babies

Babies and (parental) gender

I knew going into this whole parenting thing that I was going to get called “mommy” a lot, by default. And I do.

I don’t have the energy to proactively tell people I only have minor or passing relationships with about my gender and how I do and don’t identify. This is true in all areas of my life – though I’m out at work among my co-workers, (and I recently added my pronouns to my professional email signature!) I don’t correct random library patrons who misgender me, not even if they’re people I see somewhat regularly. They just don’t need that information about me, to be honest? And I apply this attitude everywhere.

So, in the hospital when my baby was born, I was called “mommy”. At baby groups, I get called “mommy”. In my baby’s swimming lessons, I’m one of the “mommies” (while silently wishing that the class I was in was more visibly mixed-gender, like the on immediately before ours, so that that “mommy” stuff wouldn’t be thrown around quite so freely).

What I really wasn’t expecting, though, was how often people who do know me, and know that I am genderqueer, and are actually very good with my pronouns (and sometimes even explicitly knew that I didn’t plan to go by mommy!)… still reflexively called me “mommy”, when talking to my baby.

There is something deeply ingrained in our psyches about babies, that they must be in want of a mommy, I guess? It was actually equal parts fascinating and perturbing for me, how naturally people’s brains went there. Brains are weird that way!

But yeah, me and my baby, we’re on a first name basis. I’ve always planned to let them figure out a title for me if and when they want to, but more recently I’ve also been speculating that the baby-talk version of “Kasey” could very easily be “Seesee”, which might just be a perfect fit on its own. I think I may even try to encourage it :)

Babies and gender: where I’m at now

Before my baby existed in any way at all, I had decided how I was going to handle the whole birth-assigned-sex/gender thing. You can read the whole post about it, but my basic approach was that I would go ahead and use whatever pronouns most commonly align with the baby’s birth-assigned sex, while also avoiding gendering the baby in other ways.

This is, in fact, the way I’ve been approaching my baby’s gender (though I will be using ‘they’ pronouns for the baby on this blog, at least for now. I can’t quite articulate my reasons for this right now). It’s definitely a path-of-least-resistance approach, but it seems fine for us. Honestly, though, now that I have a nearly-one-year-old (OMG!), I am mostly just amazed at how ridiculously, transparently deluded most people’s perceptions of baby gender are.

Seriously, though. Other than the fact that they’re statistically likely to identify with the gender commonly associated with their birth-assigned sex, I really don’t think my baby has a gender yet, nor could I really guess at what their gender will be. Heck, at this age babies apparently don’t recognize themselves in a mirror, their sense of self is just that nearly-non-existent.

People really, really love to insist that baby’s genders are just so apparent from birth though! Oh, sure, little Susie was just born knowing how to shop, you say*? And Bobby, wouldn’t you know it, he’s been just *obsessed* with breasts since the day he was born (LOLOLOLOL!!!)? Obviously our culture’s current particular understanding of the gender binary is completely natural and not at all learned.

Meanwhile, depending on what my baby is wearing, they’ve been declared everything from “what a perfect boy” to “such a pretty little girl”. I promise you they were exactly the same baby each time.

I really just don’t perceive my baby as a gendered being at this point (which was sort of my goal – I don’t want the way I treat them to be coloured by their probable gender, and the best way to avoid sub-consciously doing that is prevent my sub-conscious from seeing them in a gendered way in the first place.) Though I also realize that saying I don’t perceive them that way doesn’t make it true.

But, I’m pretty sure I’ve actually pulled it off! The reason: after my parents’ most recent visit, my father sent me a message saying that he loves my baby, except he called the baby my “daughter”. And I was momentarily confused and didn’t know what he was talking about? Because I don’t have one of those? I just have a baby. (Who will soon be a toddler, and a child…) Like, I think that I had literally never thought that word in connection to my baby.

So that’s something!

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*There’s a lot to unpack here, but in all seriousness, in one of the baby groups I sometimes go to, one of the facilitators(!) waxed poetic about how she’s sure girls are born with the shopping gene or something. Like, properly went on about it. It was something.

