VIDEO: Queer Mama for Autostraddle Episode Nine — Our Kid Doesn’t Have Two Moms

This is Part 9 of a 12 column series. If you’re just joining in, start at the beginning!


I’m a queer femme who prefers she/her/hers pronouns and is super excited to be called mama/mommy/mom/ma or whatever variation our little muffin comes up with ANY DAY NOW! Okay, so she’s probably not going to start calling me mom any day now, but she is due to arrive really at any moment from here on out. Which omg holy shit. We are so excited to be parents of an outside-the-uterus baby, and we are checking all those last things off our pre-baby to do list. For those eagerly awaiting, Tiny still has no name, and neither does Simone.

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Simone, the love of my life and the co-parent to our future child, is a masculine-identifying woman. She lets me call her butch at times because I think it’s sexy, but it wouldn’t be the first term she’d use to characterize herself. There isn’t a particular gender term that she claims, really, though I could also describe her as a boi, perhaps. Simone’s gender is complicated. She firmly identifies as a woman. Though she tucks them away in sports bras on the daily, she has beautiful boobs that she (and ahem, I) enjoys. She shops exclusively in “men’s” sections of clothing stores. When she puts on a dress, it looks and feels like drag.

Simone’s gender is simple. She’s a masculine-identifying woman who prefers she but doesn’t mind if waiters call her sir. She cuts her own hair short and wears the clothes that make her feel sexy, the clothes that make her feel like herself. It took her into her twenties to embrace this gendered self, but she’s been holding it with ease and confidence ever since.

When Simone and I got engaged, I couldn’t imagine anyone calling her a bride. Way too weird. Way too feminine. I was happy to be becoming her wife, but in no way did I envision her becoming mine. Calling her my wife felt like I must instead be referring to Cinnabon, Simone’s drag persona alter ego. Simone was not becoming my wife.

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She was and would stay my partner. I realized quickly, though, that people never knew what I meant when I talked about my partner. Simone and I run our video production company together, so in some contexts people thought I was just talking about my business partner. In others, they assumed my partner was a man. They definitely didn’t always know I meant the person I was married to. The woman I was married to.

I started calling her my wife, sometimes, when it felt easier, or when I wanted to be sure someone knew what I meant. Now I use it at least half the time, because I’m glad it means people know right away that I’m a lesbian. Though I’m not a lesbian, and neither is Simone. Is this confusing? We’re both queer, really, but I do also identify as a dyke. I’m in a same sex relationship (now, marriage!) with a woman who doesn’t identify as a lesbian. Also, wife has three less characters than partner, and this is important on Twitter.

Simone and I have a little dog named Noodle. Actually, Simone adopted him a few months before we started dating, which we like to say was her signalling the universe that she was ready for some serious commitment in her life. I’m Noodle’s adopted mama. Simone is Noodle’s daddy. She always has been, it’s what she and I have always called her in reference to our boy.

She’s not, though, the daddy or the father to our child. For a long time I thought she might be. It feels the most natural for me to refer to her that way, after all, since I’ve been doing it about our dog for nearly five years. No reason not be a woman “daddy” to our babe. The main problem I could foresee is how confusing it would be to the world.

Simone gets misgendered all the time. This is mostly fine but can be scary, especially when we pull up to gas stations in towns we don’t know, parking lots filled with groups of macho straight men. Or when she comes out of a stall in a ladies room and a woman freaks out. What would happen when she was taking our child into a woman’s bathroom and that child was calling her daddy? Or when people couldn’t wrap their minds around using she pronouns for a “dad”? Not insurmountable challenges, but something we didn’t want to deal with necessarily all the time.

More to the point, in any case, is the fact that Simone doesn’t feel like Tiny’s dad or father or even daddy. But, if you haven’t yet gathered, she also certainly doesn’t feel like Tiny’s mom. Being called a mom makes her skin crawl.

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People always assume we are a family of two moms, being that we are two women. We don’t fault them. Simone even hesitated with wanting to write or vlog about this because she was concerned about making all these sweet people who have tried to be inclusive of our “two mom” family feel bad about their mistake. She deserves, though, as we all do, to be identified how she wishes to be. And the people who love us or even just read about us deserve the chance to get it right, too!

The simplest title is that Simone is Tiny’s parent. How fortunate that we have a gender neutral term built right into our language. If you’re writing a letter, “dear parents” is great. Or if you’re introducing her you can say, “this is Simone, Tiny’s parent.” Hopefully schools and communities can without too much trouble fall into this preferred language.

Tiny won’t call Simone her parent, though. I mean we hope she will in some contexts at some point, as a descriptor, but it’s not exactly a pet name. It’s not a name we imagine playing peek-a-boo with. “Where’d parent go? Peek-a-boo!” And it’s not a name I imagine Tiny shouting up across the apartment, “Parent! I can’t sleep!”  While I’m mommy, what will Simone be?

