      1. Yeah, I really tossed you a simple one there, didn’t I? ;) Actually, though, your answer is really helpful. Mostly in the sense of “oh, maybe this mushy feeling I have on the subject doesn’t mean I’m missing anything after all.” Thank you!!

        Also, a random factoid for your day: in looking for a baseball metaphor to open my comment with [as to why a baseball metaphor? oh do not ask what is it, let us go and make our visit], I learned that an easy-to-hit pitch is called a “meatball.” Which I totally would have used! Except I suspect that writing “I tossed you a meatball” would have raised your eyebrow even higher than “I decided to go with a sportsing metaphor.”

        Cheerio!

        1. Haha, yes! I actually think that having mushy feelings about it means you’ve engaged more deeply with it than many people do, and probably get it more than a lot of folks do <3

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