I identify as genderqueer or non-binary. That means not exactly fitting on either end of the gender spectrum. I don't particularly identify with the word "woman," and I definitely don't identify with "man." I identify as something more creative and fluid, with aspects of both and aspects of neither.
Third gender? Unicorn? Sparkly thing?
I prefer that people use the gender pronouns "they" and "them" when talking about me. As in, "I saw them walking down the street and they looked fabulous!" or the way you refer to a person whose gender you don't know: "Someone left their tiara behind."
A common gender-neutral pronoun that some folks use is Ze, and my parent name, Zaza, is based on that: Ze+Mama=Zaza. I don't go by mom or mommy, and my wife, who is also genderqueer, uses the parent name "Mo." It's pretty cute; "Mo and Zaza love you!"
But the parenting world is not set up for Mos and Zazas.
This became abundantly clear early in my pregnancy when the doula leading the hospital tour offered advice "For all the dads in the room," and then looked guiltily at my wife like she was embarrassed but wasn't going to correct herself. It was clear when the medical assistant at the women's care specialists asked
why my husband couldn't come to the appointment; when the ultrasound technician simply didn't speak to or acknowledge my partner, who was in the room with us, through the whole procedure; when the urgent care nurse asked her if she's my sister. It became clear when the prenatal yoga teacher directed us all to tap into the divine feminine and make spiral motions with our wombs, when every stranger in the baby groups on Facebook tells me "You got this, mama!" and when yet another well-meaning admirer exclaims to my baby "You're so lucky to have two loving mommies!"
Or when the guy at the Big 5 looks at my rather robust child and says, "Your husband must be tall."
Or when I hunt for nursing tops online and everything is soooo flowy.
Or when I hunt for more info about nursing and stumble across books with titles like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
Or when my midwife never got my pronouns right, in all the months we worked together. When most of my family members still don't.
Those moments make me and my wife feel minorly or majorly erased—like some part of our identities and our relationship is invisible or inconsequential. All the assumptions hurt. I often wish I could overlook those moments, that I could just reduce the sting and not care. It would be so convenient, but I usually don't say anything in the moment, because then I'll be calling attention to my other-ness or making the other person uncomfortable. And I'm tired of being an educational experience for folks who are new to queer and gender non-conforming identities. So I wait until I'm home, or with a friend who gets it, and we cringe and wince together.
But then there are the intrusive questions, like when myriad straight strangers ask, "Did you do it in Albuquerque?"
It turns out this is a way of asking if we got pregnant at the fertility clinic 60 miles away. The answer is "No, it was a more DIY affair involving a mason jar," but here's a PSA: DO NOT ask your queer friends where they got their sperm or who the "father" is. It is super rude, and if they want you to know, they'll tell you. Anyway, they probably don't refer to their sperm donor as the baby's "father." That implies a whole different relationship. He might be the donor, or the duncle, or a non-entity, or something else altogether.
It seems like 99.9% of our culture expects people who carry and birth children to identify as women. It's what defines a woman, right? But the thing is, trans men get pregnant and non-binary folks birth babies. People all across the gender spectrum are doing this parenting thing in many brilliant and unconventional ways. Not everyone parenting is in a straight marriage, but more people than you imagine still think this is a given. For real, folks, it's not 1952.
Single parents. Poly parents. Divorced parents. Queer parents. We're everywhere.
So let's rewrite some children's books. And pregnancy books. And parenting books. It's not that hard to include gender non-conforming folks. For one thing, we can make changes to the language we're using. We can use more inclusive words, like changing "mom and dad" to "parents," or using "spouse" or "partner" instead of defaulting to "husband." Let's try including single people, because not every parent has a partner! Let's try out terms like "the breast-feeding parent" or "the chest-feeding parent" or "the gestational parent" rather than defaulting to "mother."
Respect and practice using someone's alternative pronouns, even if it feels
tricky at first and you make mistakes. Or ask someone how they identify—"What's your parent name? What's your pronoun?"—if you don't know. And then there are actions. Like, hello—where are the changing tables in men's restrooms?! And where are the gender-neutral restrooms on a large scale?
These things matter. They make people feel cared for and seen. They make pregnancy and parenting a little less hard for all the sparkly creatures in our lives.
Jacks McNamara is a queer writer, artist, healer, and trouble-maker living in Santa Fe. They're passionate about social justice, magic, plants, and parenting one wondrous little human. Find out more at www.jacksmcnamara.net.