Y’All Need Help #20: First Admit That You Don’t Know Yet

Q:


My girlfriend and I have been together for about 10 years (met freshman year of college) and have been discussing getting engaged for quite some time (yay!) and I’m about ready to pop the question! In hetero millennial relationships, that would mean that the dude would propose, the girl gets the ring, fbook pics go up and then planning for the rest of their lives begin! However, what would you suggest for a couple where both parties want a ring, want the fbook pics, but still want an element of surprise and want to be considerate of each other.

We’ve already discussed that I want to do some proposing, and that she wants to be proposed to. But even though I’m proposing, I still want a ring. How do we do this? Does she propose to me at a different time after I’ve proposed? Does she just hand me a ring a few days later? We’ve considered waiting until engagement photos, but I don’t want to wait too long to get the ring. We’ve also discussed a time frame in which we are planning on doing our respective purchase (not the engagement, just the purchase) – so at least we know that when the time comes, she won’t need to rush to make a purchase.

It may be strange, and a good thing to need advice for – but what creative suggestions do you have for giving the ring to the proposer that doesn’t feel sorta weird and after the fact?

A:

Further proof that love is in fact not a lie! Hooray! Ok you both already know you want to be proposed to / receive a ring / get married, so the surprise of “wow you love me enough to spend forever together?” has passed. (I mean, this fact alone will continue to surprise you forever, but Now the surprises have to come from other things — like what the ring looks like, how it’ll be given, where you’ll be when you receive it, and what you’ll say to each other — which is great because those are very fun things to get creative with and to show how much you know each other.

If it were me, I’d get together with her and set aside two days (at least, depending on how elaborate your plans are) where neither person has any other obligations, and each of you claim a day to be in charge of. That’s the day you’re going to propose. Plan everything on that day — activities, locations, foods, super specific details that are unique to the other person and your relationship. And yeah she’ll know that on this one Saturday, she’ll be getting a ring, but she doesn’t know anything else, so everything that could be a surprise is a surprise, and you get a whole day to show off what she means to you. (And to take so, so many pictures!)

And then she’d do the same for YOU, planning the day, giving you your ring, doing and saying all the things. Surprises abound! Everyone’s happy! So many photo ops!

I hope this helps! I know the readers will have amazing ideas for you, too. Good luck and congratulations!


Q:


My soon-to-be-husbutch and I are getting married this year and are planning to jump aboard the baby train next year. Exciting times! I’m a pansexual, cisgender high femme and she’s my handsome genderqueer human. We’ve talked a lot about how we’d like to raise our future spawn and agreed on the importance of respecting our children’s genders. Until they start expressing themselves and communicating with us about their genders, we’re planning on giving them non-gendered names, clothing, and toys as much as possible and trying our best to avoid enforcing gender stereotypes and roles. All good! However, my partner asked me the other day whether we could use they/them pronouns for our kids until/unless they specify otherwise. To be honest, I was surprised by her suggestion and have conflicting feelings about this idea. I think I’d be more comfortable with it if my partner used they/them pronouns too – my initial reaction was that I didn’t want our kids to feel alienated by being the only people in our immediate and extended families who use they/them pronouns. I feel like a bad ally and partner for having this reaction, and a little out of my depth. How are other parents, especially those with one or more trans or gender expansive humans, dealing with this? Any help appreciated.

A:

I took your question to Twitter and got some interesting responses! To my knowledge, everyone who replied identifies as cisgender, but it might be reassuring to know that one parent does outreach for an LGBTQ youth center and provides training on gender and identity throughout the country.

Most parents raising their kids gender-neutrally are using gendered pronouns, at least until they hear otherwise from the kids. Lauren explained her decision like this:

My partner and I put a lot of thought into this. For background, we’re both lesbian-identified cis women. In my understanding, “they” is a pronoun we use for people whose gender we don’t know (“oh no, someone left their wallet!”) but also it’s the deliberately chosen pronoun people with a nonbinary identity. Using “they” for our baby felt like it would be trying to choose a nonbinary identity for our baby, not avoiding a choice and staying truly neutral. In the end we decided to use “he” and “him” pronouns for our baby, but try to create an environment that keeps gender-neutral and feminine expression accessible to him. We hope that he approaches gender with a sense of freedom, playfulness, and room for exploration as he grows– whatever his future identity may be.

