Identity

Lesley and I are not queer. I have some qualms about the queer identity but think people are free to identify that way and that it is a valid identity (I know, what a relief that I find someone’s identity valid). Not being queer makes it a bit awkward for us in our hippie college town. We’re looked at as enemies of current LGBT struggles and have never really felt like we fit in to the larger community here.

Lesley and I are not queer. We are lesbians. If asked in friendly circles, we will be completely honest: we are dykes. We are dykes not just by sexual orientation but also by political belief. We were taught by strong second wave feminist dykes and have opinions that are extremely unpopular in current day LBGT(QIIA? Is that all of it now?) politics. We’re old school. I believe that there are things about the transgender identity (movement, maybe?) that hurt women. I am not saying that transgender people hurt women, but that the identity does. I also believe that women who were socialized as girls have a different experience than women who were socialized as boys and that each group needs and deserves the space to heal from that experience alone. I’m sure by now you have figured out that these views are unpopular.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these things lately for a few reasons. First, our roommate is a teaching assistant for a sex and culture class. A student in the class asked the professor what is the difference between lesbian and queer. The professor responded that queer is more radical. This has our household enraged. I’m not going to go into why because you’ll either understand why or disagree with me without an explanation but that is issue one of what brought this to the forefront.

The next issue that brings this up is the question we have been asked about how we will identify ourselves as parents. We have been asked who will be “mama” and who will be “mommy”. I’ve been rereading this article circulating on my facebook about a family with (at least one) genderqueer parents who makes the distinction that their family does not have two moms but instead a mama and a baba. We both plan on being moms yet we hesitate to give ourselves names. We have friends who also choose not to name themselves but go by “mama l—-“ and “mama j—-“. I hate that, too as I don’t want my child calling me by my first name. Also, let’s be real, mama is the better choice so how do we decide who gets that? Neither one of us have a desire to be labeled as a parent by another name which could create some confusion for us and has many people asking how our child will identify us. I think this will happen naturally and realistically, I have always called Lesley “Doodle” (or some variation – Choo choo McDoodleroo, Chief Doodler in charge of all the doodles, ect) and wouldn’t be surprised if our child did the same.

People are quick to place labels. We all know this. I like skirts and dresses and am never questioned about my gender identity. Lesley has facial hair and wears “men’s” clothing so is often asked what pronouns she uses. This is where I think that the popularity of the transgender identity is hurtful to women. Because she does not present the way people expect a woman to present she is assumed to not be a woman. This is why older lesbians have a hard time with trans issues, y’all. It used to be the straight world that assumed that non-conventional women aren’t women, now it’s our own community. I foresee many conversations in our future with well-meaning folks wondering how to define us as parents and as I usually do, am putting the cart in front of the horse with mulling over my response to imaginary questions.

The third thing that brings identity to the forefront of my mind is a conversation going on on a forum I use. The conversation is reminding people that sex and gender are not the same and should not be used interchangeably. This has served as a reminder of the need to examine my own bias when becoming a mother. While I think it is pretty impossible to not assume your infant with female genitalia is a girl (or your infant with male genitalia is a boy) and I’m not going to beat myself up about going forward with that assumption, I want to be accept our child for whoever they may be and make sure we provide a loving home where they are welcome to be that person. I have no desire to raise child “X”, a genderless child, but need to give myself permission to evolve with them. I need to be aware that my child may not be a second wave feminist dyke. I need to be aware that I need to be nice to other well-meaning parents. I need to be aware that I may spend a bit more time explaining our family to curious people and that I should do so with compassion. And I need to be aware that while we are not queer, the many moms and dads and babas that I see around town with their infants are part of the greater community of nontraditional families that I want to try to join. Sure, I need to allow myself and my opinions to grow but mostly I need to remember that sometimes it’s okay to keep my mouth shut.

