I am a non binary trans person, I am also a parent. Discovering my non binary identity after the birth of my kids has left me with a bit of a conundrum. My kids call me mommy and it is starting to cause me some discomfort.
When we were looking at starting a family we had a lot of discussion about what our kids would call us. My spouse has always been masculine of centre and the question of an alternative to Mom/Dad was always more of an issue for them. We searched through various options for gender neutral parent titles but somehow the options never really worked.
Here are a couple options (found at Gender Queeries)
Family Titles – Mum/Dad
- Parent; neutral, formal.
- Per; neutral, short for parent.
- Par; neutral, short for parent.
- Dommy; queer, mixture of mommy and daddy (note: sounds like Dom/me, a BDSM term)
- Maddy; queer, mixture of mummy/mommy and daddy.
- Muddy; queer, mixture of mummy and daddy.
- Moddy; queer, mixture of mommy and daddy.
- Zaza; queer, based on mama and papa/dada.
- Zither; queer, based on mother and father. (Note, zither is also the name of a musical instrument.)
- Baba; neutral, based on mama and dada. (Note, baba means dad in some languages and grandmother in others.)
- Nini; queer, based on the N in NB, similar to mama and papa/dada.
- Bibi; queer, based on the B in NB, similar to mama and papa/dada.
- Cennend; neutral, Old English (Anglo-Saxon) meaning parent.
- Cenn; neutral, short for cennend.
Now my biggest issue with the current set of gender neutral titles is that society doesn’t understand and recognise alternative family structures. At the time we were having this discussion, neither of us had the language for describing ourselves in terms of genderqueer or non binary, which resulted in us framing our family in the most socially obvious framework. Lesbian parents. We chose to use mommy (me) and mama (spouse) as these words have a societally weighted meaning. The relationship of mommy or mama to child is obvious and doesn’t require explanation. Using those terms becomes shorthand for “we are a family, these are our kids” without having to educate people on our family structure.
In hindsight I am disappointed that I bought into the heteronormative structuring of family. I feel awkward that I put so much weighting on the opinion of society to give validity to our little family unit. Why do we have to be a mommy and a mama to ensure credibility in our roles as parents?
On my kids birth certificates I am listed as mother. For some reason my spouse is listed as parent on only one of our kids birth certificates. Four years down the line we still need to fight with Home Affairs to get this corrected (especially since the new regulations for travelling with kids requires you to have copy of their unabridged birth certificate). Binary society demands that I fulfil the role of mother as I carried my kids in my body. This idea of pregnancy = mother erases so many people, adoptive parents, parents via surrogacy, trans people. Now I find myself at a place where mommy has become my name to my kids and while I don’t feel uncomfortable with them calling me that, I do feel uncomfortable when anyone else uses the word. I introduce myself as the kids parent. So where does this leave me? Do I carry on using mommy? Should I get my kids to just call me by my first name? If so which first name? I have already had a conversation with the kids about the fact that mommy has a couple different names. Part of me says that if I want to change to a different parent title I should do it sooner rather than later and take advantage of my kids natural adaptability to change.
I have a lot of frustration in feeling like I am expected to have all the answers and that there is very little room for me to change my mind about things because my actions influence my kids. Surely by teaching my kids that identity is fluid is actually a good thing and that they will be less confused in the long run? Is this a way to buck against toxic cisnormativity and grow a new generation of understanding and compassionate people?
Parenting sure does bring up every complicate thought on normative societal standards, internalised transphobia, internalised homophobia, and internalised misogyny.
I don’t have all the answers but I do have questions that I never thought to ask before.