In Erin’s case, after explaining that each person experiences gender in their own way and that gender can change for some people throughout their lives, her 4 year-old chose “they/them” as their pronouns. Some family members aren’t honoring her kid’s decision — which is an incredibly stupid hill for these family members to decide to die on, but whatever — and Erin and her partner are already coming up against unnecessarily gendered situations at school. They’ve suggested to the school that they try lining the children up by some other kind of binary — like peanut butter and jelly, or who likes cats and who likes dogs — instead of by their gender.

Oh! Everyone who replied is also super serious about making sure their kids have a variety of role models and acquaintances across the gender and presentation spectrum — this was a big deal to all the parents!

For what it’s worth, Lauren also reported being shocked by just how upset their families were when the sex of the baby wasn’t announced during the pregnancy, so that’s something to brace for! Several people also suggested checking out GenderSpectrum.org, specifically their Resources page in the Parenting and Family section.

You’ll make the right decision! And you can absolutely change course if you see that your original ideas need to be rethought. There’ll be so many additional things to worry about getting right, I bet the pronoun situation will feel easy in comparison. Maybe some non-binary readers could share their thoughts in the comments!


Q:


I was engaged in 2014, and then got married in 2016, to someone else. Okay, let’s back up. My 1st fiancee was very young and I was her first girlfriend and it was the first serious relationship she ever had. She was my best friend and greatest love. But I somehow got it in my head that I was being selfish and shouldn’t keep her from experiencing so many things that I knew I had experienced in the span of our age difference. So I ultimately sabotaged that relationship. Cut to a little over a year later when I met someone who I thought I clicked with and would be able to ride out this thing called life with. We got engaged in under a year and married a few months later. But now I feel like she isn’t the person I thought and we don’t really fit that well together, at all. I can’t stop thinking about what I threw away and that I married the wrong person. My wife is kind and I care for her but I’m so unhappy. I don’t even know how to bring all of this up! Help!

A:

Yes let’s please back up. I’m just going to get right to it, so please know before we jump into this deep end that I respect you and wish you nothing but the best in life! Ok! You might have married the wrong person, but that doesn’t mean you threw away your one true love.

A couple of things are going on here.

First of all, it looks like you’re rewriting your history and leaving some things out in order to soothe yourself into believing that you’d still be with your first fiancee if only you hadn’t purposely ruined everything. If she was your best friend and truly your greatest love, why did you not trust her to know what she wanted? You say you somehow got it into your head, but I bet there were some red flags, even if super tiny ones, that helped you know on some level that your relationship with your first fiancee wasn’t going to work out. Something was going on beyond just you knowing what was best for her and pushing her away, because that only happens in soap operas and romantic comedies.

Second but most pressingly, you’re now married to a person who doesn’t feel like the right fit anymore, which is a deeply unsettling situation to find yourself in after just two years. You said she isn’t the person you thought she was, which makes a lot of sense because it’s not really possible to truly know most people after only a handful of months. WAIT HEAR ME OUT there are definitely some wild otherworldly people out there who are so self-aware and so honest that maybe it is possible to know them on a deep personal level after just a little while, maybe, but most people take much longer to figure out. Most people haven’t even figured themselves out yet, so odds are good that whatever we think we know about them is just a version of what they think they know about themselves, which is riddled with inaccuracies and blind spots, AT BEST.

You’ve committed yourself in extremely serious ways to two different people over the span of four years, and I think it’s probably difficult to come to terms with these commitments not lasting, or in the case of your wife, at least not lasting the way you thought it would. It seems like you’re subconsciously searching for a line of reasoning that explains this away, and looking back on the first fiancee as The One You Were Meant to Be With kinda acts as a way to get you (and your wife) off the hook for whatever’s going wrong in this marriage.