A lot of our masculine female friends and some transmen we know who are parents have chosen to go by “baba.” Some of them like it because it means father in some languages, grandmother in others. Or simply because it’s something that is not mom or dad. Or because it’s becoming a thing, a gender identity to have community around. Simone has never identified with baba herself, though. She doesn’t love the ring of it and it doesn’t jive with her.

We’ve (okay, I’ve) looked at lists upon lists of options. People use all sorts of words of course for themselves as parents. Maddy or zaza. Ima or mima. Duda or madu or duna. Nothing on any of those lists speaks to Simone as her name. Sometimes, I know, the kid just makes something up, so maybe that will happen with us, and it will feel right, and we’ll feel silly for worrying about it at all.

For now we’re going with “Monie” (pronounced MO-knee). It’s short for Simone, and a pet name her friend’s children and other loved ones have called her in the past, so it’s already imbued with sweetness and intimacy. It rings with, but also sounds distinct from, mommy. Most importantly, it’s her own, and it feels right.

We’d love to hear from folks further down their parenting journey (or folks right here with us! or folks still just beginning to think about this stuff!) about what it’s like for you as a gender non-conforming parent. What names did you pick? Did they stick with the kiddos? How has navigating your complicated/simple gender been in the world? Please share your thoughts! And thanks in advance to all who will now refer to Simone as a parent, not a mom.

haley has written 12 articles for us.

59 Comments

  1. This was such a great and important article! I’m so sorry that I referred to you as a two-mom household in a comment on an earlier video! Haley is right in that Simone shouldn’t have to just get used to what society assumes and projects onto her. You deserve to have your gender identity expressed and validated, including in relation to Tiny! I’m really happy that you took the time to talk about this. And for the record, I LOVE Monie. That is adorable. <3

  2. In teaching, I send home notes constantly. However, a lot of the kids I work with don’t actually have a ‘parent’ at home (birth, step or adult with a significant relationship to the child). So we usually end up addressing the letter as “Dear Parents/Guardians”. However, because I know my kids so well and who is at home, I make point of saying ‘could you give this to XXX for me?’

    “Parent” is really tricky though – you’re intentionally addressing the person who has a very close relationship to a child, but isn’t their guardian, but could be called that if they preferred the term. However, guardian assumes the absence of a ‘parent’. This is the problem with labels!

    I guess this conversation highlights the importance of both the child, and you, knowing how you’re going to broach the topic with strangers or caregivers – maybe a default response that you all use? And on any registration forms, in a practical sense, you could just cross out “parent” and write “Contact A” and “Contact B”?

  3. This is a sweet article, but I especially like the part about you two having a video production company together. My girlfriend and I also work in video/film together and have the same confusion when we refer to each other as partner :)
    It is wonderful to do the thong we love best with the person we love best. I consider us to be very lucky to have found each other. You two are as well. And Tiny is too. Welcome Tiny to a wonderful happy life.

  4. I am a woman married to a man, and we have three children: aged 15, 13 and almost 11. But we are not their mommy and daddy. We are their Ima and Abba, because we chose to elevate our identity as Jews into our parental titles. We live in Indiana, and very, very few Hoosiers indeed are prepared to hear a parental title they aren’t familiar with. We’ve all gotten accustomed to people referring to us by the American titles, and nonetheless NOT adopting them for personal use. The Doctor calls me “Mom,” the teacher calls me “Mom,” the teacher-assisted Mother’s Day cards have often been addressed to “Mom.” The kids know that I am Ima, though, and still call me that when speaking to me. And when they refer to me in the third person, they are all perfectly at ease with adjusting to their audience. At synagogue I’m their Ima, at public school or a sleepover I’m their Mom.

    I think you are quite right that your child might choose to change you from “Monie” to something else, and it’s very gentle and loving that you are so relaxed about that potential behavior. It sounds like you two are already very good parents! But when other people — through ignorance, discomfort, forgetfulness or whatever, try to change you to something else, you don’t have to accept that. And neither does your child. :)

  5. Speaking as a genderqueer human, if I ever have a child I think I would like to be Momo. This is not exclusively an Avatar: The Last Airbender reference.

    Of course, a lot of things would have to change before it’s more than a hypothetical question for me.

  6. I’m a masculine-of-centre bisexual woman who is married to a man and I’ve been a parent now for nearly 14 years. This was a fascinating article for me because I have this issue every time I’m called ‘Mrs’ or ‘Mum/ Mummy’ by anyone NOT my kids. I’m fine with my kids calling me Mum and I AM their mum, but when other people use these terms in relation to me it feels wrong. The ‘Mrs’ also feels totally wrong, but I don’t think I have the stamina now to correct the issue when I didn’t bother when we got married, and ‘Ms’ doesn’t appeal either really. I think of my husband as my Partner- because he really is- but if I refer to him as that I feel I’m leading folk to believe I’m married to a woman (which of course I’d be totally up for in theory)as people who don’t know me tend to assume I’m a lesbian, rather than only about 7/10s gay, as is the reality, and then it’s hard to disillusion them ;-) Anyone have experience in quashing the ‘Mrs’? I didn’t realise there were even options pre-internet tbh..

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