“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.