Also your wife 100% knows that something’s wrong, even if she’s not acting like it or admitting it to herself. You should talk to each other and to a marriage counselor to see what your next steps might look like.

For the record, it’s ok to have two failed serious relationships! Don’t be afraid to stand up and say Both of These Women Were Wrong Fits for Me, Actually, or hey, maybe even Both of These Women Were Good Fits for a Time, But Then They Weren’t, and then sit with yourself in that honesty while you figure out what it is that you really want and need in this world! I mean, first admit that you don’t know yet, and then start figuring it out. Don’t rush into people — whether it’s your romantic partner or it’s the version of yourself that you see when you’re with them.

And real quick: you didn’t mention this, but just from my own experience and anecdotal situations I feel the need to say that if you find that you’re a different, better, more interesting exciting stable happy person when you’re in a relationship with certain people, unpack that. Figure out why you couldn’t or wouldn’t be that person without them, and if you like that version of you so much, just be it, all on your own. All of you is right there, even the stuff you think only other people can bring out!

So in closing, stop holding a candle for the past, start taking some hard looks at what you’ve got going on right now, and resolve to move forward one way or another.


Y’All Need Help is a biweekly advice column in which I pluck out a couple of questions from the You Need Help inbox and answer them right here, round-up style, quick and dirty! (Except sometimes it’s not quick, but that’s my prerogative, OK?) You can chime in with your own advice in the comments and submit your own quick and dirty questions any time.

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, and some personal essays.

Laneia has written 908 articles for us.

41 Comments

  1. I love this engagement idea but I had another idea too.

    If you want to propose unexpectedly, and you want to both give and receive a ring, you could:

    Buy a ring for your gf and your gf buys a ring for you.

    Your gf gives you the ring that’s for you, in its box, so it’s a secret. You don’t peek.

    You now have both rings. You can spring the question when you’re ready and bring both rings.

    You propose with the ring you bought. She says, “Oh my goodness, yes!” and is very surprised and happy, you put the ring on her finger and kiss like the cuties you are. Then you give her the box with the ring she bought and she puts it on your finger and you see it for the first time. Then I guess more happiness and kissing.

    Whatever you do it will be great and so happy and lovely. Enjoy!

    • This is exactly what my girlfriend and I are doing. (Today was actually supposed to be The Day but her ring hasn’t arrived yet so we had to reschedule.)

      I as the one who is proposing have a surprise location set up for her, along with a special craft that I made for her to honour our love. I will have both rings in our ring box when I propose so we can place rings on each other’s fingers after the big gesture.

    • My now-wife and I did something similar. She really wanted to propose to me, and I enjoyed the idea of being proposed to. But we both wanted rings. She proposed to me in very elaborate fashion (during one of her music performances!). Later, when we got home that night, I gave her ring to her and said some nice words (that I pre-planned), so that was like a low-key proposal. It worked for us.

  2. I also really loved the paragraph about being the person you feel proud of being even when you’re alone.

    Being with my girlfriend has definitely helped me become a better version of myself, but if we ever break up I would hope to follow this advice and be that person for me, as well. <3

  3. “If you like that version of you so much, just be it, all on your own. All of you is right there, even the stuff you think only other people can bring out!”

    This is so kind, and true, and beautifully said. I’ve written it down to tape to my mirror. I want this daily reminder, because it’s much easier for me to clam up and feel safe than it is to be vulnerable and share my whole self with people. But I’ve also learned that, by being open, I’ll meet amazing folks and make deep friendships. Thank you, Laneia!

  4. Very interested in the pronoun question, so say there will soon be a baby in the family and you are the only one who is like “Oh god why are you trying to gender this child?!!!”, what would you do? Would you try to do some education?
    It’s kind of hard talking to them about it, I would just want to say “SEE, see me, see how gendering didn’t work out for me? maybe don’t do it!”

