It’s a baby.

its-a-babyThe office kitchen is abuzz with excitement.  Anna is pregnant!  Her second!

“And it’s a GIRL!!!”

On all sides, there are sighs and squeals and oohs and aahs. “Oh, a sweet little GIRL!”  “Now you have one of each!” (She has a two-year-old son.)

I congratulate Anna on her news.  It is wonderful.  A miracle.  A new life. A BABY.

I’m happy for her, of course.

But I have to back away from the group before I say something that will make everyone think I’m a complete jerk.

Of course, I want to say what I always want to say in these situations:  “How can you be so sure that it’s a girl?” “How can you possibly know the child’s gender for sure until she’s old enough to tell you what it is?” (Come to think of it, your “son” is also way too young for you to make a definitive call on this.)

And, even if the child does ultimately identify as a girl (which is, admittedly, the most likely outcome), what the hell does that actually mean and why are all my co-workers nodding and smiling in giddy unison as if they all now understand something terribly significant about this tiny unborn human?

The moment isn’t about me, though.  It’s Anna’s happy news and she deserves to bask in the attention, so I bite my tongue.  And anyway, they’ve heard me say this kind of thing before. But it never seems to sink in.  I usually try to keep it light and jokey, so I’m not that preachy person who spoils all the fun with her “agenda.”

I always feel a little mean (and also awesome) when I do this:

PREGNANT LADY: “I’m pregnant!”

GENDERMOM: “Oh, congratulations!”

PREGNANT LADY: “And it’s a boy!”

GENDERMOM: “Or so you think!” (I wink when I say this, or give her a playful nudge.)

And then she blanches, realizing (oh no! too late!) that I’m the one with the daughter who used to be a boy. She laughs really uncomfortably, aware that she’s committed some kind of faux pas but not quite sure quite what it is.

The thing is that she truly believes – I can see this in her eyes – that there is NO WAY that the child she saw last week in the ultrasound is anything but the precious little girl she’s already buying dresses for or the beautiful boy who will be strong and tall like his dad.

There is no way her child will be like mine.

Why do I care so much?  Why do I feel so sad and sick to my stomach that I have to exit the office kitchen before I yell at someone?

I suppose it’s pretty obvious, really: I’m surrounded by people who are acting as if people like my child don’t exist.  Even after I’ve told them, even after they ought to know better.  I suppose in their minds she’s so rare and improbable, so exotic, so statistically unlikely, that it makes perfect sense to leave her out of the conversation.  And they’re right that she’s fairly unusual, but not nearly as unusual as they think.

Why can’t they make more room for her?  Why can’t the baby bliss-fest in the office kitchen have a premise that includes my child too?  Why?  Why? Why?

Last week, my child’s teacher told me a story about M.  Apparently the gym teacher is pregnant, and she told the kids her big news at the start of gym class.  The kids wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl.  She didn’t know yet, she told them.  During class, when the other kids were busy playing dodge ball, M. went up to the gym teacher and said, “What if your kid is transgender?”

“If it’s transgender, I will love it just the same,” the teacher told her.

And then M. smiled a really big, satisfied smile and ran back to the game.

19 thoughts on “It’s a baby.

  1. One big problem is people see being trans as a problem, something wrong.That is the idea we have to change. Being trans is just another facet of being human. Once people accept that a lot of problems we have go away. ❤ Pamela

  2. Gym teachers are the best!

    Perhaps part of the reason you leave the room is because you are choosing your battles. Trust your choices. You’ve done pretty damn well so far! 🙂

  3. The difference between a soldier and a warrior is that a warrior chooses what battles to fight and realizes that most of those battles are within. You said “I’m surrounded by people who are acting as if people like my child don’t [sic] exist.” It was only after many of those battles within myself that I finally realized that kind of thinking is only my presumption and not what is really so. I also remembered what my mother once said to me that people don’t see me as I am, they see me as they are.. I invite you to consider that your colleagues are not trying to hurt you.but that you are only hurting yourself when you presume something that may or may not be true. And even if it were true, that’s their karma, not yours. You are doing great, keep up the good work!

    • Deanna – Just thought I’d point out here’s no need for [sic] in your transcription. “I’m surrounded by people who are acting as if people like my child don’t exist” is perfectly grammatical. “Don’t” modifies “people” there.

