VIDEO: Queer Mama for Autostraddle Episode Six — Finding Out the Sex

This is Part 6 of a 12 column series. If you’re just joining in, start at the beginning!


Sometimes I almost can’t believe that I’m growing a PERSON. Twenty-nine weeks inside me now, skull firmly lodged by my bladder these days. I imagine, sometime in the distant future, looking at my grownup child with their now adult-sized skull and thinking, “wow, that thing was once inside me. I grew you.” Wild.

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I know so little about this creature I’m gestating, and sometimes I wonder what kind of person our baby will turn out to be. What passions, what personality, what will our relationship be like? There’s no information available about who this person will be, though I sometimes like to guess based on how active the baby is or what kind of music causes the most kicks.

The only real clue one can get about this baby inside, and a very murky clue at that, is what genitals they appear to have or what sex chromosomes (depending on how and if one chooses to get the news). I always knew I wanted to find out the sex of my baby. I don’t know that I would’ve gone out of my way to find out if it cost like a ton of money or required some special procedure, but given the choice? Hell yeah, I wanted to know. I didn’t want some ultrasound tech knowing something major about my baby that I didn’t! Or weirder yet, having to hide this big piece of information from me by swooping by the genitals at every ultrasound.

Simone was impatient to know from very early on. She wanted something more concrete to envision about this child, and she wanted to start talking more seriously about names! I felt patient, knowing it was likely (all being well healthwise) the only big piece of news we’d get for the whole fortyish weeks with this babe inside.

I need to pause here and say, in case it isn’t obvious, that Simone and I both recognize that gender is a social construct and that a person’s sex and gender aren’t always determined by what their genitals look like at birth. Whether our child has what appears to be a penis or a vagina or even xx or xy or another chromosome combination entirely doesn’t really tell us who they will turn out to be. They could be intersex or transgender or genderqueer or gender non-normative in some way that is yet to be named.

Our own gender evolutions have been complicated. Simone was a tomboy who ran around shirtless until she got to the age where other people were uncomfortable that this girl, no longer just a child, wasn’t wearing a shirt. She had crossed that invisible line created by our fucked up society between shirtless and topless. In her pre-teen and teenage years she felt stifled, awkward, and distressed by having to perform “girl” in the ways being modeled around her. It wasn’t until much later, after she came out even, that she came into her own gender as a masculine-identifying woman. She-identified, men’s clothes-wearing, handsome and tender. Still frustrated by the fact that men can run around without shirts while she can’t.

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I’ve mostly always been femme, though I didn’t always know it, and I definitely didn’t always own it. I came into my femme-inism as a teenager frustrated by the double standards around sexuality for boys and girls, unwilling to accept unequal access to things like having sex just because it felt good. I enjoyed my feminine powers of seduction, though also tired very quickly of the way I was treated as a white, pretty, bubbly blond young woman. I diminished my femininity for some time because of this, wanting to be taken seriously, whatever that meant, wanting to be a sex object, too, sure, but also so much more.

It wasn’t until I found queer community that I really came into my own femininity. I met powerful, sexy, brilliant, tough femmes who I wanted to be (and, ahem, also make out with). I was suddenly surrounded by people I felt could see me in my wholeness, people who respected my femininity, elevating it to the place I believe it deserves. Our culture’s relationship with femininity is oh-so fraught, and queer culture gave me a totally different terrain upon which to play with gender and embrace my own identity. I believe in the radical potential of femme.

I also just love “girly” stuff – hot pink and sparkles, stilettos and short skirts. But I don’t shave my legs, and I keep my nails short. I pick and choose the pieces of femininity I want. I’m lucky to live my life and feel in my body in such a way that I rarely feel a pressure anymore to conform to gender norms that don’t suit me.

This is supposed to be an essay about finding out the sex of our baby, and I have digressed oh so much already. Can you tell I care a lot and think a lot about gender?! This is complicated, intimate stuff people, and I feel committed to revealing the complexities as best I can. So I’ve given you a sense that Simone and my genders are complicated, and that we very much understand that sex and gender are not somehow essentially tied, so why did we even care what sex the baby appeared to be?

One queer friend put it this way: the child is likely, statistically speaking, to identify in some fashion with the gender they are assigned at birth. So this piece of information does give us a big clue as to who they might be or, at the very least, a clue as to how the world will be towards them in their early years.

