I’ve been thinking a lot about pronouns these days….
I want to first admit that we haven’t been as gender neutral as I want for pronouns in our house. We’ve pretty much reached the point where we use gendered pronouns for our baby all the time. I am struggling my way through this. And, I am sharing all this because I want people to know that our egos are strong. They keep us swirling around our confusion. They make us doubt ourselves. I am swirling in that self-doubt. And this is all part of a normal day in parenting.
A few weeks ago, I even said this out loud:
“I struggle with the idea of having to explain they pronouns to strangers in public. I don’t want my kid to feel like they’re an experiment.”
But, I have been enlightened and reminded by the universe in several ways lately that this is kind of a bs excuse. Let me break that down for you. First off, I saw a tweet (click to listen) that reminded me that pretty much all parenting is experimentation. So why would I think gender pronouns are an experiment but the rest is not!? Here’s where it gets tough. I don’t actually want to correct people or teach them because I am uncomfortable. I don’t want people to think that I am experimenting. I am judging myself that I may make the wrong decision. So this is really all about me. But you already knew that right!?
I deeply believe that I can do nothing to change the gender of my kids. What I can do is create an environment that may or may not match this gender and could make things easier or harder for them. For example, I could create one that doesn’t openly allow them to explore and understand their own gender. I can do damage to their own view of their gender by living and promoting scripted gender stereotypes or gendered expressions. I can associate certain words with my oldest but not my youngest simply because they are born with different body parts…tough guy, sweet girl, strong men, nice women, rough and tumble, sugary and spice…
So, this is where I’m at – realization. Realization that I want to do this differently. I believe in a world where gender is non-binary, non-scripted, and fluid. I believe that we can live in a world where people don’t connect or associate things simply because of one’s gender. I believe in a world where we ask a person their pronouns before we assumingly pronoun them based on our observations.
This folks is the world I imagine. I am learning how to build this world in my home, for my kids, and for me. I have no answers, but am constantly inspired by others who are doing this in a way that I admire and look up to. I am seeing what I can take and incorporate into my life that starts us on this path towards liberation. (Click here to check out Tiffany Cook, one radical momma sharing her experiences raising a baby with they pronouns. She inspires me and I love her deeply, you will too).
Thankfully, we have many successes already. Thus, I am also trying to remind myself that pronouns are only one step towards freedom. I look at my little people and I feel confidence in my ability to remove gendered thinking, gendered actions in how I choose to live in front of them. We have gender neutral and mixed gender toys for both kids. They wear whatever color they want, whatever clothes they want. I tell them they are both beautiful, gorgeous, brave, smart, strong, kind, sweet, and perfect. I avoid using gender in compliments like “good boy” or “way to go girl.” We are explicit about pronouns, gender and gender oppression. They know family and friends that use non-binary pronouns and identify as non-binary or transgender.
I have not mastered living this value out loud in public. But I am taking steps. I am moving and making small steps that I can only hope sets the example for them that their lives, their gender is their business alone. In the grocery store (it’s always the grocery store) people pronoun my kids all the time. The baby has a different gender pronoun nearly every time we go. I even had one person correct themselves after seeing a pink line in one of their socks. In these moments, I do not correct. I feel comfortable in them hearing different options for pronouns, that I am not going to correct and make sure someone knows which body parts they actually do have. And I don’t use pronouns when they ask me about them. I’ll use their name or avoid pronouns all together. Sometimes, I see people looking for confirmation from me, that they got it right. In these moments, I leave the discomfort on the table. This is their exploration too, these kind people wanting to connect. They need to explore their discomfort, their need to know and what comes up for them in this exchange.
This all makes me realize that my journey in parenting gender justice doesn’t have to be a whole package. I don’t have to flip the entire script today, but I do want to be committed to flipping the script as the end goal. Today, I feel that we parent in our community, among our family and friends pretty close to what I envision for the world. Out loud, I am still finding my voice, my role in how to bring other people along.
So here’s where I am at, after self-correcting my own course. A friend, mentor, coach once said “be the lighthouse.” If I can be grounded in what I value, what I believe in this world, then it will shine from me for others to see and feel, even possibly provide guidance. I don’t have to move my core to have impact, but instead to dig deeper. And it’s not my job to create the light in others. Instead, it’s my job to be so immobile, to be so sure in my shining that it guides others to a similar notion, similar desire to ground themselves in their light that also guides others. This is what living out loud truly looks like.
So yes, is this an experiment? Perhaps if you consider parenting an experiment. But I’m not experimenting on my kids, gender is much too important to even be considered such a thing. To have access to a community, a life where you get to navigate yourself without burden, script, assumption – that’s no experiment. That’s an explosion of love. This explosion of love is just yet another step in rearing my own little lighthouses so they find their cliff, ground their values, and shine brightly. My oldest loves to shine it in your face, you will never miss her or her light. Sometimes, I think it’s just pure fire. The littlest is going to be the one that warms your soul with their light.
Be the lighthouse folks. And join me in letting go of gender as we know it. It can only serve us to take additional steps towards our own liberation.
(Note: This writing makes me feel that I am part of a community where I can live out loud. I commit to using “they” for my baby moving forward until they can speak out loud what they want me to use. For my oldest, I will use she/her/hers. She has expressed numerous times that this is what she wants me to use when I speak about her.)