Notes on a Non-Binary Pregnancy: Pregnancy is a *trip*, y’all

Ok, honestly, most of what I have to say here is reasonably obvious, and none of it is ground-breaking or new, but holy wow, pregnancy is such a weird thing.

I *grew* a whole entire other *human being* *inside* my *body*. And that’s just a totally? normal?? thing??? Somehow????

I swear I really do realize every single person who as ever lived did a bunch of their first growing inside of another human. But at the same time… ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? What kind of absurd science fiction are you talking about? That can’t possibly be a really real thing, it just can’t.

Let me put it this this way: for a good chunk of last year, my body contained TWO ENTIRE SKELETONS. Granted, one was very small, but COME ON. There’s no way that’s just a regular, common thing.

My point is, I guess, that the way we all came to be is definitely some completely made up nonsense. I don’t believe in any of it XD

Babies, and “finding out their gender”

So, pretty much everyone knows I’m pregnant by now. I’m not great at telling everyone at work, but the word is definitely spreading on its own – people I work with occasionally from other locations often know before I tell them, and the library CEO recently thanked me for the surprisingly convenient timing of my pregnancy in terms of the library system’s bigger projects XD .

Inevitably, people want to know whether I’m going to “find out the gender” ahead of time. Whenever people ask me this, I am tempted to give them one of these:

Because, like, come on! You are literally talking to a trans person *right now*. Do you even hear yourself? Usually I will just correct them to remind them that only thing I can find out at the point is the (probable) sex – really, all you can learn from an ultrasound is whether or not the fetus appears to have a penis, which isn’t really as conclusive of anything as we like to pretend it is.

Personally, I don’t really care whether I find out the baby’s apparent sex from an ultrasound or when they’re born. It’s kind of all the same to me. My partner made a very good point, however, which has made us decide to wait to find out.

The thing is, if we learn the sex early, other people will want us to tell them what it is. And they’ll use the info to start gendering the baby immediately. And we’d like to put that off as long as reasonably possible. So, we won’t be learning the fetus’ apparent sex from my ultrasound on the 22nd (tomorrow!)

My general approach/attitude to my upcoming baby’s gender is the same as what I had planned before I got pregnant. In short: I know that I won’t know the baby’s gender until they are able to tell me what it is; however, for practical purposes I plan to use the pronouns the are traditionally applied to the baby’s apparent sex at birth (if they’re intersex, then I’ll go with they/them), while generally avoiding other forms of gendered language for them.

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: B is for ‘Born a man’/’Born a woman’

Welcome to another episode of the “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet. Today:

B is for ‘Born a Man’/’Born a woman’

Sometimes, when cisgender people are talking about a trans person, they will try to explain their trans-ness in simple terms, by explaining that a trans woman is a woman who was ‘born a man’, (or that a trans man is a man who was ‘born a woman’). I would like this wording to die in a fire, to be perfectly honest.

I cannot stress this enough: no one in the history of the entire world – cis, trans, or otherwise – was ‘born’ either man or a woman. We are all born as babies, and in most cases adults then make a guess at what our gender is and generally call us either a girl or a boy.

For some people, it may very well be true to say they were ‘born a girl’ or ‘born a boy’ (other people – trans, cis, and otherwise – don’t really see their gender as something they were born with, but rather as something that developed after they were born). The thing about that, though, is that trans men are just as likely to have been born boys as cis men are – trans men who are born boys are just much more likely to have the adults in their mistakenly think that they were born girls, is all.

Certainly there are trans men out there who feel that it is accurate to describe them as having been born girls, and trans women who see themselves as having been born boys, people who feel their gender has shifted over the course of their life, starting in one place and winding up elsewhere. But that is far and away not the only, or even the most common trans experience.

So, cis people, just stop it already with talking about people of any kind being born as men or women. We aren’t, any of us. And, more importantly, stop saying trans people were born in a gender other than the one they tell you they are – most of us weren’t.


Check out the rest of “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

Babies and gender again: “Do you want a boy or a girl?”

