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.