Advertisements

Posted on April 15, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Children are not born knowing how to hate or how to disapprove of someone’s life or gender or whether or not they are gay-straight-lesbian-bi-queer-trans-or any other option out there – children are taught that everyone must conform to a certain “label” and they will be subjected to that same pressure for themselves too. The best thing you can do for your future child is to be open, supportive, and available to answer questions or address issues when they arise and guide them through life without worrying if they will end up gay, straight, or purple with polka dots. My wife and I don’t quite fit the mold of what a lesbian is in our local community – we don’t coat ourselves in rainbow glitter and march in the Pride Parade and cover our cars in stickers spouting one political agenda or another or sleep around with every vagina in town. In fact, we are more like a 1950s couple with (relatively) conservative views, married with a baby, living in our modest home with white picket fence. And that’s just perfect for us, not as lesbians, but as people. Teach your child that love is love and that your love as his/her parents is unconditional, without rules or restrictions, and they (and the world) will be better for it. And don’t worry, they will come up with their own names for you both, no matter what you “choose” now – when we first started out we called each other Zombie and Llama in hopes that Jaxson would call us that (because wouldn’t that be hilarious!) and now we call each other all sorts of different variations but Jaxson has decided we are “ooma” and “ma-mom”, for this week at least. 🙂

  2. I have been thinking about your post all day . . .in part because there are pieces that deeply resonate with me (La and I wonder what we will be called, too . . .although I like Mama and she likes Mommy, they are so close that slips seem inevitable) and their are also pieces that I disagree with deeply. I identify as queer, in part because my relationships have been with a variety of people, some of whom don’t fit any particular label. I identify as femme, La sees herself as a masculine identified person doing femininity – a dandy. But ultimately, I think you and I likely have a lot more in common than we have different. I do have to wonder about your statement about transgender identity being ‘harmful.” I know you clarify that transgender people aren’t, but it still feels hard to hear. If someone said to me “Gay people don’t hurt kids. But gay identities do.” I wouldn’t feel ok about that – I wonder if you would? When identities are lives experiences, its hard to pull them apart from our humanity. I also think fewer assumptions are always better – and the more questions we ask and the more we learn about each other the better. I think the movement towards asking about identities, including pronouns, leaves space for story telling instead of assumptions.
    Regardless, its complicated. I respect your wrestling with these big questions.

    • I see your point about the harmful comment. I struggled with finding the right words and posted knowing those weren’t quite it… My thought/point is that in an effort to be accepting of the range of identities on the gender spectrum I sometimes think we as a community forget/ignore that your presentation does not dictate your identity. Meaning: there are many ways to be a woman (or man, or genderqueer) and at times in an effort to be inclusive and accepting people make assumptions (as we people do) and I worry that instead of expanding our ideas of what it means to be a woman or man we may end up limiting our ideas in favor of a third category. Hopefully that makes sense while using better words but either way, I think you know what I’m saying.
      I find myself always more open to questions in person than in theory. Due to my Midwest upbringing I find myself preemptively defensive when it comes to identity politics. I think our conversations to come with other parents will be interesting and knowing our town not as bad as they are in my head.
      Btw, loved loved LOVED your GLEE picture.

  3. This is really thought-provoking, and I haven’t yet processed all of it. But I do like the reminder that sex doesn’t = gender. When I found out I was having a female child, I was elated. I attached all sorts of female gender identities onto my unborn child. And that isn’t fair to Evelyn. I’ve been really practicing not assigning her a gender in the way I speak to her, the way I treat her, and the thoughts I have about her future.

    As for me, I identify as both lesbian and queer. Though I won’t ever use the word “queer” around straight people. I only use that around LGBTTQ folks, for some reason.

  4. Lots of food for thought here. Interestingly enough, I have a post in my archives that starts off in direct opposition to this–I am not a lesbian, but I am queer. I think labels are useful when we use them to define or clarify our own identities on our terms, less useful when others use them to define us on their terms.

