I not lack for male role models; the world is a male role model. Men are everywhere; running things, making decisions.
What every child could use instead is a good male role model; one who shuts up more often than he speaks, one who shows vulnerability without equating it with shame, one who is humble, one who doesn’t have to be in the form of a primary caregiver.
Our child will have two primary parents who are both biologically female and female-identified. Even my mother is warming up to the idea. But something is keeping her up at night, the same thing I have been mulling over for weeks. What is our child going to call me?
So far Andrea and I call ourselves mommies, but obviously that will have to change. Naming Andrea is easy. She is giving birth, and the world will impose mommy just as we will adopt it. But there aren’t a lot of versions out there for me as the nonbiological mother. I’ve heard of using first names, “other mother,” “mama,” even “dad-mom” which according to our books “some butch women” prefer. None of them sit comfortably in my mouth. We need more words for parent, more non- gendered ways to identify our relationships with our children.
Should I leave it up to you, our unborn baby, to name me with the first sound you throw my way? Can I trust you to guide me in this next stage of my battle with language?
I am debating assuming the rights to daddy, which was my first choice. Part of me identifies with the stereotypical father; firm, affectionate, strong, protective. My own father was consistent, reliable, completely egoless. I want to emulate pieces of him in my own parenting, as I have already done in my professional work with children. I have borrowed extensively from my mother too, but way back, when I knew I was queer, I got it in my head that mothering was out of the question, even as parenting became a possibility. Homophobia runs deep, as do parental stereotypes. When I pictured myself with kids I was always the father at the back of the photo, in control, holding everyone. I don’t want to reinforce the idea of the nuclear family. I recognize that calling me daddy could do that, but it could also blow the whole concept out of the water.
I am not out to confuse you, my child, but there are things about typical parenting that need to change. I want you to know that “Heather has two mommies” doesn’t mean that Heather has two versions of the same thing. We are both women, but we’re different, maybe as different as we would be if one of us was a man. Perhaps I just want a way to acknowledge that.