  4. I can understand your frustration. But we always exclude the unusual in everyday conversations. It just gets too confusing otherwise. People do what they’ve always done. It’s why things said at events like this are often called “empty platitudes”. They are going to ooh and ahh over the baby “girl” and dream and buy dresses because that’s what people have been doing for many, many years. It’s what they know. It’s said without thought (and, incidentally, without malice toward you and your daughter). You have the insight to know their apple cart might get turned upside down down the road, but for them… it’s the way it’s always been. And what would they go on about if they didn’t dream about the little bit they think they know? You are on a difficult road and I wish you the very best, but I hope you continue to extend grace to those that aren’t walking that road and thus unintentionally stick their feet in their mouth. You’ll win them over more with honey than vinegar. 🙂

    (And I know you have no clue who I am… I hope you don’t mind… I’ve been following your blog for a little while now. It’s so well written and provides an important perspective for me to remember.)

  5. I have the same feelings when I hear about someone being pregnant (but I do not have a child myself).

    The assumptions bother me A LOT. Knowing the genitals of your baby tells you NOTHING about what they will be like as a child. You have no idea if they will like dolls. Or trucks. Or the color purple. NONE of that is a given. It really frustrates me that seemingly everyone assumes. What enormous pressure to put on that child (before they’re even born!) to conform, at least a little, to what their parents expect. It makes me really sad.

  6. You are right, Gendermom, but perhaps you expect too much from others. One wise gynecologist told me when I was whining to him about something regarding being transgendered, He said, “Just live your life and be happy.” That certainly is a simple prescription, but it is important to keep everything in perspective. You are a protective mother and are to be respected and honored as such, but just remember that what is most important is that M is happy. So far, so good. P.S. I, too, wished others could have a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding transgender people, but many will never truly grasp the issues or the concept. In their case, you just have to move on. Many people have no understanding or are unable to comprehend your pain and frustration. Just live your life and be happy.

  7. The majority of the world still refuses to open their eyes and see :/ they’re so desperate for labels that they’re slapping them on people who haven’t even left the womb. I never used to think about it like that before myself, I must admit, but now that I’m aware of it, it’s really damn creepy.

    I try to alter peoples’ perceptions about it also, but it’s hard to have a compelling reason when you’re still closeted for the most part. It seems to be an unfortunate thing with humanity – people don’t change unless they absolutely have to, even when deciding to change is the more beneficial way. A common complaint about the LGBT movement from cishet people in particular is that it’s ‘in their face’ – this is really just people complaining about their need to change. It sucks to have to be the one to try and catalyse it, but a lot of other people out there are just too damn lazy. Be the change you want to see in the world, even if it rubs some people up the wrong way.

  8. I know that feeling well of your child not existing. I use Jeremy’s pronouns all the time only to have people respond with he/him. I’ve explained zir gender, zir pronouns, and how to use them yet people still just shrug and go on with the traditional pronouns instead because “it’s easier”. It’s not easier for Jeremy! Even zir counselor uses he/him pronouns.

    Also, your daughter’s gym teacher is amazing 🙂

  9. My spiel after the ultrasound when I was pregnant was “Well, we’ve had a look at the construction, but we haven’t read the blueprints, and it will be a while before we know if we have owner approval”

  10. Oh secretmom2013, I’m so sorry people are being jerks about your child’s pronouns. I’m so proud of you for using ze/zir for Jeremy, though. I only started identifying as genderqueer in college but it’s been like pulling teeth to get people to use ve/ver/vis or they/them/theirs for me.

    The assumption that people of non-binary or non-cis genders don’t exist or are too few to be part of the conversation causes a helluva lot of damage.

  11. I have the opposite story. I didn’t have an ultrasound in either of my two pregnancies, and when anybody (everybody) would ask me what I was having, or what I wanted, I always answered “a baby!” And then when the follow-up was “Oh, I couldn’t handle not knowing. Aren’t you just dying of curiosity?” I would say “Well, we’ll find out something soon enough, and may not have a final answer until the kid is fifteen anyway.” I would smile saying this, but it definitely seemed to upset some people that I could talk ‘that way’ about my unborn child. As though it is unusual for a parent to expect to love whatever child they have.

  12. This is a big issue for me as well. Always has been. Why can’t people just take joy in the unborn life, without focusing so much on its gender? Does it really matter that much? I hope one day we live in a world where people don’t ask ‘Is it a boy or girl?’. I hope they ask ‘Is it healthy?’ That’s what really matters, in the end. Still, we should never give the impression that a child should WANT to be the opposite of what it is, accidentally or purposely, by giving them names and clothes that go either way, asking them constantly ‘What are you, boy, girl, neither? I support anything.’ Its ok to be happy with what you are born as, and though in some cases children do actually know what they are doing, I think overall most children are to young and imature to understand, really, what it means to change your gender. Its a huge decision, usually not for seven or even 16 year olds. You change so much in your young years, important decisions like that should probably not be made then. Wow, I didn’t mean to preach to you like this. Well, I’ve said my piece and there it is. Not trying to offend, but this is how I feel.

