I always imagined that I would eventually be a parent, and pass on my genetic heritage to a new generation, bring up a child, teach hir the tales that have passed down in the family history, show hir the photos of family events before they were born, and raise hir as a great human being confident in hir body and choices. Well, maybe some of that is more recent: when I was very young I didn’t have the language or experiences to formulate all of those points clearly.
But I am now closer to 40 than 30 and as yet have not found a person to collaborate on this venture. It’s approaching the point where I may have to accept that this part of my life plan, as so many others, is going to have to be abandoned as no longer practical – even if I were to find a life-partner to share the role (and, perhaps, bankroll it – more on which, later). Supposing I did find a partner, tomorrow, and we developed a relationship, and eventually we decided to marry (or together as if married, regardless of the State’s nosiness and legislation about relationship status), it would still take a long time to get to that stability of situation that we might consider parenthood; and then we’d have to start from scratch if we wnated genetic offspring. So maybe I will find a partner who would support adopting a child.
Before I knew about the wealth and richness of gender (I plan another post on that question, though when or if I actually will write it is anyone’s guess) I imagined I would be a dad. My contribution to a geneticly related offspring would be sperm and, inasmuch as that means anything, I would be a father. But to my mind that does not define the appropriate parental term. If a trans man and a trans woman have a child together, and the trans woman donated the sperm while the trans man provides the ovum (and perhaps, the womb, as has happened already), then who is “daddy” and who is “mummy”? I would say that regardless of the gametes donated, the instinct is to look at the role they play.
I’m genderfluid, usually use male pronouns. But in connection with that fluidity is the idea that I would much prefer to be a mum than a dad. And that could well include being a stay-at-home-mum.
I feel it important to distinguish between on the one hand my willingness to play the “traditionally female” role of staying at home, caring for the child, dusting and hoovering, making dinner; and on the other hand my desire to be “mum”. A stay-at-home-dad does all the things that a stay-at-home-mum does, and is still dad. Moreover, I would still want to be mum if I was going out to work (whether both of us work, or my partner stays at home). That raises a question of what, in fact, does it mean to be a mum as opposed to a dad, and why I want to choose one rather than the other?
So far in this post, I’ve rejected definitions based on what genetic material, or whose body provides the incubation, or what domestic roles the parents take. What’s left?
One clue I think is in the way I see my femininity relating to my body. I’ve written before about wanting bigger, more feminine, breasts. I also have a deep yearning to breastfeed a loved one. The idea of myself as a breastfeeding parent is very attractive, even after researching the sensations and effects that go along with that, some of which sound pretty uncomfortable. One of my deepest romantic-sexual fantasies is to have a partner suck at my nipple as though zie were feeding and drinking milk from the source, and cuddling or cradling this partner in a caring fashion.
I don’t know for sure that this is practical. When I looked it up on the internet, I found pages that suggested it could be done only with relevant hormone therapy to induce lactation; other sources however suggested that a physiologically male body (such as mine appears to be) would start to lactate just from repeated “suckling” style stimulation. I don’t know whether that is possible, but would like the opportunity to try with a partner.
Again, I have to draw a distinction between “want to breastfeed” and “want to be a mum”. Many mums don’t breastfeed and are still mums. Many dads bottlefeed their children, and are not mums even though they provide the milk as a mother would.
Is it a relationship role, then? Does “mum” mean a distinct relationship from “dad”? I have had a BDSM relationship that evolved into “Daddy/girl” dynamic (she was twenty years older than I was, and yet I was Daddy) which involved nurturing discipline as a key element of how that felt to fit the archetype. Taking that from the archetypal, adopted, role and feeding back into family relationships, can I say that dad is the “discipline” and mum the “caring”? Well, as I said, plenty of dads bottlefeed and thus play the carer role; similarly, plenty of mums are stricter than dad. And anyway, in terms of a relationship with a child, while it would certainly not be anything like the role I play in a BDSM relationship, I still feel a need for order amidst the chaos, and setting boundaries – discipline, in other words. And I have roleplayed a BDSM “Mummy” figure indistinguishable from the BDSM “Daddy”. So again, that’s not it.
Is “dad” and “mum” just a way of presenting a role model figure of gender? When we point to “dad”, are we really just providing the young person with a portrait of “this is maleness”, and “mum” as a portrait of “this is femaleness”? Are they just ways of dividing men and women in the eyes of children so as to perpetuate gendered roles for another generation? If that’s that case, my frustratingly male-like body surely thwarts any attempt to be a female role model, and anyway, would I want to hold myself up as a model for either binary gender, when my own self-experience is of being neither or both (depending on perspective)? That can’t be what I mean when I say I want to be mum.
Could it be that being mum is a rejection of those ideas? Well, again, that sounds like a conscious, political, motivation and unrelated to the ideas that drive my instinct to call myself that.
What’s left? It seems as though I have rejected every explanation, every worthwhile definition. I am left only with the vague idea of “wanting to feel motherly”, with nothing to point to and say “this is the thing that, despite my being male-bodied, makes me mum, and motherly, instead of dad”. Surely, it cannot be that I want the name for itself? There is only one conclusion left.
“Mum” is not measurable, but an idea. As much as I have demonstrated that none of the criteria I suggested, either on its own or collectively as a whole, define “mum” or “dad”, yet they can still create an archetype or impression, one that perhaps I do want to be a part of, without buying into any “role model” crap, and yet having for myself that sense of a model on which to build my sense of a role. The role I would feel happiest in, relating to a child. Each of the criteria, without defining or requiring “mum”, nevertheless, in my mind carries a scrap of “motherliness” quality and, overlapping, they create a sense, without requiring or defining or constraining a person to be mum, unless they themselves feel that way, and feel motherly.
And yes, I think my genderfluid identity, and my association of femininity with my body, pulls me towards that as opposed to the other. The word, the name, the title, “mum”, means little. It is to feel like I am mum that matters.
Now I just need a woman** who wants to be my collaborator (regardless of whether we both are mum, or she wants to be dad).
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**Although I identify as bisexual, I don’t really feel biromantic; I suppose the right man might change that, though. For now, I picture a family, parenting, situation as myself and a woman (or genderqueer/genderfluid person).