It’s A Boy*!

She swallowed two pills with a sip of tap water and looked at me. I don’t know how she knew what was going through my mind — all the what-ifs and why-nots and should-haves. All the regret, and all the sadness, while I watched the person who used to call herself my boyfriend disappear with a sip of tap water. I didn’t miss having a partner who could pass as male. I didn’t even really miss straight privilege. It was something else.

“Would it make you happy,” she asked, “If we tried for a baby? Before it’s too late?”

We had talked about it off and on for months. We already had one child — our amazing little girl, who was born out of a previous relationship — but our little family still seemed like it was missing something. I found my eyes watering every time I held or saw a newborn baby. I would look at the old photos of my wife, a chubby-cheeked kid in boyish clothes that didn’t suit her, and I’d sigh. I felt like there was a child who I had known my whole life, a little boy with intense, dark eyes and an underbite. He was supposed to be part of our family.


We both knew that on hormone replacement therapy, she might have as many as two years of fertility left, or as few as three weeks. It wasn’t the best time. We were broke, we were young, we were stressed, and I had more than my fair share of health problems that I knew would make pregnancy difficult. But we knew it was now or never. There was always adoption, if we would ever be allowed to adopt, and there was always the option of using a donor, if we could ever afford it, but we both knew that putting our child into the realm of “one day” would mean writing him out of existence. “One day” would never come unless it was today.

Later that night, we were skin-to-skin under a pile of warm blankets. I ran my fingers through her black hair while we talked. Just tonight, we agreed. We’ll try tonight, and tonight only, and if it’s meant to be, it will happen. It wasn’t the most responsible possible plan for conceiving a baby, but it seemed right. I had never known my skeptical, atheist wife to put stock into the invisible cosmic force of “meant to be,” but the leap of faith gave me comfort. Sometimes, there’s something to be said for leaving the most difficult decisions in the hands of destiny.

I kissed her and she pulled away for just a moment. “You have to promise me,” she said, locking her eyes on mine, “Promise me that you will never, ever call me the father.”

I promised.


Last week, my wife and daughter sat by the examination table while an ultrasound technician pressed a wand against my swollen belly. A grainy black-and-white image developed on the screen: a fluttering heart. A little round head. Tiny arms and legs. I felt a tiny quiver when it raised its hand — five little fingers — as if it were waving hello to us. I smiled and looked at my wife, who suddenly burst into a high-pitched fit of tears. I knew what was happening to her. It hadn’t really hit her that the baby was real. Not until she saw it.

The sonographer smiled at both of us. I wondered how many times she had witnessed this scene in her career. She moved the wand a little to my left and smiled again.

“It’s a boy.”

I already knew — I’d told my wife that I was sure it was a boy, just two weeks after we conceived — but, in my mind, I put an asterisk next to the word. It’s a boy, until and unless he tells us otherwise, I thought. It’s a boy who will be raised without gender roles. It’s a boy who will be defined by his heart and mind, not by the organs that happen to be between his legs. It’s a boy who will be loved wholly, deeply, and completely by the two women who created him.


A preacher in North Carolina wants to send gay couples to concentration camps, where he says we will become extinct, along with our queer genes, within a generation. “You know why? They can’t reproduce!”

My stepmother says that being gay doesn’t make sense, because two men and two women have never, “in the history of the world,” conceived a child together.

Sixty-two percent of people in my home state vote against marriage equality. Their number-one argument is that queer families aren’t real families. Most of us — or, by their perception, all of us — can’t have children who are biologically related to both of their parents. That, they say, makes our love unnatural, and even sinful. I’ve often wondered when they’ll start trying to ban postmenopausal women and other infertile people from marrying.


Here, there be dragons. We aren’t the first queer couple to conceive a child, and we won’t be the last, either. But this territory is strange and uncharted, and it often feels like we’re alone. After scouring the whole online globe, I found a total of two other couples like us who are expecting babies this year. The conversations have been strained. We’re looking at each other and desperately hoping that at least someone might know what we’re supposed to do next.

