parenting

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 :)

How does your gender factor in to your future plans? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge Part 18

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: How does your gender factor in to your future plans?

Gender always factors in my future plans at least to the extent of whether or not I plan to be out about my gender in x, y, or z context, and if so, when. Speaking of which, I am now 2/3 of the way through my probation at my current job, so maybe as soon as a couple of months from now? I am also considering waiting until next year’s Trans Day of Visibility, but that may just be a procrastination tactic on my part. We’ll see?

But yeah. I mean, I feel like I might be harping on this a bit and all (though maybe I am harping more in my head than in writing, so it may bear repeating here after all), but the place where my gender looms largest for me in terms of future plans is around this whole thing where I am really hoping to find someone who wants to raise kids with me.

The thing is that while I am open to a totally platonic arrangement in this regard (and can even see some advantages to such a thing), I also now that most people aren’t. Most people are actually pretty attached to getting their romantic (and sexual) and family-making needs/desires met in one package.

Which means I am thinking a lot about how my gender impacts my current and future date-ability. And it kinda sucks. Trawling OkCupid for people who are open about wanting kids is some depressing shit. I usually keep my searches open to those who set their settings both to “wants kids” and “might want kids”, but the honest truth is that all of the patience I may ever have had for people who might maybe want to have kids at some magical future ‘someday’ got used up a long fucking time ago. When people are in their freaking thirties and still dicking around on “I don’t know. Maybe?” on a question like that, I just fucking can’t. (And I mean, look, I don’t actually mean to criticize you if this describes you. You get to not now what you want, or you get to be unsure about whether it is possible for you fit kids into your life, or whatever else. Just, we would not be compatible right now, because you would make me crazy, is all.)

And then there’s the fact that even the folks who say they want kids are very often straight. I am sure I have no shot with straight women. I do with straight men, but the idea of dating straight dudes gives me pre-emptive dysphoria at this point, to be honest. The risk of being made to feel invisible, incomprehensible, and/or just generally like shit is too high.

And of course, even if I did want to to risk all of that, I know that plenty of folks wouldn’t want to date me anyway because of my gender. or they would want to, but maybe they would make me a secret or misgender me behind my back because they didn’t want to be out about having a trans partner or whatever? I mean, I know a lot of this is useless anxiety-brain speculation, but also these are real things that people do, and I am not even remotely capable of handling that kind of bullshit right now.

In my worst moments, I have honest-to-goodness considered a sort of detransition. If I just say I’m a woman, than my prospects would open up. I could be less difficult, and require less work from potential partners. I could date people who don’t care about social justice, I guess.

Except of course I don’t want any of that. Of course I don’t want to date someone who would not date me if I was honest about who I am. And of fucking course I don’t want to raise kids with someone who doesn’t understand social justice issues.

And even if I was willing to make that many compromises, the thing is that every time I think about it, it is clear to me that I can’t. I can’t go back to pretending to be a woman. It would destroy me.

So here I am.

I kind of got away from the original prompt there, maybe, but anyway, yeah, these are the things I think about when I think about my gender and my future.


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

Schrodinger’s divorce

So, I am getting divorced. I just realized I never explicitly said that here, although I wrote directly about the reason why earlier this year. I haven’t written a lot about it here because my former spouse-person does read this stuff, and I have been doing my best not to unfairly throw my feelings at them around this (so, to you, fair warning that you may not want to read this one, I guess). I need to get this stuff out, though, and processing these kinds of feelings has been one of the major things this blog does for me, and I’m not willing to continue sacrificing this outlet for the sake of whatever-has-been-holding-me-back, so here we go.

My divorce is very amicable. The post linked above gives you the sunniest of all of my attitudes toward it, and its the one I’ve worked very hard to keep in the forefront as I’ve gone through the motions.

The short version is, when we decided to get married, I was very clear on the fact that marrying me was also a commitment to have kids with me, and my partner agreed to that. And then last year, about five years in, they let me know that they had realized they don’t want to have kids after all. Our divorce isn’t anyone’s fault, and neither of us did anything wrong.

And yet.

That’s not the only story there is to tell. And I can’t always stick to that one either, because it doesn’t even begin to honour all of the feelings I have about it.