    • I feel the opposite way — that I’m cis but if I were to make a big deal about a baby’s gender I would be speaking for an experience I haven’t had. I think all we can do is try to explain as best we can, and if it comes to it and it’s hard for you without revealing things about your identity that you’re not ready to, maybe you can find some neutral sources online or show them these quotes?

      More generally, I have been thinking about pronouns for babies and how it might just be extra hassle for them to keep them neutral. I like the idea from the quote, that using they/them is a deliberate choice for nonbinary people and we shouldn’t take that and give it to babies who haven’t decided it, but I’m not sure if I think it’s a good argument. I will definitely do more thinking about that before I am ready for my own babies.

      • i was raised “gender neutral” but with gendered pronouns, and i feel like it makes way more sense to use gendered pronouns for a baby until they’re old enough to express otherwise. it feels like in contemporary queer culture at least, they/them is gendered — it’s just not gendered as male or female, it’s gendered as non-binary. i feel like using gender-neutral pronouns for a baby is a little overkill. i mean, also i’m cis but it just seems like way more trouble than it’s worth for a little one.

        • Thanks, I definitely think raising kids generally more “gender neutral” is the way to go, even with some gendered pronouns. I use they/them and agree that applying them to someone so young who can’t express their gender in any way is just as weird as applying gendered pronouns (it’s all weird ya know?) I just am not sure how to talk to my family about even being gender neutral ish when I know they are already fairly heavily buying into gendering this baby, and heavily gendered me, even though they know I am trans. It’s like they know, because of my existence, that gender isn’t set at birth, but they dont???

          • By “I agree that applying them to someone so young”, I mean trying to make any assertion on a baby’s gender (binary or nonbinary) is weird to me, I think there is a way to be neutral without prescribing any genderedness. I view they/them pronouns as neutral pronouns that can apply to anyone in any situation, without any gendered connotations (even nonbinary gender connotations??? which doesn’t make sense to me, nonbinary means so many different things to different people who are nonbinary, so there isn’t one pronoun set or understanding for “a nonbinary gender”).

        • I was also raised in a gender-neutral way, by hippie feminist parents, one of whom was queer/bi. And I’m a nonbinary trans person.

          To me, being raised in a gender-neutral way is a whole-ass world apart from what it would have been like to have been raised with gender-neutral pronouns, which is something I really can’t think about too much because it would have been amazing and it hurts not to have had that.

          I think that cis people’s experience of this is going to be a lot different from trans people’s.

    • As a parent, the idea of using gender neutral pronouns sounds like an impractical challenge.

      I’m not saying you couldn’t or shouldn’t do it, but it’s hard enough to wake up, feed everyone and function at even the most basic levels when you’re caring for small humans.

      The work of dismantling the binary, well, it might just tip you over the edge into complete insanity.

      I’m cis, so what do I know…. but part of me also thinks it’s also putting too much weight on pronouns– too much emphasis on a small part of what it really means to identify on a gendered spectrum. Our culture is sexist and gendered. There at so many battles to fight that explaining they-them pronouns seems miles away from the bigger core issues of identity and self-worth.

  5. When my now-wife and I were talking about getting engaged, we did it like this:

    We went ring shopping together but when it was time to pick them up (after being sized and stuff), she did that alone. I knew she had them, but I didn’t know what the plan was.

    And then one night, we went to dinner at the restaurant where we had our first date. And later that night, we went to this beautiful lakeside park we had spent a lot of time at when we were first dating. She gave me this beautiful wooden jewelry box and I opened it. Inside was my ring box and she took that out and proposed to me, then told me to look in the bottom of the jewelry box and there was her ring box, which I opened and gave to her.

    I liked that we got engaged/proposed to at the same time because an engagement is something you enter into together. I also liked that it wasn’t completely a surprise for either of us. We knew we were both on the same page and getting what we wanted, but there were still some sweetly surprising elements to it.