Our baby will be born this summer and will join the family with two loving moms, one doting big sister, a hyperactive dog, and two purring kitties. I don’t know what the future has in store for our family, or, in particular, for my son. I don’t know how much his rights will be limited by our relationship, or if boys really do have a need for masculine role models, or when we will all grow exhausted with the people who lean in close and ask, “Is she the dad?” I do know that our son will never once doubt that he is loved and wanted, and I’m grateful every day that we have the rare and wonderful opportunity to be his mothers.


Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” column exists for individual queer ladies to tell their own personal stories and share compelling experiences. These personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.

Profile photo of Genevra Reid

Genevra Reid is a writer and activist who asks herself every day why she still lives in the South. She's happily married to a fellow queer writer, and together they have a super-cool six-year-old daughter (and a son on the way!).

Genevra has written 2 articles for us.

44 Comments

  1. Thumb up 5

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    This is lovely, but please don’t kid yourself saying you aren’t assigning your child a gender in the same sentence that you say “he’s a boy until he tells us he’s not”, because that ain’t how it works.
    Infants have no gender but what you pour into them, and yes, pronouns and gendered terminology does that. It is not a choice without coercion if you’ve already made one for them and start reinforcing it from the moment they’re born.

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      Yes, thank you for mentioning this. IMO, there is no such thing as “gender neutral child rearing.” But you can be aware of how you’re projecting gender onto your child which can at least modify or minimize your gender policing. I do disagree with your statement how “infants have no gender.” The reality is, we still don’t know that and just because there’s this entire school of gender as a social construct which dominates many Gender Studies Departments doesn’t mean it isn’t just as reductionist as saying you’re completely born with your gender.

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        Or you could not police their gender at all. Really, it’s possible, no lie.

        I’d be interested to see any material you can produce to back up the notion that children are born with gender, or something to discredit the growing body of work and queer peoples’ experiences indicating gender as a purely social construct distinct from sex. Absent this, I will presume that’s an unwillingness to challenge your preconceptions about gender talking.

        • Thumb up 13

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          If you want to say gender roles are a social construct, or that some aspects of gender expression or gender attribute are socially constructed I’ll certainly buy that. But if you’re telling me trans people who who feel moved to medically transition feel a body/mind mismatch because of purely socially constructed reasons then, yes, I’ll say that’s incredibly simplistic (and maybe even oppressive) thinking.

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          So you think that your gender is only society’s wish for you? If this was true why would so many people identify with a different gender than they were raised with? I’m really interested in your idea about that because now you basically said it was a fact children are born without gender but you didn’t explain yourself.

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          Another trans person weighing in. Or, asking questions?

          *

          1

          Kay: “Or you could not police their gender at all. Really, it’s possible, no lie.”

          How? I get that you can consistently refer to a child by gender neutral pronouns, and that you can give them all gender neutral toys, or equal amounts of “boy” and “girl” toys, and that you can make it clear to them that you will always trust them to tell you who they are – but if you know what the doctors have told you, what they look like naked, how do you keep yourself from unconsciously projecting your own gender constructs onto them? I say this as a transgender person who used to identify strongly as non-binary, and who has begun to feel more comfortable identifying as male only in the last year and a half – and even then, only publicly, not privately.

          And how do you negotiate gender neutral territory once the child is in school? Not everyone can homeschool, and any school administration, any I’ve heard of outside of Sweden, is going to want to know whether to call the child “he” or “she,” no matter how progressive the school.

          I actually would like to know, because it would be nice to know what the options are for any child I might one day have.

          *

          2

          Kay: “I’d be interested to see any material you can produce to back up the notion that children are born with gender…”

          My impression was that Gina was saying there’s no proof that children were born *without* gender. Given the information available to *me*, I would not argue that children are born with gender, but neither would I argue the opposite. They do begin to *assert* it around the age of two or three though, and sometimes earlier – whether it “matches” their bodies or not.

