Monday, April 4, 2011

How's that "Dad" thing working out?

Regular readers of the blog know that since Leo was born, my partner, jb, has chosen to go by "Dad" rather than some variation of mother.  I won't go into too much detail about her gender identity or why "mom" wasn't an option because it's more complex than this introductory paragraph allows and, well, it's not my story to tell; but basically it boils down to the fact that jb feels more like a dad than a mom.  (If you are interested in reading more about the intersection of gender and parenthood, I highly recommend checking out Lesbian Dad.)  We considered adopting a completely different name, as so many genderqueer parents have, but none felt right.  The popular "baba" is what jb grew up calling her grandmother, and she would never be able to think of it as anything else.  The rest similarly didn't resonate; too feminine, felt like co-opting a culture that's not ours, sounds like dad anyway...


We'd begun thinking about what she would go by to our kids way before we had even conceived, but were never able to come to an answer that felt completely right.  When our due date was right around the corner, we really began to feel the pressure.  If we were completely honest, we had to admit that the only thing that sounded and felt right was "dad".  In a perfect world she would be our child's dad and no one would bat an eye.  But we don't live in a vacuum, and we worried about how this would affect our child and how it would affect us.  Still, our options were limited: Choose something that we weren't comfortable with or risk making some other people uncomfortable.  So we jumped in and went with "dad".

Now that we are almost a year (where did the time go?!) into this parenting gig, I thought it might be a good time to give an update on how the whole "dad" thing is going.  Of course in the grand scheme of things, we are just beginning, but I'd also say that we are getting a taste of what's it's like to live as a perceived to be same sex couple who answer to "mom" and "dad". 

From Leo's perspective, there's nothing to report on.  Jb as his dad is all he's ever known and he hasn't encountered anyone who might make him feel ashamed or badly about the unconventionality of that moniker.  Even if he had, he wouldn't understand.  It's beautiful really.  I wish I could draw this stage out for him a while longer.

For jb and I, it fits like a glove.  It rolls off the tongue and captures much of who she is to our family.  Sometimes it feels funny to pair up female pronouns with "dad" and "father" and in those cases we just use male pronouns.  I do have some feelings around conforming to heteronormative roles, but I'm pretty sure that for every way we conform there are at least two ways we challenge them.


As for our families, we were initially met with a little resistance.  There were some reactions that it was too "weird" and concern for Leo as he grows up.  After that first reaction we were pleasantly surprised when everyone jumped on board pretty seamlessly once Leo came along.  There was an innocent stumble or two, but very quickly everyone was effortlessly saying things like, "Where did your daddy go?" or "I bet your daddy picked out that shirt!" to Leo. Sometimes the pronouns will trip up an otherwise smooth sentence, but it's always momentary and we assure whoever is speaking that however it comes out is fine by us. 



Our experience with authority figures and/or professionals has been pretty limited, but of the few situations we've been in no one has batted an eye at jb as "dad".  We've dealt with two pediatrician's offices (and the front desk people, nurses, medical assistants and doctors who work there) who have been great about it.  The librarians at the libraries we frequent haven't skipped a beat.  Teachers of baby classes we've taken Leo to haven't hesitated to use "dad" for jb.  From time to time there is an assumption that jb goes by mom, but we gently correct and move on.  I can genuinely say that as long people are coming from a respectful place and making an effort to understand our family's constitution, we are hard to offend and we have yet to deal with someone bent on offending.


Who is left?  New people we meet? Other parents?  Friends?  The answer is the same.  We really haven't encountered any negativity.  I do realize that we live in a large city, in a progressive neighborhood.  We are blessed with supportive families.  We choose to surround ourselves with like-minded people.  We are still just beginning our parenting journey.  We are lucky.  There are lots of factors that make our situation unique, but I do think it's worth sharing that things have been working out so far.


I'm still feeling good about the decision to choose the name that suits jb best.  I do realize that there is a long road ahead and the hardest part will be as Leo's awareness meets society's prejudice.  We already had a bump at that crossroads, though, with the whole lesbian parents thing.  I think we will figure out how to navigate any adversity that comes up and carve a path that works for our family.  For now, Leo loves his daddy and that's enough.

23 comments:

  1. What a great post! Thanks so much for sharing your story. I'm always intrigued by how we LGBT families negotiate our identities and names. My sense is that we may rely on each other for inspiration, but we always come up with a solution that fits us as individuals.

    (And our son had that same giraffe outfit when he was that age. Too cute!)

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  2. This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing this. Also, and I don't generally think this, but in that last picture, Leo looks like his daddy!

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  3. great post!!! Yes I was wondering. Great to hear your perspective:)

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  4. Every one of these pictures is adorable. And, I appreciate your sharing of how it's going with the daddy situation.