    Our proposal was private because the idea of people watching me get proposed to makes me want to throw up (hello, anxiety). BUT if that’s your thing — you could arrange to have friends/family/photographers wherever you decide to pop the question.

    My wife came up with the jewelry box idea on her own and I thought it was a perfect way to have both rings there without awkwardly just handing them to the other person to propose with. It does require that one person be a bit more take charge and a bit less surprised, but what the other person does with the ring (how they propose, what they say, etc) will still be surprising. And you’d get pictures of both you getting proposed to.

    Just a thought! Good luck and congratulations!

  6. Just read the second question. 🙂 My wife is now pregnant with our first baby, due in three and a half months. He is biologically a boy, but we, too, plan on doing gender-neutral parenting.

    For us, it just means that as a baby, colors/clothing/toys have no gender and will all be available and used freely. Certain language and clothing (think onesies that say “Stud Muffin” and phrases like “Little Man”) will be off-limits, but not styles or colors. As he gets older, we want to expose him to everything (fishing, ballet, cooking, dress-up, hiking, sports, yoga, all the things!) so that it all feels available to him, and then we will follow his lead on what his interests/preferences are and what his identity becomes.

    Until he tells us otherwise, we’re going with he/him as pronouns.

    • Whoops, here’s the rest:

      I feel like calling a baby they/them is kind of deciding that they will be non-binary. I don’t know who my son will grow-up to be. Maybe he’ll be sensitive and wear dresses and resist gender roles and still be cisgender and still use he/him. I don’t want to decide his identity for him. And I don’t want him to think that if he likes things like dresses and dolls and ballet, it means he can’t be a boy, that it means he has to be non-binary or all genders or no gender or a girl.

      I think it’s what you DO with your kids and what you TEACH them about gender that will make more of a difference than the pronouns you call them. If my son knows that changing pronouns to they/them, she/her, ze/zie/hir is available to him, I don’t think he will feel obligated to continue using he/him if that’s not how he feels. But I think that’s his decision to make.

      And so, to me, even though it seems incredibly counter-intuitive and so very binary, I think that using the pronouns that are typically associated with his genitals remains the most respectful decision I can make for now and allows him the most freedom to grow into who he wants to be.

  7. My gal pal and I had the same ring vs proposal issue. I wanted the proposal to be somewhat of a surprise but also it kind of freaked me out not to pick out a thing I had to wear and cherish each and every day. We ended up buying silicone rings (we both wanted them as an alternative anyway for working outside/exercising) and proposing with those, and then we picked out our “real” rings months later. No one even commented or noticed we had silicone rings in our engagement announcement and I still made a thing months later about getting my “real” ring, so whatever.

    Also Laneia, you nailed that last answer.

  8. these are such interesting/complex/dense/sticky questions and answers! also VERY INTERESTING to see this discussion where many cis folks who think non-binary is a gender!!! i have no thoughts other than it’s interesting and that is not my experience as a person who uses that label but it’s something to think about!

  9. Question 2 – I’m non binary and a parent. In our language, gender neutral pronouns are pretty much unknown, especially in smaller cities. I personally don’t mind she/her, while “woman” etc. are a no go. Enforcing nb is a battle I rarely pick, except where it’s really crucial – really close people, mostly. So what we did was: We picked one female and one male/ neutral name and went with female pronouns until our kid could choose. Not because we someone think gender neutral pronouns make it seem like we’re choosing for them, while male/ female pronouns are now somehow neutral? Which, reading this from so many cis people frankly feels really disturbing to me. But because I hoped we could pull it off to really keep in mind that we had no idea which gender our kid would turn out to be (we also avoided using gendered terms as much as possible, e.g. “son/daughter”, I only ever used “kid”), while keeping a low profile and saving the huge pronoun hassle for
    the case it turned out to be relevant.
    I have frankly no idea if this was the right choice, or what “right” even means for whom in this whole mess, but for now (at 4 years, probably nb as well) it seems to work. We’re to tell others she’s not a girl, just [name], starting at under 3 years. This might be in part because no one has yet been able to explain gender to me, so I probably made a really bad job of explaining it to my kid in turn, but I check back from time to time and it hasn’t changed yet after plenty of exposure to happily gendered people, so probably kids actually know what they’re about, who’d have thought?
    Anyway, I don’t really think there’s a perfect solution, just degrees in the tradeoff between external conflict and internalized bad stuff in case your guess turns out to be wrong after all. But using neutral pronouns is less defining, not more. If you feel like it’s not worth the hassle, fine (or not? No idea!), but please don’t do it for the wrong reasons. Because she/he will never be neutral, at least in the foreseeable future, so using these pronouns will always have a huge normative effect in our kids’ lives, and we need to always be aware of this to deal with, and where necessary counteract it.

