“Is it a boy, or a girl…” STOP ASKING! (A pregnancy confession, a thank you, and two requests for the Hivemind)
Week 37: For about 30 weeks now people have been asking us if we are having a boy or girl. It’s usually one of the first, if not the first, questions people ask. In fact, three or four times a day I’m ducking strangers on the street — often as they approach me with their arms already outstretched ready to put their hands on my belly — who are demanding to know “Boy or Girl? What is it?”
We usually say: “We don’t know” or “We are waiting to find out.”
Which is true.
But, unsatisfied with our answer, many people will then proceed to inform me: “You are probably having a [boy/girl] because you are carrying the baby X way [low, in front, up high]”
Fact: My belly changes shape about a dozen times times a day, but it has nothing to do with their genitalia. It has to do with if the baby feels like kicking me in the ribs, pelvic floor, sitting on my sciatic nerve, or elbowing my spine. Or, whether it’s a day (which happens increasingly) when I’m just gassy and/or bloated.
What we haven’t told very many people is that we do actually do know the sex of the baby…but (another fact): we have no idea what their gender will be.
There are SO many reasons why, when people ask us “is it a boy or a girl” we respond with “we are waiting to find out”.
What I often want to say (what I should say) is something like ‘Please, give our little one some space to breath, to choose, to explore, and to develop. And, please don’t ascribe or prescribe things to this (or any) baby based on parts of their body that I don’t think you’ll ever see. Although you are welcome to sign up for a shift changing diapers…even that won’t give you the answer to your question: “is it a boy or a girl?”. It’s a baby.
So…please… stop asking about their genitalia.’
I won’t go on a long rant –especially because I’m not the best person to do it — but, I do want to appreciate J. Mercedes Cardona, Sendolo Diminah, @RaquelReichard, SONG, The Audre Lorde Project, Feministing, and many other who’ve shared beautiful writing and experiences about gender identity. Their work, along with many others’, has paved the way for my own learning about why it is that — despite knowing something about the genitalia this baby will have at birth — I really have no idea what (of the many) genders this baby will have, develop, or choose.
THANK YOU! Without you, your work, and generous sharing of your lives and experiences I wouldn’t know to be asking the following questions.
Important Questions for the Hivemind:
(1) What should I read, do, and, or practice to be a proactive in how I support my child to be gender creative, curious, and otherwise just…themselves? Partially because society is already working so hard to gender this baby, I’m doing some reading about how to support our baby given all the constraints, socializing, boundaries, and rigidity that will be imposed on them. I have real fears about raising a child (either with a vagina or a penis) in our society that is not just a patriarchal society, but one in which they will have to navigate rape culture, and — as my colleague Ana C Perez describes it — toxic masculinity. What will help my little one identify and question and how they are being socialized to accept an assigned gender, and/or (often violent and restrictive) gender norms and roles?
(2) WTF is “gender neutral” clothing?!
Aren’t these pieces of fabric with tiny buttons at the crotch either onesies or…onesies? A bib is a bib, no? It’s not a “boy bib” or a “girl bib” right?
And…please tell me what exactly are “girl socks?”
Gender is either imposed (boo!) or (ideally) chosen/developed by PEOPLE. Please don’t try to make the onesie, the pair of socks, or the bib choose a gender.
-From the diaries of an expectant movement momma
(A translation in Spanish follows… although, an ironic difficulty with writing this piece in Spanish is that nouns in Spanish are “female” and “male” — which presents the challenge of not only assigning a gender, but also using language that maintains a gender binary (verses a spectrum and multiplicity of genders.) Gender neutral nouns do not exist in Spanish (and many other languages.) After consulting with my Spanish and Portuguese speaking family, as well as with the guidance of professional translator Sylvia Escarcega, I’ve decided to use “este/a bebé” and “ella/él” in this piece. While very imperfect, and with acknowledgement that this is still limiting to a false gender binary, we hope this notation invites further dialogue about how to write about gender in Spanish, without either predetermining/designating gender, or limiting gender to two discrete choices: “male” and “female.”
As a femme, queer, Chicana who plans to raise our child speaking Spanish, Portuguese (and Korean — the other parent’s native language) we will continue to need, seek and invite guidance. Deep gratitude to the many people who have explored these questions, including Mijente, Raquel Reichard, Carolina Moreno, who have shared thinking on when, why and how to use the terms “Latinx” and “Chicanx.”)
P.S. — Thank you for the many people who have fought to help folks understand how important it is for us to have bathrooms designated for folks of ALL genders. Alongside that, it’s important for people to be able to choose to go into bathrooms that match a gender identity they feel describes them, or is safe(r) for them. It’s also equally important to be able to have the option of not having to choose, “out”, or define our genders based on the number of bathroom door signs available.
So, can we re-think how we are taking responsibility for our own agency by describing a bathroom as “gender neutral”? I’m pretty sure a bathroom is just…a bathroom.
I’m praying that by the time my little one is out of diapers people will take more responsibility for the fact that WE (not the bathroom) decide what is or isn’t “neutral”. We, people, can make bathrooms spaces in which folks of “All Genders” can pee or poop.