Because the thing is, I am angry. I am so goddamn angry. I feel betrayed. I feel abandoned. The life I have been actively and consciously working on building has been torn down around me and I the only thing left standing is me, alone. (I mean, not really, but also yes really, that is what it feels like).

Because the other story goes something like this:

I met an amazing wonderful person who honestly change my life. Our relationship was just comfortable and good right from the start, and I knew I wanted to be with them, as much as I have ever known anything. They were someone I wanted to be with, and they were someone I loved the idea of raising kids with, specifically.

They were less sure at first (less sure about whether they wanted to marry at all ever; less sure about whether they wanted kids at all ever) but after a few years we decided to get married and that’s what we did.

For me, this meant we were a team, that I was no longer just building a life for myself, but rather we were working together to build a life (or two parallel lives anyway) for the both of us. And I loved this. This made me really happy.

I made different life choices than I would have without them. I limited my job searches to Toronto and the surrounding areas (despite the fact that both my career path and the whole having kids thing would have been easier elsewhere), because they were not willing to consider moving and I wanted to be where they would be. Every time we changed apartments, the search was more stressful and difficult than necessary for me, because they didn’t want to live in a high-rise, but since I can live happily just about anywhere, their preferences were the ones that mattered.

I forgave infidelity. More than once. And it wasn’t even hard, because when it came down to it, I knew this was the person I wanted to be with. I could feel it in my bones, and it was as simple as that, for me, always. We figured out better boundaries that were reasonable for both of us, that they could live within and that I could feel comfortable with.

We had a really good and strong marriage, to be honest. It of course had its problems, and we each had things about the other that were trying and wearing, because we are human, but we were dedicated finding ways of making it work, and we did a damn good job of it. Our marriage survived career changes (for both of us). Gender transitions (for both of us). The aforementioned infidelities. We barely even flinched.

But.

Over and over again, we put off having kids. Because they weren’t ready for that yet. Because they had a list of conditions we needed to meet before that could happen, some of which were reasonable, and some of which kept changing. Primarily though, they were stuck working retail and it was miserable and was causing them chronic pain problems, and it was priority to get them out of that hole, and obviously that is all reasonable. So I dedicated myself to helping them figure out what would make them happier to do for a living. I listened to them and helped them figure out their options for changing their career path. And they started working toward an awesome career path (one they are now pretty solidly on). I supported them through a year of school, after having more or less supported myself through my own school (apparently I can work and do a master’s degree at the same time, but they can’t. Whatever. This is the pettiest I’m going to get, I promise.)

I am most bitter about that year, though, because it was actually right when the light at the end of this tunnel finally came into view that they dropped the bomb on me. They were still in the middle of school at the time, and even though we both knew what it meant that they had decided to to not have kids, I decided I would continue to support them until they finished school and got a job, and then we’d start disentangling our finances, and everything else.

To be very, very clear: right up until that conversation happened, I had really thought we’d probably be actually seriously able to look at having kids within a year, or maybe two on the outside (i.e. around right now, as it happens). Instead, we are getting divorced and I don’t know whether that is ever a thing that will happen for me anymore.

There are so few things that I was unwilling or unable to compromise on. There are so many things I did compromise on, so many things I gave up on to be with them, and to help them reach their goals. And there was one thing in the entire world I wouldn’t give up for them, and that’s the one thing they decided they wouldn’t help me with.

It is the actual worst thing they could have done, within the realm of things it would have been even remotely plausible for them to do.

And so I am angry. I am angry that I have given up so many small and large potential opportunities in my life because I thought we were working together toward this one goal that is more important to me than anything. I am angry that I have apparently wasted more than half a decade by trusting someone else’s intention to help me with this goal, when if they had never made me that promise, I would have been looking elsewhere, and maybe I would have found someone who actually shared my conviction and desire.

If I hadn’t trusted in this person, over and over again. If I hadn’t been willing to wait for them. If I hadn’t convinced myself they were worth it, that it would work out in the end, who knows where I’d be now?

It definitely couldn’t be any more of a mess than this.

And so I’m angry. At myself, for trusting the wrong person. At them, for not wanting a thing I want so desperately for them to want.

I think about all the work and effort that went into the project that was our marriage, and I look at the nothing it has come to (half of the savings I thought I had; half of the furniture needed to fill an apartment; I feel like a failed adult).