    • yeah this exactly! i also am nonbinary, and i have to say that the ‘using they is enforcing a gender’ thing is super uncomfortable! i disagree and also dislike this!
      like i could maybe see an argument for neopronouns, because they were specifically created for nonbinary identities? but they/them is a neutral pronoun!
      my opinion on raising kids neutrally is that if you are in a place and position where you can use they/them, you probably should! i like the way you’ve handled not being able to do that. and as you said, kids will have their own positions on their genders, from around three or four, because they are autonomous beings! and being respectful of that and checking in with them is, you know. standard practice for interacting with any human being.

  10. “In my understanding, “they” is a pronoun we use for people whose gender we don’t know (“oh no, someone left their wallet!”)”

    And an infant counts as a person whose gender you do not know. The idea that a gendered pronoun is somehow more neutral than a pronoun that can be used correctly for any gender or an unknown gender (like an infant..) doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Also how is assuming a non binary identity (which using a they pronoun from birth certainly isn’t doing) worse than assuming a cis identity from birth ? Seems like a slightly more ‘progressive’ way of assigning gender at birth based on biological sex, which is detrimental to trans people no matter how you look at it.

    • Also people of EVERY gender use they pronouns. I know cis people who use these pronouns as well as trans people who are not non binary, and of course lots of non binary people as well. To be fair lots of NB people use ‘gendered’ pronouns as well. This honestly just really rubs me the wrong way.

  11. I’m nonbinary and I have really complicated feelings about this.

    In no world is gendering an infant based on their body more neutral than specifically not gendering an infant before they can communicate a preference, and in fact the way we gender people based on their bodies is one of the biggest problems in our society today (and not just for nonbinary people – the way we do this fucks over anyone who isn’t a gender-conforming cis man, and even some gender-conforming cis men when you take into account how gender interacts with other factors like race, disability, orientation…) It isn’t more normal and natural to be cis, and while I appreciate that the cis parents asked were well-meaning, this kind of thing is why it’s a good idea to ask non-cis people, too.

    However, in the world we live in, I would personally recommend very loosely gendering an infant with whatever would usually be assigned at birth. Giving your child a gender-neutral name is good, getting gender-neutral clothes, toys, media, and activities is good (until the child can decide on their own what things they like), and treating your child’s gender as irrelevant whenever possible is good, but unless you’re planning to raise these hypothetical children in the most isolated of progressive gay bubbles, people will treat your child worse if your child’s gender identity or presentation, including pronouns, isn’t what’s expected. Your child, when they’re old enough and if there’s a reason they would need to, has the right to decide whether to pay that price. You do not.

    What’s important is to teach your kid about gender as soon as they’re old enough that they could communicate any preferences that they have – that having a certain gender doesn’t mean you have to look or act a certain way or like certain things, that having a certain type of body doesn’t mean you have to identify with a certain gender, and that bodies can be changed with medical transition and it’s completely okay to need it (the fact that children might feel physical dysphoria is often left out of these discussions, DON’T DO THAT) – and to create an environment where your kid can feel safe coming to you with any gender-related concerns or changes (this almost always involves telling them explicitly that they can do this), and to accept them immediately and treat them as they want to be treated if they do. The trans and/or nonbinary people I know don’t seem to find it particularly traumatic that we were assigned a gender we ultimately didn’t identify with, but that we weren’t educated about our options and supported in exploring our identities and in deciding for ourselves how we wanted to express them. Practically, these things are what matter, and that’s important to remember.