  13. I’ve been lurking in this blog for some time now, not sure how I found it, but I enjoy the courage and confidence you and M. have shown in the last couple of years. This post is the second time I feel like I can see a little bitterness bubbling at the surface. To take something as innocuous as a pregnancy announcement and interpret it as a slight against your child doesn’t make much sense to me. There was certainly nothing non factual about about this woman’s news: she’s pregnant and carrying a baby with XX chromosomes. It’s folly to think that a new mother would include anything more than what she knows at the moment rather than all the possible scenarios (maybe a transgender baby, maybe a Downs baby, maybe a gay baby) because a momma’s gonna love that baby no matter what. I certainly don’t think that the kitchen crew was pretending that your child didn’t exist, that implies a degree of ill will by any standards. By your own admission, you never gave a thought to the possibility or probability that M. might be transgender and had difficulty accepting it even after she shared her feelings. Anna is no different.

    I’m sure, given all you’ve shared with us, that expecting the best from people is difficult. I encourage you to try not to project preconceived attitudes and intentions onto others, although I fully understand your thought process and reasoning. Even though the accolades you receive through the comments here “don’t sit right” with you, you are indeed a special person with a gift, and a kinder soul than I could ever hope to be. I wish nothing but fair winds and following seas for you, dear lady, and your plucky daughter.

    • “momma’s gonna love that baby no matter what.”
      yeah, it’s not like trans kids are routinely kicked out of home, beaten for not acting enough like their assigned gender, or forced to go through puberty with the wrong hormones.

      “It’s folly to think that a new mother would include anything more than what she knows at the moment rather than all the possible scenarios”
      except what they actually know is that the kid is developing along the expected physiological path. they don’t know the kids chromosomes (not shown on an ultrasound), they don’t know the kids gender identity (that doesn’t develop until around 3), so maybe we can expect them to just say what they know, rather than a single possible scenario?

      the idea that don’t have to acknowledge the existence of minorities is a classic example of privilege. these people are cis, so can happily pretend that only cis people exist, and when we other object we are told we are ‘bitter’.
      it’s not like it takes much effort to avoid this: instead of saying “it’s a girl” they could say “we are expecting a girl”, “the ultrasound suggests it’s a girl” ect. a couple more seconds and they could avoid this.

  14. I’m a labor and delivery nurse. I take pride in making special crib cards for the mom’s. I decorate the, “It’s a girl” cards and “it’s a boy” cards. But really I wish that the cards and parents just celebrated that it’s a baby.

  15. I love this ♥
    When I was pregnant I didn’t want to know the sex of the baby because: who cares? I’m gonna love it whatever he/she looks like or whatever he/she wants to be.
    I have a lot of problems with everyone in the world, really, just because I won’t cut my child’s hair. They say “But it’s a boy!”; “Oh, did you want to have a girl???”; “It’s a boy?! Really? A boy? A boy? But…he has long hair!!!! A boy!? WHY?”; and actually the most disturbing thing is when doctors (any kind of doctors, every time my kid gets sick or needs medical checkup or whatever), they have told me repetedly that because of the hair he’s gonna have problems to define his gender/sexuality. I also like my kid to play with toys that are made for girls as much as those “for boys”, because I just don’t want to “classify” him as anything just yet. I talk about him as a “he”, yes, because he haven’t told me otherwise for now (he’s still too little to know I guess). But if he uses words in feminine to talk about himself (that he does sometimes, because he’s still learning new words, that’s how little he is xD) I try not to correct him, I don’t even like the fact the everything is so classify in male-female, and anything out of that classification seems to be wrong.
    I love to find people who thinks a little bit like me on these subjects. 🙂

  16. Hi Mom of M.,
    I’ve been listening to your podcasts and just read this WordPress blog post today. I *completely*identify with your feelings around this. I work with a lot of young cis women who are often announcing their pregnancies and as soon as they announce their fetus’s presumed gender, everyone starts buying pink or blue gifts.
    Some other commenters seem to think you felt *your daughter* was being slighted by this kind of behavior in the kitchen at your office. When I feel angry about similar behavior, it’s because I feel defensive of that unborn child, not myself or my children.
    I don’t think you need to “live your life and be happy,” “pick your battles,” or accept heteronormative, cis-presumtive (probably not a word) thinking and behavior.

  17. You state she has a 2 YO son but then say they cant be so sure its a girl until the child is old enough to say so. But you just gave the 2 YO a gender. LOL. All of you need to seek serious medical help, this is ridiculous!!!!

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