And I feel so utterly abandoned.

The worst part is, I don’t even really want to start over. What I want is to turn back the clock two years, to when everything was still ok. When I was happy.

I still want the life we were building together. Yes, I want children above all else, and that is that choice I have made, but I also really very much wanted specifically to share that with this particular person. I can’t imagine a better life than the one I was promised to me and then had taken away.

Of course, there is no going back. I couldn’t even get those feelings back if I had the option to, any more. But I don’t know how to move forward from this, either.

I know that part of what I need it time. I know these things will heal. They have to.

And despite everything, I know my life is pretty ok, even great in many ways. I have a job I really, really love, that is fulfilling and that I am usually excited to go to. There are so many wonderful people in my life who love me and support me in various ways, and who I get to love and support as well. My life is full of wonderful things. The core of my life has fallen apart, but I am still in one piece, as I always have been, as I always am.

But at the same time, I am still really looking forward to the day when I can finally say that I got through an entire a week without crying myself to sleep.

And it is still very distinctly possible that the gamble I made on this marriage will ultimately mean that I never do get to have kids. To be honest, I think that is why I can’t decide how much anger it is appropriate for me to have, how much it is appropriate to actually direct at my partner, or at myself. Because only time will answer for me whether this is a forgivable betrayal on their part, whether this was a forgivable mistake on my part.

Only time will tell whether this is really an amicable break-up.

So yeah, it’s Schrodinger’s divorce.

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.

Moving forward, writing a new story

So, part of the story I was expecting my life to be has changed – a partner I had expected to raise kids with isn’t going to fulfill that role in my life. Which, that’s life, really. It doesn’t ever really do what you’re expecting it to.

It’s been interesting for me, the process of figuring out how to move on from this, how to reorganize my life to still have the things that I want it to have, as much as possible. And figuring out which parts of the old plan are necessary to me, and which ones can be rewritten.

I was surprised, when I started talking and writing openly about the changes in my relationship with my partner-formerly-known-as-spouse-person, as how many people asked me if I had considered/was considering going the single parent route. The truth is, I never really had. The truth is that without giving it too much though, I’ve always thought that would be too difficult, that I was not up for it. My picture of my life has always included at least one other adult in a parental role in the family I want to build.

But, it turns out, lots of people who know me (and who know me well) seem to think that I had what it takes to go it alone. To them, it is an obvious solution to the dilemma I have found myself in. To them, I am strong enough, and the challenge is not too great.

And that is an incredibly flattering thing, in a way. But also, I realized that they’re probably right. And I’ve started taking stock of my life differently, now.

The thing is, my life is really great. There are so many people rooting for me, and ready to go to bat for me in so many ways if I need them to. I am loved, and I am cared for, and I have a really, really strong support system in place.

When I think about what I would want in a co-parent, what it is that makes me think I need such a thing, I realize that I don’t want anything like what I used to. I’m not at all interested in making new romantic love connections right now – I am content and oh-so-very fulfilled with what I have, and I’m not sure I have that much capacity for another relationship of that kind.

My ideal co-parent, if I wind up with one, would just be a really good friend and someone that wanted to share the adventure of parenting. Someone I could live comfortably with, and someone I have solid communication with, but really not anything more than that. And honestly, this just seems like an all-around easier and more stable arrangement than entangling romance with child-rearing. Like, it’s a stressful enough thing without also throwing romantic and sexual needs onto each other in addition to the demands of parenting. So, even if my current romantic situation changes, I still don’t think that I would want that kind of all-in-one relationship anyway.

More importantly, though, I’ve come to terms with the idea that this is definitely not something I can force. Either I will find a relationship like that, or I won’t. Or maybe I will find something I never even imagined and it’ll work in a completely different way. For now, though, I’m choosing to focus on figuring out what I, as an individual, need to do and the things I need to get set up in my life, to feel ready to be a parent, with or without anyone else’s involvement in a parental role.

The thing is, there are plenty of people in my life who will be able to lend me plenty of kinds of support in this, without taking on a parental role. Any child of mine will unavoidably have an awesome networks of aunts and uncles and sparkles and god(less)parents who care about and for them in all kinds of ways.

And what more could I possibly hope for?

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.