          And disregarding that – I was declared female at birth, and after a lot of thought, I think I actually was a girl when I was a child. The only conflict I felt about gender during my childhood was extremely typical of strong-willed girls in a misogynistic society. I remember very few moments of genuine dysphoria, few enough that I am fairly persuaded that I was as authentically female-identified then as any girl. It was only later that I grew into a male identity. Which, yes, is the opposite of the narrative that is politically advantageous for us to teach cis people. But anyway, my point is that I don’t understand how gender as a social construct fits in here – not that I think it definitely doesn’t, but that I genuinely don’t understand. I have never particularly bonded with men or boys. I do not want male privilege (which has nothing to do with whether it is bestowed on me or not) and I don’t have many male role models that I can enthusiastically admire, beyond abstract personalities from cultural history or fiction. Those things, and many if not most elements of my personality and preferences, have more in common with the women I know and know of than they do with men.

          Sorry, this was not originally meant to be a diary entry. I just haven’t seen much evidence, either scientific, anecdotal, or personal, that sways me either way, that gender is innate at birth or totally socially constructed. It still seems pretty inexplicable to me.

          Which leads me to be wary of those who defend one side or another ferociously – I am suspicious of your motives. Politically convenient explanations aren’t good for all of us, in the long run. (It is politically convenient for gay men and lesbians to support a binary orientation system, for instance. Which leaves bisexuals, pansexuals, and other non-monosexuals constantly trying to persuade others that yes, we do exist.)

  2. Thumb up 2

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    This was amazing, I wish you and your wife all the best. I am in the same boat as your wife (but no baby involved) and I still don’t know what to do with legal things in the event I try to marry a woman. I keep thinking it’ll all get worked out but in the back of my head I think the lunatics in charge would just cause problems even if due to their laws it could be called a straight marriage still.

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    Electric Dade on youtube might or might not be helpful; he is an ftm father of an adorbs young infant with his wife, Tiff. The nice thing is that both Tiff and Dade post videos, so you get both of their perspectives on parenting during transition. Congratulations on your family!

  4. Thumb up 4

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    This is beautifully written and it sounds like you have a lovely family but I do wonder about the phrase “it’s a boy until/unless he tells us different”. If someone had said of me before I was even born, “she’s straight until/unless she tells us different”, I would be kind of annoyed, you know?

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    Imogen Binnie (author of Nevada, a great book and literally the only authentic novel whose protagonist is a queer trans woman that exists as far as I know) is trying to have a baby with her partner, who is a midwife! They seem like they are super knowledgable and probably have a lot to say about it. So I don’t believe they are like, already expecting a child, but. She writes about it a little bit here and also I was lucky enough to chat with them after a reading somewhat recently.

    http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/the-banal-and-the-profane/02/09/the-banal-and-the-profane-imogen-binnie/

  6. Thumb up 10

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    I signed up just to make a comment after having been a lurker for a very long time.

    This quote: “All the regret, and all the sadness, while I watched the person who used to call herself my boyfriend disappear with a sip of tap water. I didn’t miss having a partner who could pass as male. I didn’t even really miss straight privilege. It was something else.”
    Man, I miss this too. And I adore my girlfriend, I love her to absolute pieces. But sometimes things catch, walking in on her shaving or seeing old pictures of us together or meeting someone else who goes by her old name. People always try to frame the sadness of going through a transition as ALL about privilege, but there’s something else there. I try and explain to people by telling them ignore the gender, and imagine their partner coming to them and saying they were about to change everything about themselves: their name, their voice, their face, their body, their hair, the clothes they wear. These things may be superficial on some level, but watching them all simultaneously change is confusing and painful. There is a person that’s been lost and often I feel there isn’t a space to mourn them, in between the desperate housewives who don’t know what’s happened to their “husbands” and don’t have any idea what to say to the kids, and the queer circles demanding nothing less than perfect acceptance at all times.

    My and my partner found out recently that she was infertile and we would be unable to have biological children and even though I don’t necessarily want them, the knowledge it was no longer an option was crushing. I’m so happy for you and your lady love (and admittedly a little jealous). I wish you the best of luck raising your kid!