    Being a dyke and being queer strike me as being radical in different ways, but dykedom is not a realm in which I have spent much time, nor is the wider queer community (most, though not all, of my closest and day-to-day friends are straight), so I am perhaps not so qualified to elaborate. I’m one of those queers who is undermining the assumptions of straight people, but not necessarily challenging paradigms. A “just like them” queer. I’m not sure how the transgender experience fits into this, but I’ve found it interesting to watch traditionally same sex institutions (colleges, schools, scouts, etc.) navigate this unfamiliar territory. Your point about women raised as boys versus women raised as girls taps into this.

    As for the mommy-mama debate, there is at least one couple on my blogroll who are both mama (no first name) to their child and though this causes great consternation beyond their family, it does not seem to have been an issue within it, except for the occasional confusion over which mama is being summoned. But the kid is quick to notify them of any mistakes made. It seems that having two mamas in the house also means having two other mamas in the house and it’s baby’s whim as to which is which at any given time. Kids know who their parents are and have no qualms about making their knowledge (and day-to-day preference) known.

    I am with you on not wanting to raise a genderless child. I aspire not to limit her experiences by gender, try to use gender-neutral terms whenever possible (kid/friend vs. boy or girl, firefighter/police officer vs. fireman/policeman, parents vs. mom/dad, etc.), but I’m willing to commit to a pronoun for now. I acknowledge that it can change and, quite frankly, I’m far more inclined to roll my eyes or rally against the pervasive heteronormative coupling of young children (“all his girlfriends,” “already driving the boys crazy,” etc.). I trust myself to raise children who will, as Todd Parr’s The Mommy Book says, be who [they] are. Mostly, when it comes to relating to other non-traditional families in our community, I want to encourage my child to listen to how others identify themselves and respect those identities. But of course it’s a double standard, because I often find myself bristling, pushing back against related identities in the “traditional” families with whom we spend more of our time. Always a challenge, these societal norms.

  5. I agree with you about the wrongness of equating butch lesbians with transmen, they’re different species. Women can be masculine and still be women.

    I don’t know if I will raise my child with particular gendered expectations, I am probably on the queer spectrum myself, but I don’t really think about that much. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to raise a kid, as long as it’s responsive to the individual child and loving.

    Odd, both my wife and I like “Mommy” better than “Mama.” I guess it just varies? I’m frankly going to be fine with being called whatever the kid decides to call me.

  6. I super appreciate this post. My wife and are both part of the new wave current generation of queerness but have always been very vocal about our concerns. The way I see it is that while I don’t necessarily identify as a lesbian, I’m in a lesbian relationship and so it is most simple to align myself there.
    I don’t like that queer is a term used to define gender and sexuality because they are very different things and so I tend to avoid it although I think my sexuality is pretty broad and would be best defined by such a broad word.
    I think letting the babe figure out what they want to call you is best. My wife has been trying to get our son to say Mama while I’ve not cared to much. He was determined to not say Mama to her for a long time and instead called her “Daia” (Her name is Daniela). I really liked this and I wish he had stuck with it. At this point he calls us both “Mama”. I think we fit a certain place for him that no one else does so he groups us together right now which is fine until he figures something else out.

  7. I am like the complete opposite lol, but the wonderful thing about being non-hetero is I still appreciate what you are saying. We don’t really belong to any community, and most of our friends are straight, so I don’t really think about my identity or orientation much of the time. But in some ways our family is going to be really queer (and I don’t mean that in a political sense). My spouse is female, but doesn’t identify with a female gender, we just use non-gendered terms. So she won’t be a mama, mommy, mother or any other cutesy derivative. We are just going to wait and see, as you said it will likely happen on it’s own. But there will be a lifetime of correcting when someone inevitably refers to her as the child’s mom. It makes sense to us b/c it just fits her, but other people don’t fully get it. I have to constantly tell friend’s “don’t let her hear you say that” if they refer to her in a gendered way like call her my “wife.” The best thing about being LGBTQ is you have the freedom to do it your own way, we don’t have fall into rigid binaries if we don’t want to. Rock on!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: