The folks over at Regular Midwesterners posed this question earlier in the week, which really caught my attention:
Do you think of yourself as a “mother”? A “father”? Something in between? Why?
Interestingly, while I occupy a very physically maternal role at current, I suspect that my long-term relationships with my children will be defined by a more progressively paternal approach. And while R, as the non-gestational parent, is currently occupying a traditionally “father” oriented role right now, I trust that she will be pure-mama once this Rabbit is born.
I have become increasingly aware of the dissonance between my gender representation and my newfound status as a gestational parent. Since my early teenage years, I have identified as a masculine female. This identity marker has run a gamut of manifestations, from the bad bowl cut and ripped jeans of high school to the two years in my early-twenties spent experimenting with permanent transition while living in male monikers. In recent years, my gender has come to rest in a very metrosexual masculinity. I wear ties and eyeliner. I love tailored pants and expensive haircuts. My body has become an increasingly comfortable vehicle for moving about the world in. Generally speaking, I am interpreted as female. This is in stark contrast to my late teens and early twenties (spent in the deep south) where I often coded as male. But, these days, I feel most often coded as simply queer. I occasionally bristle when faced with scowls from the women in the ladies’ room. I am very rarely hit on by heterosexual men (though I have occasionally been cruised by nearsighted gay men in dimly lit establishments). I really love the kind of female that I’ve grown into.
And then, there’s pregnancy. I have truly begun to love the experience of being pregnant. Yes, it’s bittersweet, as this wasn’t Plan A. Yes, it can be very uncomfortable at times (especially the first trimester). But I do love the pleasure of feeling physically connected to our son. I do love the peace I feel (for the first time, in many ways) towards my female reproductive self. But they don’t make metrosexual maternity clothes. And I find in my day-to-day interactions a sense of having lost my queer card. I value not having heterosexual privilege. I don’t like the dance in and out of heteronormativity that so many of the more feminine lesbians in my life (R included) have to do on a daily basis. Questioning when and how to come out? Wondering if it’s safe? Wondering what the underlying motives of a person’s interest in lesbianism might be? Overall, I’ve dodged all of these issues, as my gender representation gives up the ghost of staying closeted in most situations. And while I’ve dealt with my share of violence and homophobia as a result of this consistent “outness,” I’ve always felt proud to wear my truth on my sleeve.
Now I wear my truth somewhere under the stretch pants that come up to my increasingly ample bra. While I’ve done my best to choose maternity clothes that are closer to my pre-pregnancy style (pants, neutral color palette, fitted everything), it’s incredible to me how differently I feel in my daily interactions with new people. This has been especially true as I’ve begun this new job. It’s particularly interesting to consider the assumptions that many folks probably make about R’s gender representation by proxy to me (as no one has actually met R yet). Obviously, there are other queers and feminists in my workplace who, I’m sure, can appreciate that my appearance pregnant is likely not congruent with my non-pregnant self. But for many others, men in particular, I imagine that I code very much as a feminine, pregnant woman. I’ve felt the same disconnect in spaces with other pregnant women (at pre-natal yoga, at the midwives clinic). It’s akin to the sense that I had in the women’s locker room in high school. That I didn’t belong there. That someone had made a mistake in letting me into the club.
When R was pregnant, I loved occupying a more paternal role. I reveled in telling everyone I met that we were expecting. I loved taking care of R’s needs, of talking to E each night through R’s belly. I felt confident and at peace. This role, though, has taken some getting used to. When R was pregnant, there were times in my day when I felt totally “normal” (read: not defined by our pregnancy). Those times are getting very few and far between now, especially as I can feel the Rabbit moving around consistently, which I do love. Maybe this doesn’t make much sense, but it takes humility to put down the vanity of wearing the kinds of clothes that I like, vulnerability to know that people I encounter are making assumptions about my sexuality that simply aren’t true, and patience to trust that (while forever changed by the experience), I will be able to return to a non-pregnant, masculine self post-partum. I’m far from perfect at it, but I’m learning to find peace in the divide.