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      I kind of thought that the implications of something missing was the closing window on their fertility. But in terms of what you feel, I guess you could look upon it this way. When most people experience a break up, they have to leave an entire person behind, move on, find someone else, completely new and completely untried. When your parter transitions, you may feel you are losing who they once were but you are only breaking up with their outside, the part they have been playing. You are gaining a new partner, one who is still known to you, still loved by you and a more whole person than they could ever have been while they were merely acting the role they were taught to play before they became their own true self.

      I hope that maybe that take helped and that your need to mourn the person who was left behind by the transition isn’t something that hurts you too much.

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      I’m glad you understand. One of my friends is a monosexual lesbian who is with a trans woman and we were just recently talking about how she misses her “husband” even though she never liked being with a “man” and never wanted or expected to be with a man. It’s not entirely about privilege. It can be really overwhelming under almost any circumstances when it feels like the person you fell in love with is becoming some else. Everyone changes over time and strong relationships can survive those changes, but it sure can be scary to realize that the person you initially fell in love with doesn’t exist and arguably never existed.

      I’m so sorry about your partner’s struggles with infertility. Best of luck to both of you!

  7. Thumb up 2

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    Thank you for sharing your story and helping me feel a little less alone. We are having a wedding celebration this weekend (we married legally last year before she had surgery and it was a private affair as she is not out in our town) and then the next major life goal is to become parents. My wife started transitioning before we met. She went to a sperm bank before starting hormones. I have always wanted to become a parent. Before her surgery every so once and a while I would have the hope that we might be so lucky. Now “just getting pregnant” is not an option. At one point when we called the clinic to pay the yearly storage fee we were told they had been destroyed. Then they called back to say that was a mistake and they are still there. So we have grieved several times. Adoption is an option that we are open to and have looked into, though first we would like to try with her gametes. If we are so lucky then there is the whole, how do you explain things especially as my wife is not out. I have not been a very religious person, but for a long time I’ve had a sense that the child or children that are meant to be in my life will be here when the time is right. So we will see.

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    This is a stunning piece of narrative and a completely uplifting story. I’m happy to live in a world where two mums can bring a kid into the world and literally screw over the “gays can’t have kids” camp.

  9. Thumb up 5

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    Hi there!

    I have a 2 year old “daughter” with one of my best mates. We decided that until she had an idea of gender and how to tell us how she felt, we’d keep things K.I.S.S. for our sake.

    I should probably start with us – the parents first: My daughter’s other mum has been one of my closest best mates for over a decade. We’ve been in bands together and one spring 3 years ago almost, we brought about our daughter.

    I myself am the trans mother in this. I started HRT just after our daughter’s 1st birthday and before her, I would never have thought of having a child.

    Now I’m glad we did!

    We actually have a nice big extended family with a half brother and step-father thrown in the mix and the other mother has a long-term boyfriend too. The kids are never short of a good spread of responsible smart adults to guide them in our different ways. They will grow up understanding gender on their terms. The older half-brother already deals with it perfectly ^_^

    I believe us calling her, our “daughter” works for now. I go out of my way to buy educational and puzzle toys, and while she does have her fair share of dresses, she decides what she wears and we’ve certainly noticed a trend in liking cars and Top Gear (she hums along to the tune! It’s so cute!).

    If she wants to be referred to as “he”, when she understands more about it, or any other gender-variant, it will be on her terms… or his, or theirs.

    If you ever want to talk about things from a modern trans family perspective, just drop me a message – I’ll try to remember to check the inbox now I’ve finally registered ^_-

  10. Thumb up 0

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    “Most of us — or, by their perception, all of us — can’t have children who are biologically related to both of their parents.”

    So you think that in a pregnancy where one partner donates the egg while the other one carries the fetus isn’t one in which children are biologically related to both of their parents ? Because that happens /all/ the time.

  11. Thumb up 1

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    Thanks for this beautiful piece of writing. Congrats and best wishes on the upcoming birth of your baby!

    I thought I’d share this blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/permissiontolive/. Though the story of the family described in this blog is somewhat different from yours, you might be interested. The two parents married young and were both from very religious backgrounds, they had a few kids together, and one of them transitioned to female. Not sure how the timing of the transition worked out relative to the births of the kids; it’s been a while since I read through the blog.

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