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  5. Daddy was a consideration with us too. I love seeing all your photos of Leo and jb. Such a special daddy-son relationship :) xxx

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  6. Thank you for sharing. Beautiful! While it may be tricky in some areas, you will not have the "I don't have a Dad, I have two Moms situation" Which my wife and I (Mommy and Mama)deal with with our children. I think, in the long run, loving parents shine through and people are getting it! Congratulations on your beautiful family!

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  7. I just wanted to say hi and let you know that I just came across your blog and I've really enjoyed reading. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
    I look forward to reading more :)
    Warmly,
    ~k

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  8. I absolutely love this post and it has my brain-a-turning about the whole bag of names and same-sex parenting. I may do a related post soon, and link it to your post as another perspective, if you don't mind.

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  9. I think everyone has the right to choose what label they want for themselves. I'm very firm in that I'm a "Mommy" and not a "Mummy" and my mother goes by "Mimi" instead of "Grandma."

    I think it is great you haven't encountered much opposition and as far as conforming to heteronormative roles I don't think that's any issue. If JB wants her son to call her Dad it's just the same as that I want to be Mom.

    Great post :)

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  10. Very interesting post - I have considered using dad for me as well, but I hadn't thought about the pronouns at all! Especially in Spanish, where I can't imagine anyone saying "La Papá." Maybe it would be a good excuse to switch.

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  11. I've just stumbled here but I'm wondering what advice you'd give to people you meet who would be surprised at this. I'm just thinking of myself, if our kids were in daycare together or something, or we met on the playground. I don't think of myself as rude or judgmental, but I can't say with certainty that my eyebrows wouldn't raise before I could tame them down. Had I happened upon your family in person, rather than in blog land where I could read this without having anyone see my reaction, what questions could I ask, what things could I say, to bridge the gap of any tension my own surprise might cause? If I feel I've put my foot (or eyebrow...) into my own mouth, how could I get it out? I'd probably end up mumbling something like "Oh, that's cool...that's cool..." which leaves a little something to be desired.

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  12. Hi Gori Wife. Thanks for stopping by and reading. Honestly, we've encountered a few raised eyebrows on our journey (some from people very close to us). We realize that using "dad" is different and understand that most people skip a beat when processing our family dynamic. I'm not at all offended by someone taking a moment to reframe their thinking. I think and "Oh, that's cool." is a great follow up. As for the the next step, Mombian wrote a great piece that would suit this (or most) situations: http://www.mombian.com/2011/06/13/five-dos-five-donts-for-interacting-with-lgbt-parents/

    I can't speak for all LGBT families, but I know that as long as someone is coming from a place of respect, I try to remain very open to conversation and non-prying questions. Thanks for asking.

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  13. just stumbled on your blog and i'm really enjoying it...our philosophies seem very similar...

    great post...my partner isn't really comfortable with "mom" either, but doesn't really embrace "dad" or "papa" fully...so we've been using "poppy" or "mapa" (ma pa is short for mama patty...or a combo of ma & pa, which is really how patty identifies)...

    anyway, i'm enjoying your posts...thanks for addressing this...i've been thinking about doing a post about this as well...

    (we also struggled with "husband" and "wife"...we started using "husbian" but usually i just revert to partner...)

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  14. Thank you for sharing this story. I plead absolute ignorance (and hetero-privilege) in not recognizing the difficulty of Mom/Dad for LGBTQ families. So, again, I am incredibly happy you shared. I'm also happy that you have encountered (which you should) such amazing support. Leo has two amazing parents who love him to bits, everything beyond that is for the birds.

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  15. Hannah3/14/2012

    We just stumbled upon your blog and are so thankful to find two moms who sound like us. Thanks for taking the risk to put yourself out there for the benefit of all of us. Looking forward to reading more.

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  16. Really enjoyed your post. My partner and I are expecting. I am the tummy mummy, and identify as femme. I will go by maman (we are French). My partner, who identifies as butch, has chosen to go by mapa, which I think is just perfect for her. :)

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  17. I just moved back to philly from NY after 13 years. Im a non op trans guy. My wife and I have a baby boy and we've been looking for other alternitive families to connect with in philly, It almost seems impossible. I'm glad I stumbled across this blog, it's pretty cool. It gives the notion that not all hope is lost.

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  18. Welcome back to Philly! Check out http://www.phillyfamilypride.org/ events and also the FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/344868115635633/

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  19. ok Thanks! I will definitely check them out. How has your experience been living in Philly, being an alternative family.

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  20. Overwhelmingly good. I do think it's largely because of the community we live in, friends we choose, and type of work my partner does - but even outside of our "bubble" we have navigated the city pretty comfortably. Once you find your "tribe" it's great. That said, I spend most of my time with just the kids and we pass as a non-queer family since my gender expression is typical for a mom and my kids refer to their "dad" in conversation.

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