Three years ago, I wrote Happy Not-the-Momma’s Day. I revisited that post and was struck by the changes and developments since then.
First, some things which remain true. I have not and will not try to shoehorn myself into Mother’s Day, because that is a day where we celebrate my wife. My daughter doesn’t call me anything associated with mothers or moms; most of the time, she just calls me by my first name.
What’s changed is my understanding of myself. I am a woman who is a parent. In our language and our society, the word for that is “mother”. While I still perform many of the roles I did before I realized that I am a woman, I’ve realized that I also play some roles which are typically associated with mothers — and I performed many of those roles all along.
I’ve realized that I’ve always been a mom — just a kind of non-traditional mom. Similar to how single mothers have to take on roles and tasks which are typically considered to be for dads, I’ve done the same. And just like those mothers, their motherhood isn’t diminished by doing those “dad” things. Indeed, women aren’t less women even if they have masculine traits and interests.
And back to my post from three years ago, this leaves me in an awkward place on days like today — in some ways, today is meant for me, and in others, it utterly fails to include me. I do not actively claim today for myself. To be honest, I’d kind of rather be left out of it altogether, because I am not the person it seeks to celebrate. And yet, I want my role in my daughter’s life to be acknowledged, because I have worked hard to be there for her in every way I can.
There is a day for people like me: Trans Parent Day, celebrated on the first Sunday in November. But Hallmark doesn’t make cards for that day, and it doesn’t appear on most calendars in the ways that these other days always do. So I’m left with a sense that I am an afterthought — assuming I’m thought of at all.
This is true of so many aspects of transgender existence — if we are considered at all, we are considered a fringe case, often not worthy of acknowledgment. That hurts.
And so on days like today, I tend to hunker down and be invisible to the rest of the world. I don’t want my presence to distract from the people for whom this day is supposed to celebrate, and I don’t want to be lumped in with those people either. I also want to avoid other people who — with the best of intentions — wish me happiness for being associated with the people being celebrated today.
I get it. Our society values heteronormativity, so families have a mom and a dad. Since my wife is “the mom”, that leaves only one other word/role for me. But I’m not that word. I am my daughter’s parent, and I am a woman. We have a word for women who are parents. So why is this world so hesitant to use that word for me?
Our society values cisnormativity — the tacit assumption that everyone is cisgender, and that to be transgender is to be somehow deviant and defective. My womanhood is considered to be secondary and inferior to cisgender women’s womanhood (assuming that my womanhood is even considered at all). Why?
I am my daughter’s parent, and I am a woman. We have a word for women who are parents — we just don’t like to offer that word to transgender women.
So if you’re a man and you’re a parent, Happy Fathers Day to you! Just please don’t wish that for me in return.