    Also, I’m kind of wondering if OP’s partner would be interested in exploring her own gender identity and pronouns – sometimes we want for our future children what we couldn’t have for ourselves, but in this case, there’s no real reason why she couldn’t have that for herself. It would’ve been nice to be like this from the start, but better late than never.

  12. I once read an interview with an intersex activist who was advocating for normalizing a non-binary view of bodies, and she argued that infants should still be given binary pronouns. She said something like, ‘it’s not fair to ask a child to be a gender warrior in today’s society.’ I’m trans and had considered using they/them for my kids, but that stuck with me.

    Also huge love to the point that non-binary isn’t the same thing as non-gendered.

  13. As far as the pronouns go, why not use both gendered and non-binary? What I mean is, use they/them when you or your child feels its appropriate, but maybe just be casual and don’t make a huge deal out of it if someone uses a gendered pronoun or even if you slip up and use one yourself.

    Like, say you’re talking to your mom or whoever about your child, you could say, “They’re such a quick learner! We’re really proud of them!” but if your mom says something like, “Have you started potty training her?” just roll with it. I feel like maybe constantly having to have confrontations with family and friends about it could put more stress on your child than is necessary or helpful. But if your child eventually comes to the conclusion that they are nonbinary and chooses neutral pronouns or is trans and chooses a different set of gendered pronouns, then definitely go to bat for them and have all of the confrontations you have to.

  14. I’m going to reserve comment on the difficult and nuanced questions posed in the second two letters and instead make a blanket statement of opinion about question 1.
    I find all the fake surprises in marriage proposals insufferably silly. Marriage is a complicated commitment that people should enter into on equal footing. Why on earth does it require someone to ‘surprise’ the other with jewelry? As a cultural script it makes no sense, and I haven’t heard anyone able to justify it on grounds other than ‘it was sweet’. Why not have a ‘proposal story’ more like “we’ve been talking about it for a while and we decided to get married”? Then again, I am the child of a family and divorce lawyer so I have an unromantic outlook on most things.
    To the letter writer, go a head and do what works for you! But please don’t feel beholden to these scripts and fake surprises. You can go pick out rings together and exchange them privately, or really anything that really fits YOU and YOUR life and relationship, not some prescribed idea of what a marriage proposal looks like.

  15. So I have a lot of complicated feelings about pronouns and babies.

    First, it’s….really super weird to me to see a bunch of cis people claiming that using they/them as a neutral pronoun set that includes “people whose gender we don’t know” (ie INCLUDING A BABY WHO CANNOT ARTICULATE THEIR GENDER) is more gendering that using a pronoun set that’s based on their junk at birth???? I actually don’t know how you can both say “this pronoun set includes people whose gender we don’t know” and in the same breath claim that “this pronoun set is more gendering than traditionally gendered pronoun sets”.

    Second, using they/them could get difficult and face a lot of pushback from….basically everyone in your life, and deciding that using a pronoun set that many? most? a large group of people anyway refuse to recognize as a legitimate pronoun set (except when it’s convenient for them and then they ~~magically~~ will recognize singular they) could be super hard for both the parents and potentially be super hard for the kid, particularly if the kiddo is going to be enrolled in daycare, or any other sort of environment where the parents aren’t supervising how other adults (and even other kids potentially) are interacting with their kid. I think this is a legitimate thing to consider because of the potential negative repercussions the kid could face because of parental choice (not that facing it because the kid is actually nonbinary and prefers they/them pronoun set would make facing that any “better” like, at all). And just dealing with people who don’t want to use they/them pronouns “because GRAMMAR” is exhausting even among family (maybe ESPECIALLY among family) and maybe this is not the Hill To Die On (unless the kiddo does decide that they prefer they/them pronouns and then that fight is worth it for them).

