gender

Why My Baby’s Sex Doesn’t Matter

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Walking around with a clearly pregnant belly and two little boys tends to engender a lot of the same tedious comments, over and over. Yes, I do “have my hands full.” Yes, I do “really love kids.”

And most importantly: No, we’re not “trying for a girl.”

Because “trying for a girl,” implies that I didn’t get what I wanted already–that there’s something lacking in my sons, some reason I might not be thrilled that these two specific human beings are in my life, that I would want to imagine it any other way. But that’s not right.

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“Trying for a girl,” implies that my two boys are awfully similar, that I’ve gotten more or less the same kind of experience from both of them, and am ready for something different. Except that’s not true, either; my first-born is a dreamy introvert, happy to be off on his own groove for hours and able to absorb as much history, science, and literature that we can throw his way. Our second kid, on the other hand, is a nutty, loving extrovert who might actually be the cuddly reincarnated spirit of John Belushi. Each child is a world of his own, and offers unique challenges as I try to figure out how to motivate them, how to discipline them, how to make them feel loved and celebrated. When I interface with my children, I’m interfacing with who they are as people–not with their genitals or even, mostly, their current chosen ways of gendering themselves.

Because here’s the thing: I have two children, but I don’t know, ultimately, what their genders–the way they express masculinity or femininity in the world–will be. They might not know that yet, either. Or maybe they do, but they haven’t told me. Will both my kids continue to identify as boys, and, later, men, as they move on in the world? Will one or both of them identify as genderqueer, as a woman, as a radical faerie, as bigender, as something that hasn’t yet even made it into the parlance? And if so, how much does it matter?

I can’t help but think of Leelah Alcorn’s parents, who tried so hard for a boy that it killed her.

If my older kid eventually identifies as genderqueer, ze will be the kind of genderqueer person who will most likely read voraciously, think deeply and lose hir housekeys on a regular basis. If my younger kid someday comes out as trans, she’ll be, most likely, an effusive, hilarious trans woman who will have to find equilibrium in the midst of her emotions. If they both choose to self-identify as men, well, they’ll still most likely have these same character traits, but with different gender expressions, different pronouns.

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If the child currently gestating in my uterus comes out with male sexual organs, does that mean that this child will definitely be interested in baseball, superheroes, and cars? Is it a guarantee that this kid won’t ask to wear pink and purple, sparkly jewelry, and prefer Hello Kitty over Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? It’s not. Maybe the kid will like both things. Or maybe the kid will like football and tiaras, racecars and froufy skirts. Or none of those things, but pink robots. Or none of those things, but horses and whales.

If I have a baby with female sexual organs, does that definitely, without question mean that, one day, I won’t introduce Yonatan, Shir, and their younger sibling as “my three sons?” It doesn’t. Does it mean that, even if this child doesn’t ever ask to be referred to with male pronouns, she won’t prefer climbing trees and playing basketball to whatever Disney princess film is in vogue by then? Of course it doesn’t.

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I don’t know what the genders of any of my children are yet, because none of them have told me. There are a lot of questions about who they are and how they engage the world that they might not yet have thought to ask. (Some kids are clear on their gender identity by preschool; some aren’t.) And how they think about and experience their own genders might shift and change over time. For some people–maybe for a lot of us–gender is more journey than destination, more process than outcome.

At home, we try to ask these questions anyway. We read S. Bear Bergman’s kids’ books and talk about David who wants to be Daniela, how Andrea turned into Andy on the day after everything went backwards. Like a lot of parents these days, I offer my kids dolls and dresses, trains and turtles, and trust that they will, now and later, decide for themselves which things to wear and do and play with seem like the most fun.

So I’m not “trying for” anything in particular, this third time around. Except, maybe: a person who moves through the world with kindness and ethics, who has the skills to both cook and change a tire, and who always knows that, whoever she, or he, or ze is or becomes, my maternal love is unconditional.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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