So, in thinking about the question of babies, gender, and pronouns in writing my previous post, I also thought about the ways in which I’m going to have to start dealing with binary-gendered questions long before I even have a baby to gender (or not).

Because of course pregnant people get asked a lot about whether they hope the baby is a boy or a girl.

The obvious answer to this question is “I don’t care.” And I might use that. But I have also realized that I might (at least sometimes, when I have the energy) rather answer that I hope the baby is intersex.

For one thing, it’s more likely to shut people up than saying “I don’t care,” since they might continue pestering me for an answer in that case. But more importantly, it’s also kind of true.

I know that an intersex baby would be much better off with me for a parent than most other people. So if one of the intersex babies being born anyway is mine, that would be great.

But also, as I tangentially mentioned in my last post about this, I would probably be able to use neutral pronouns for an intersex baby with far less pushback from people than I would have with a non-intersex baby. Like, no, everyone, I really don’t have anything to go on vis a vis this baby’s gender right now, not even the thing that you wrongly think defines their gender, mmkay?

I don’t know if that would work, really, but at least I’d feel more strongly about holding the line in that case than I might with a non-intersex baby, if that makes sense.

So yeah, if people ask, that may very well be what I tell them.

What to do about babies and gender

[Content note: reference to adult-child related sexual creepiness]

As a person who intends to have kids at some point, and as someone who is very aware that you can’t tell what a person’s gender is (/what their gender is going to be or whatever) when they’re born, I have to deal with the question of what I’m going to do about my future babies and gender.

I mean, hopefully it’s obvious that I have no intention of imposing any sort of gender norms or expectation on any kids I have. And I will listen to them about their own gender as soon as they are able to tell me about it. But there is still the question of what to do about pronouns etc until they’re able to do that.

In an ideal world, I would lean toward using neutral pronouns – either the perennial ‘they’, or something specific as more of a placeholder (I remember reading a long time ago about someone who referred to their fetus using the ‘ou’ pronoun, and I like the idea of using something that isn’t so clearly linked to non-binary/genderqueer identities, since that may carry a lesser version of the baggage involved in traditionally masculine or feminine pronouns.)

But living as I am in an entirely un-ideal world, I’m not sure this is what I will actually end up doing. I may very well wind up simply using the pronouns assume the baby is cisgender (unless they’re intersex, in which case, gender neutral pronouns it will be until I can hear otherwise from them), as a sort of default/educated guess (since there is a high likelihood that they will be cis), for a few reasons.

The main one is, I just don’t know that I have the energy to have all the conversations that would be involved in refusing to gender my baby. Although I am not going to adhere to gendered expectation with clothing, toys, etc with them, I know that people would push back harder against gender neutral pronouns than other things, simply because it makes them uncomfortable to use them. Which is a terrible reason, obviously, but still. I have enough work on my hands doing this for myself, and people are more upset by gender neutral pronouns when they are applied to children, and more prone to inappropriateness or downright violence (or trying to get me to lose custody of my children even, probably) than I am prepared to deal with.

Which, on some level I feel like maybe I should not have kids unless I am willing to fight for that for them. But on the other hand, I don’t think that placeholder pronouns alone are going to harm a kid who is otherwise raised as much as possible without gendered expectations. I don’t think that ‘he’ or ‘she’ is somehow inherently a more harmful placeholder than ‘they’ or ‘ou’ could be anyway.

My other fear, though, is not about me and my own energy, as much as it is about my child. A baby who is referred to by gender neutral pronouns may attract some really unsavoury behaviours from people who really really need to know the baby’s ‘real’ gender. I am quite sure that refusing to indicate a binary gender for my baby would make a whole lot of people suddenly really interested in changing that baby’s diaper, or helping them with their bath, or something. And that level of creepiness is not something I want a baby or toddler subjected to.

I am also afraid that being quite to obvious about my gender neutral approach to parenting would result in other adults trying to over-compensate for that, and my children being subjected to even more over-the-top, explicit gender policing than they otherwise would.

So, I dunno. I don’t know what the least harmful route to take, really. I’m just going to do my best and what feels right, I guess.