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I’ll be straight up – I’ve always wanted to have a daughter. I love girls and women and mostly choose to surround myself with them in my friendships and in my life. Being a lesbian separatist would be problematic in so many ways, but I sometimes fantasize about it anyway. I am drawn to people choosing to live in the world as women, across the whole spectrum of masculinity and femininity, cis or trans, queer or not. I’m also drawn to femmes, male or female-identified, and I’ve joked with Simone for years that all I really want is a princess, boy or girl, and that I won’t stop having kids until I get one. Which I realize means I will probably end up with a pack of the butchest kids you’ve ever seen. And then I’ll be that mom hoping they date someone girly so I can shower them with the pink things my children rejected.

As I compiled our registry, before we found out the sex, I filled it with hot pink items, because that’s my favorite color. I mean the baby doesn’t care what color the bathtub or stroller is. I’m the one who has to look at it! I realized that people looking at our registry would likely just assume the baby was a girl, however. I thought about how all my pink stuff would be considered transgressive if it turned out we were having a boy, but read as gender normative to most of the world if it so happened we were having a girl.

I was so nervous the day of our 19-week ultrasound, much more preoccupied with whether the baby was healthy and growing well than with what sex they might be. It had been 7 weeks since I’d last seen our baby, which felt like far too long, since I’d been spoiled with so many early ultrasounds due to IVF. I was in that weird part of pregnancy where I only felt I was pregnant because I wasn’t getting my period. I had started feeling some movement, but it wasn’t consistent and wasn’t as distinctive as it would grow to be in the coming weeks.

The ultrasound tech walked us down two long hallways into a small, sterile room with giant screens, dimmed the lights, and drew a smiley face on my belly with lube. Seriously. I only noticed this in retrospect, reviewing the footage. She took her time, entering numbers into the computer, fiddling with dials, checking all the important things off her to-scan list before finally the baby turned their butt and legs towards the wand.

“It’s not looking like there’s much between the legs,” she said. Simone and I laughed nervously. “Yup, nope,” the tech said, moving the wand back and forth, and from that moment forward our baby became a she.

It wasn’t until after I heard confirmation from the doctor that our baby did in fact look healthy and well, until after I wiped the gel off my stomach and pulled my shirt back down, until I got outside even, on the way to our car, that it really sunk in. I was having a daughter. I am having a daughter. It is with reverence, complexity, and so much bliss that I share this news with you now. We are having a baby girl!

haley has written 12 articles for us.

43 Comments

  1. it is impossible to watch your videos and not smile the biggest smile and fall a little bit more in love with your family.

    and, thank you for talking about gender and babies with so much more nuance than it is usually discussed. super important.

    • oh you are too sweet!! And thank you! It felt somewhat tricky but also so important to try to bring some nuance to it, so I’m glad that came across. I can’t wait to have so many more important conversations about gender and with our little one in the coming years.

  2. Best discussion of baies and gender ever.
    It is so strange how fixated society is on putting into a category and projecting so much about our futures from the moment we are born.
    I find it odd when people on facebook complement new parents ‘he’ll have the girls chasing after him’/’You’ll be beating the boys off with a stick’ etc. Why can’t you just wish the kid a happy life and be done with it?

    • Thank you!! and yes, it is so intense! I want to make a series called “gender bending for babies” where we purposely mess with people’s minds about what gender our little baby is and see their reactions…

      And also that is pretty much my biggest pet peeve!! When people not only gender-ize the baby but sexualize them too. Like a onesie that says “stud muffin.” Ick!

    • 🙂 🙂 so delighted to hear you are enjoying it!! it makes it that much more rewarding to know there’s actually people on the other end who like watching it 🙂 stay in touch.

    • Thank you, Celandine! Also, I love that name! Currently name shopping as you can tell so if you have any good ideas please chime in on our next episode “name our baby!!” 🙂

  3. I love seeing your little family in these videos, thank you so much for sharing this with us! I’m so happy for you!

    Also, FYI to other fangirls… I only this morning googled “queer mama youtube” (why did it take me so long to look them up??????) Haley and Simone have several more adorable videos besides the AS ones. Maybe everyone else already knew but in case there are others who are slow on the uptake… go look them up!! right now!!

    • eeep, thank you so much! And thank you for shouting out to our YouTube channel!! Yes, we have a bunch more content on there and are currently releasing new videos every Monday and Thursday, so definitely subscribe to stay tuned. 🙂 We’ll do a little “first 6 weeks series” on there once the baby is born which is guaranteed to be adorable if verrrrrry sleeeeepy 🙂

      thanks again! xo

  4. Aww, I’m so glad everything is going well.

    Wanted to share this moment around the office/proof that my chatter about gender politics is starting to stick:

    Me: [Coworker E] and his wife found out they’re having a girl!
    Coworker N: For now. Things change!

