“What will they call you?”

When most people are having a child, the question is the other way around- what are you going to call them? When you get outside of the “traditional” family unit, though, then this question comes up. A lot. I don’t know if our being trans means we get it more or less often than cis same-sex couples, I imagine they get it quite often as well, but it’s basically the first question we got when people found out we were having a baby.

It can be a complicated question for cis same-sex couples. It’s even more complicated when you’re trans (particularly non-binary). I do not pass as male, but those who know me pretty much universally use male pronouns and are fine doing so. Meaning that in public, if my kid calls me “dad”- I’m going to get some strange looks at best, but in private and around those who know me, “dad” is the assumed. My partner sometimes passes as female and would not mind being considered a mother by our child, but they aren’t nearly as out and most people use male terminology for them as well.

My partner is British and I’m American, so the terms for mother are actually an example of an ideal. I grew up calling my mother ‘mom’, my partner grew up calling theirs ‘mum’. The term for ‘mother’ that feels most natural is different for both of us, there’s no trying to figure out an acceptable alternative to ‘mom’ or trying to decide who has to be the alternative. As I said, though, most people that know us personally use male terminology for both of us.

We could just both be considered fathers. Not ideal, but not horrible. Except that we aren’t really happy with the alternatives to ‘dad’. We both grew up calling our fathers ‘dad’, growing up I didn’t know anyone who ever called their father anything but ‘dad’ and I don’t think it’s much different for my partner. ‘Dad’ feels natural, while everything else feels just odd. Obviously the alternatives are valid, there are English speaking people who never call their father ‘dad’ and use something else, they’re perfectly fine- they just aren’t right for us. The most suggested alternatives are ‘pa’ or ‘pop’, which don’t really feel right for us. Another solution is to look in different languages- however, that’s something you have to be careful with. My partner is studying Japanese and we intend to raise any kids we have bilingual, but a clearly white, native English speaking family using Japanese terms like that will likely raise some eyebrows.

Some people have started working out neutral alternatives to ‘mom’ and ‘dad’, but they’re so rare. Two moms or two dads is an idea that more people are becoming aware of, non-binary parents is not.

The ideal situation would be for our child to use different gendered terms depending on the situation- but this seems like an unfair expectation to put on someone who doesn’t yet grasp the English language. There are adults that have a hard time managing this.

This is something we’ve been trying to figure out since finding out we were having a baby, and we’ve yet to figure out a solution that we’re really happy with. Right now we’re both ‘dad’. We still have a bit of time until the baby starts talking to figure out something better, but that’s probably what we’ll be sticking with. Who knows, maybe the kid will come up with something of their own when they’re old enough.

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One Response to “What will they call you?”

  1. Pingback: “Mama” | Life with my Sapling

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