I'm Genderqueer -- Can I Still Be a "Mom"?
[This is a personal experience, and does not necessarily reflect the experiences, community or labelling of any other individuals. All terms used in this piece are self-identities and labels, and this article should be not be taken as an "ok" to use those terms on anyone who has not self-identified with them]
I am going to be a Momma.
Before you start congratulating me; that was not a pregnancy announcement. My wife and I are still trying, but I’m confident in saying that it’ll happen. I’m going to be a Momma, and we're going to be adding to our family.
I'm a feminist who fights a lot on the Internet. I'm an anti-oppression activist. I'm a fat activist. I'm a queer activist. I consider myself pretty well-versed in the non-academic side of gender identity politics, at least how they relate to me and my identity.
I’m also an AFAB (assigned female at birth) non-binary trans genderqueer person, who hasn’t quite figured out how to end that sentence. I have to stop myself from letting "girl" or "woman" roll off my tongue. That's what I've always said until recently, despite it not being what I've been comfortable with for a good long while now. I've actually started slotting "feminist" in there, using it as a placeholder for that gendered noun that the world so very much wants me to use. I'm also still using the pronoun "she," because I'm having trouble reaching a place where I can fathom explaining to everyone on a day-to-day basis why they shouldn't be calling me that.
My gender has been, and continues to be, a journey for me. Every single day I surprise myself with facets I hadn’t figured out yet and I’m OK with that, because my growing pride and possessiveness about my gender outweigh what dysmorphia and anxiety it might cause me.
My journey isn’t necessarily all awesome, though. A few months ago, my Mom threw a baby shower for her newest granddaughter (my niece). My Mom is now "Nana," my Dad is now "Grandpa" and my little brother is "Dad." The shower was a celebration of the new baby, of the new addition to the family. As happy as it was, it was a bit of a revelation for me. Listening to all the talk of "new moms" and ‘"mommy" and so on made me stop and think.
As a non-binary person, as someone who indentifies as neither a man or woman, neither "Dad" or "Mom," what parental name is there for me? What will my kid call me? What will they say when their teacher asks them about their mom and dad, or even their parents? What will people address me and my wife as? It led me to the question that hadn't occurred to me until that exact moment:
I’m not identifying as a woman, can I still be a mom?
I didn't realize how earth-shattering this question was going to be. We've been talking kids for over a year, and my wife and I have had a numerous discussions about gender-independent parenting, non-gendered baby names and dealing with family and parents who are going to insist on overgendering our baby. But it wasn't until I was there, in the proximity of a new mom, reading the "New Mommy" sash at the shower and imagining myself in her place that it occurred to me that I didn't have a built-in, ready-to-go title.
I did a lot of reading and looked for alternate titles. A lot of people suggested variations on a first name, but I found that too impersonal. I want my child to call me something no one else will. Some people suggested names like Zaza, or Baba; easily babble-able by babies. None of these sounded like me. I wanted something that resonates as much as Mom does. As much as Dad does. There was something that sat badly with me, personally, with the unfamiliar title; something that made me feel "lesser" as a parent in the face of my wife's "Mom." It's an internalized binary, but still a feeling that's valid in its own right.
Then I stumbled on an article, finally, that meant something to me. It talked about the role of "mother" as not a gendered role, but as a role of someone that many people think of as "Mom." A caretaker, the person you run to with cuts, or to make cupcakes for class. The person who checks for monsters, who makes after-school snacks. Who teaches and reads bedtime stories.
That person is still that person, regardless of gender; the role of Mom isn’t attached to a gender. Instead of creating a new word for myself, why not create a new definition of the old one? Maybe the term "mom" could be as individual to the person holding it as say, their gender identity? That settled it for me.
I’m going to be Momma to my kid (kids? I can hope!) because it means something to me. My mom is an amazing human being. She’s a strong person, a smart, warm and empathetic, tough-as-nails kind of person. She’s guided me to be the passionate, fierce human I am today. I want to perpetuate that a mother is a brave person, a person with agency, a person with compassion. That a mother can be a fighter, can be fierce and feminist and gender-breaking all while still being caring and loving to a child.
I want to be that non-binary, trans feminist Momma to my kids. Because you can gender it all you want, that doesn’t mean I have to. My title as a Momma doesn’t invalidate my transness, either. It reaffirms it for me. It is my silent rebellion against the gender normative perception of Mom and the concept of motherhood.
And I can’t wait to be Momma.