By Danielle Reycer
Our journey to pregnancy
“Your private life is about to become very public.”
That’s one of the things the counselor said to us at our required visit before undergoing our first round of IUI to try and conceive. It’s something I hadn’t considered. I’ve been told more than once that I “look straight,” (what does that even mean?) so when I’m by myself in public, people make a lot of assumptions about me. Those assumptions became magnified when I got pregnant and strangers could clearly see something very personal about me. Through the course of my pregnancy and now raising our son Jackson, there have been numerous situations where people (some strangers and some not) have been well-meaning, but made for awkwardness in a conversation.
Let me give you some backstory. I met my spouse in April of 2014 and we were married in July of 2015. At that time, and throughout my pregnancy, Amanda was my wife. Since then, they have transitioned into my spouse/husband and they now go by Avery. Avery is “daddy” to Jackson and prefers either he/him/his pronouns or the gender neutral they/them/their.
Because many people in my life know that I’m queer, they wonder how I got pregnant. Their questions range from asking about our due date, to wondering the “gender,” to asking me how we chose our donor. There are some people that I was comfortable talking to about all of those things. But there were also people I barely knew that were asking some of the most uncomfortable questions. As you can maybe imagine, talking about our donor is incredibly personal, just as is any aspect of the conception journey for any family.
So, this is for you, the well-meaning readers of this blog that want to talk to other parents about their conception journey, and want to try not to create discomfort for the queer community or someone else whose journey might not look similar to yours.
Bringing sensitivity into your conversations
If you must, ask about the sex, not the gender.
As the wife of a transman, it’s clear to us that gender is more fluid and the gender you end up identifying with might not be your sex at birth. Remember that “sex” is the biological term, so asking about that makes sense!
Instead of asking about someone’s husband/wife, consider asking about their partner.
Not everyone that is pregnant is married. Not everyone that is pregnant is straight. Actually, this goes well beyond pregnancy. If you are getting to know someone and you don’t know anything about their significant other, please try using gender neutral language. Imagine being in a situation where you have two options, (1) either correct the person and go through that awkward exchange, or (2) go along with it and not be your true self for the rest of your conversation. Neither one of those options is fun.
Preface personal questions (if you must ask them) with a “back-out clause.”
For example, “I’m really curious about how you decided on a donor, and only if you’re comfortable talking about it, I’d love to hear more.” Also make sure that if you are asking those types of questions, it’s in a more personal setting, not sitting around a lunch table with many other coworkers.
If you know someone used a sperm donor, refer to them as the “donor.”
The term “father” implies a relationship, and a donor doesn’t necessarily have a relationship with the child or the family at all.
Ask what names parents go by to their children.
I go by “mommy,” but after Jackson was born, we were searching for a more gender neutral term for my wife Amanda, who didn’t want to be called “mom.” For awhile, we decided on “Ebi” (pronounced ebby – and it means family in a Western African language called Yoruba). Instead of asking, many would assume that Amanda went by “mom.”
Know that it’s okay if you mess up.
Especially given that my spouse is in transition, I know that people will make mistakes when it comes to their pronouns. What really matters is that you are trying. If you correct yourself in conversation, it shows that you care about getting it right. And that means a lot.
Expose your children to families of all types.
Do all your children’s books feature families with a mommy and a daddy? Do you have books about children of color? Are boys allowed to be sensitive in the books you read to your kiddos? Consider diversifying your book collection, or asking for recommendations from your local bookstore or library! (Consider checking out this list to start – I can personally vouch for And Tango Makes Three.)
As Lilo says, “Ohana means family.” And family is what you make it.
Danielle Reycer is a mom, wife and self-proclaimed math nerd. She would like to remind you that she is a math teacher, not a writer (although we think that she’s a pretty great writer as well.)