  5. I really relate to your experiences of femininity and I can only imagine how it feels to process those as your think about your daughter. To be visible I felt like I had to be masculine for the longest time but queering femininity feels so good. Don’t worry- I have no reservations that you two will subvert the binary on the daily for this baby so even if she has on a pink glitter princess everything it will all work out.

    • yes, totally! I remember walking into a queer bar in NY once as a young queer femme and being asked if I knew it was a dyke bar. How fucking offensive!?

      And I once performed about femme identity in Atlanta (and got booed off the stage for talking too much about misogyny but anyway…) and got thanked by this femme teacher who said her baby dyke HS students always feel they have to go andro or masculine when they come out..

      and thank you!! I am excited to subvert the binary for and with my daughter covered in glitter and dirt and magic on the regular! 🙂

  6. I’m so excited for you! Congratulations!!!!! What an amazing gift! I started crying near the end, too. I’m glad I waited until I got off work to watch the video. :’)

  7. Such an awesome commentary on babies and all the gender politics they get hit with as soon as they’re out of the womb… as always, a really great read, wonderful video, and I am so full of joy and excitement for you two (three, I should say!)

    <3

  8. I think this was my favorite one! I love your discussion of the gendered expectations we put on babies. both my partner and i were tomboys as kids and so of course i secretly want to raise one. except i just typed it here so i guess that’s not a secret. anyhow! CONGRATS!

  9. The world of gender (especially gender & babies) is so complicated! I think you explained the feels surrounding it very well. Gender still has very real-world implications and is so relational, so of course it’s understandable that some may want to find out what’s potentially in store for you and your child – recognizing that it may change, also!

    Congrats you two!

  10. Ah! I just found out this week that I’m pregnant with my second, and I’m hoping for a girl to round out the family. I definitely got the tears this week! I’m blaming my own hormones!

    Congrats! I’m loving the series, and loved the discussion of gender here!

  11. congrats, first and foremost on the healthy baby!

    I second two things you wrote/talked about: wishing to have a girl and having a complicated femme identity.

    for as long as I can think when it comes to children I’ve always wanted to have girls, and I don’t even know why – maybe it’s because I like women so much in general, too. on the other hand, I am afraid to have a daughter some day, because this is a shit world to raise girls in. but it’s a shit world to raise boys in, too, just in other ways. what maybe matters most is to be aware of the pressure society puts on a child’s (perceived) gender and to equip them with as much love and knowledge so that they can live somewhat happily in a heteronormative society.

    it also took me a long time to come out as femme, and before that I experienced some pretty harsh things in my own community. I changed my group of queer friends at some point, because I couldn’t take it any more. which unfortunately meant that I didn’t have ANY queer friends for some time, but it was so worth it.

  12. I pray that you have the femmest girl ever!

    I want to know the sex of my child and I refuse to feel bad about it. I know some LGBTQ parents are going to raise their babies gender neutral and that’s great for them, perhaps I have not reached that stage of enlightenment. I’ve always wanted a little boy. I was a tomboy who wanted a little brother and it has morphed into wanting a little boy.

    • Also I present fairly femme, but I can’t say I’ve spent too much time thinking about it. I’m not much of a processor in that way :p. This is why I have a guy friends for the most part. They ask no questions as long you have shared interests it’s all good.

      It’s mostly with the homogenous “queer” community in Portland that I’ve ever really felt like who I was was a problem or represented something bad.

  13. yay!!!! a daughter!

    i think about this all the time. l’m still not sure if i’ll find out the sex of my baby when i’m pregnant, but i really appreciated your discussion about it. YAY DAUGHTERS YAY BABIES YAY I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU!

  14. THIS IS AMAZING!!!!!! YAYYYY!!!!! So SO excited for you two! And that itty bitty bebe.
    I have ALWAYS wanted girls. I’ve actually gotten shit here for saying that–I just don’t know what I’d do with a boy. I know how I’d like to raise a girl because I was raised as one, so I have somewhat of an idea of what to do and what not to do. I mean, even the way people speak to baby girls fundamentally affects their vocal qualities for the rest of their life…that’s some intense shit. Plus I’m all about the next generation of kickass women. And again, there’s knowing that I’m passing on that awesome mitochondrial DNA, the long unbreakable line of ladies.
    But I just don’t know what to do with boys. They’re great in my clinics (except the teenage boys…and some of the preteen boys…), but being responsible for raising them scares the shit out of me. Beyond the anatomy thing (so many question marks), how do you prevent your son from turning into a misogynist at best and a rapist/murderer at worst (85% of serial killers are male, you guys). I just don’t want to be responsible for that.
    My family says this means I’ll just have a bundle of boys, and I’ll deal with that if it happens, but if I’m being honest, I want girls.

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