Gender and Parenting

Being gender nonconforming and a birthing parent at the same time is kind of a weird experience. Most literature about birthing parents tends to be extremely woman-centric still. In some places the language is becoming more inclusive, which is good. For me, there’s an extra layer though. Because for me, giving birth and being pregnant were both intensely feminine experiences. The whole process was very woman-aligned for me, and even now that I’ve begun to distance myself from exclusive femininity looking back it still feels very Female to me. I am still my son’s “mother” and would never want him to stop looking at me as a mother, even though I don’t identify as a woman anymore. But the birthing and nursing part is over, and now I am moving into a different phase of my life where I am much less feminine-aligned, and now I am also just a parent. It’s a weird feeling a little bit, to look back on myself as being more of a woman at a certain point in my life. Sort of how I was a little girl, but then I grew up into a less-feminine person for a while. Life phases are weird. Especially since they’re different for everyone.

This is not to say that everyone does or should feel feminine when giving birth, or identify with the designation of “mother” even as a birthing parent, or anything like that. More men give birth every year than we realize, and even nonbinary people may not be particularly woman-aligned during their pregnancies or births. And it’s really important to make room for those experiences too. As hard as it is for me to fully grasp non-fluid genders (trans or cis), they do exist and we should be allowing men to continue to be men even when they are pregnant or birthing.

But there’s an added wrinkle of having waited so long to begin my transition. My son is 11 now, which is old enough to notice changes, but not old enough for him to particularly care about what his mom’s identity is if it doesn’t really impact how I relate to him. Because it doesn’t. I’m still very early in my transition (started T this week!! Yay!!) so there are a lot of changes on the horizon for me. But at the end of the day, I’m my son’s mother and I love him very much. None of that changes. I’ll still like snuggling him, I’ll still kiss his bruises, and make him dinner, and play Animal Crossing New Horizons with him as often as possible. I might look a little different in 5 or 6 months, but I (think) I’ll still look like me (I hope). So expressing something I’m still relatively confused and unsure about like the shape of my gender to a disinterested 11 year old is…challenging. How do I relate it to his experience of me, when so far it’s been largely superficial changes and internal work. Do I try to get him to use “they” pronouns for me? I’m not out to his other grandparents, how do I impress on him that he shouldn’t talk to them about it without making it weird? When he’s not interested in a subject, he’s incredibly hard to talk to because he goes monosyllabic and doesn’t pay attention. I just want to share this incredibly important, life-changing thing that is happening to me, and I’m not sure how.

I think it’s important though. There are an incredible amount of messages being bombarded at him from all sides about the right way to Be, and I am doing my best to ensure he knows he doesn’t have to follow any or all of those messages. Living my truth as an example to him is another way I can reinforce that idea. Today I was reading Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, and e was musing at the end about how e would talk to a child who came to em with questions about gender. It reinforced my feeling that I need to be sharing this with my son as much as possible, even while I’m still fumbling my way through it.

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