Why I call my son ‘he’, against my better judgement.
Yes, it’s a parenting column in the pages of the Independent, care of “non-binary” parent and pronoun contester, Dorian Stripe:
It’s a question I’m asked occasionally: “why do you use gendered pronouns for your son?” It’s no surprise, as I move entirely in queer circles, and am a non-binary person who uses “they” pronouns for myself instead of “he” or “she.” So naturally people wonder why I’m not allowing my son that neutrality.
I’m not sure that wilfully disregarding your son’s biological sex, and actively challenging it with a hint of self-congratulation, is actually neutrality.
My son was born with a penis and testes. They were identified five months before he was born. Everyone around me had started to ask the fatal question, “boy or girl?” every time they saw my bump. My brain screamed “neither” – it’s nothing! It’s a bundle of cells that doesn’t even have fingers yet!
Here’s a typical foetus at four months, a nascent human being. Or as Dorian puts it, “nothing… a bundle of cells.” Note the fingers.
My employer bought me a weird, cutesy towel-tree in a pastel blue, with little cars and aeroplanes on it. I shudder to think what the girl towel-tree looked like.
Isn’t it just terrible when people buy you gendered baby gifts? The unenlightened fuckers.
I have a large, supportive biological family, who are (as the vast majority of people are) uneducated on trans issues and the nature of pronouns. While the majority of them support my right to parent how I wish, very few of them would respect “non-standard” pronouns – they would revert to using whichever pronoun they think matches his genitalia whenever I’m not in the room, and even when present, they would need constant correction.
Pronoun correction, it’s what brings a family together. Though when relatives do this kind of thing during pregnancy, I suspect they’re not cooing about foetal genitals as such, so much as the psychology, the maleness or femaleness, that they generally signify and prefigure. Those cooing relatives may be affectionately anticipating what kind of person that little “nothing” may become.
This gets to the heart of why I made this decision: using non-binary pronouns is exhausting.
Well, quite. And at this stage of the game, it does look like an affectation that’s more about the parent than the child. After all, gendered pronouns are only apt almost all of the time.
There is only a one in one hundred chance my son will be transgender. There is no need to force him through the neutrality at this young age… He is most likely to simply decide he wants to be a little boy, and that’s fine.
I’ve put effort into buying dresses and tights, clothing with butterflies and unicorns as well as diggers and dinosaurs.
undoing the gendered language used by other people he interacts with.
I want to upset people. I want to shake up their worldview.
How very selfless of you. Using your child as a political project.
If seeing a child in pink upsets you because you don’t think they should be, you’re going to be upset. And to be honest, I don’t care. Our non-binary existence upsetting someone is the least important part of my day.
“Our non-binary existence.” Isn’t that rather jumping the gun? What happened to that “one in one hundred” business?
Oh, and in case you were wondering,
My son is now old enough to choose his own toys and express strong preferences… These days his favourites are cars, trains and dinosaurs.
There we go.