    I also like the idea of @ferretsummer has of using both they/them and the traditionally gendered pronoun associated with the sex that the kid is assigned at birth personally because…well, maybe (probably imo but ymmv) not worth letting family members or anyone who is gonna be around the kiddo for a lot of time getting away with not using the correct pronouns, this strategy saves sanity when dealing with The Public like servers, cashiers, other people that you’re not going to see regularly and doing Gender 101 with strangers is exhausting and just solidly Not Worth The Effort Demanded most of the time in my experience so having Socially Acceptable Pronouns to default to in those situations saves sanity because of the world we live in (I wish that that was not the case, but we aren’t there right now.)

  16. I commented above. I am cisgender, yes. My pregnant wife is masculine of center and non-gender conforming. Pre-pregnancy, she often got “sir” from strangers. While that doesn’t bother her in the least (she likes it actually), she does mostly identify as a woman and uses she/her pronouns.

    I don’t think non-binary is a gender. I don’t think using they/them is “more gendering” than he/him. I never said or alluded to those things. I’m just saying it isn’t my decision to make about anyone else. If my son is completely non-gender conforming but still identifies as he/him, that’s fine. That’s what his Mom does so maybe that’ll be what he does. Or maybe he’ll do something different. Maybe he’ll want to use they/them (also fine). Or maybe I’ll raise him gender neutral but he’ll still identify strongly with being male and not want to use they/them (still fine). I don’t know and that’s the point. I don’t think there’s in clear, perfect answer here because no matter what, you’re deciding part of someone’s identity for them. Not gender, no, but identity.

    I’ll be honest, my experience and our decision is colored by my wife’s experiences. She doesn’t identify as non-binary but she is non-gender conforming and she’s the one growing our tiny human and will be a major influence on his life. <3

    Honestly, all of the above responses just highlight why I've stopped commenting on this site. It no longer feels like a welcoming place to discuss ideas and events and ask advice, or, heaven forbide, have different ideas and opinions. It's very judgey.

  17. Just popping in to say that the last bit of advice about being who you are that you like that other people draw but while out on your own has stuck with me all weekend and I am carrying it forward with me! Precious. thank you

  18. My wife surprise proposed to me (which turned out to be a mistake, for anyone considering this route with a person like myself) and I “proposed” to her and gave her a ring the night before our wedding when we finally finished all the preparations for it. Despite the surprise being not quite a good choice for me, both were really meaningful moments.

    As a cis person with a cis wife and a 3 month old, I appreciate this discussion so much. I didn’t read most of those comments as saying that they/them is more gendered than she/her and he/him, just that it’s also gendered (but sounds like others don’t see it that way) and still making a decision for a child about how they are presenting their gender to the world. But the person who said they/them is also used for people whose gender we don’t know has a really good point (see how I used it without thinking in the sentence before this for example). I think that in an ideal world that is how we would talk about kids (or just everyone because why do we need gendered pronouns at all?) but like others said that’s a lot to put on a kid in the world we actually live in.

    I had resolved to stay as gender neutral as possible while not making a big deal about it and this is reminding me that I have been getting lazy about it. Thank you for the reminder, this is why I read Autostraddle and appreciate having real (but respectful) discussion in the comments.

    Just to say a spot more about my approach to gender with my child – when I was a child it would have been fair for my parents to think it was most likely that I’d end up attracted primarily to men, and end up with a man. But it wasn’t fair of them to assume that was what would happen, or not mention other possibilities to me, and those assumptions and omissions did me real harm. I’m trying to use that to inform my approach to gender with my child. He is probably male, and it’s ok to start there since most people born with xy chromosomes are, but I want to keep that as a probably and not a definite in my mind and when I talk to him about gender until he can tell me himself who he is.

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