On Being the Other Mom (who used to be the dad)

My son’s birthday party was this past weekend and while the kids were swimming, I had a long conversation with the mother of two of our guests about a wide range of topics regarding our kids. It’s what parents do at kids’ birthday parties. Our kids are all gifted as well and one of her sons has Aspergers, so there was much to talk about and even though we were sitting by the pool in the middle of an Arizona summer, we talked about much.

As these things tend to go when I am talking to a “new” parent, the subject of trans came up and I had the opportunity to do some Trans 101 work, spread the good word. You know. She was gracious and interested, so it was a worthwhile endeavor. Over the course of the conversation, we talked about how other kids at school dealt with my son and she said:

My son knows that E has two moms and that you used to be E’s dad.

Because

female parent = mom

In the past, when this would come up, I would take a moment to explain that I do not consider myself one of my children’s moms. I don’t. I fathered them. It’s why they look like me and my spouse. Some say more like me. I say they got the best of both of us. They don’t call me mommy or mom or maddy. They don’t call me Daddy or Dad or Pop either. They have a unique name signifier for their female father.

And we are good with this. The kids are good with it. The spouse is good with it. I am good with it.

But we live in a society where

female parent = mom

When we’re out as a family, strangers see my spouse and me as our kids’ moms. We’ve talked to the kids about this, how people will call me one of their moms because that’s how they are conditioned to refer to a lesbian couple with kids (and, yes, my spouse is not a lesbian, but we are speaking of perception: married female couple = lesbians). It’s a step in the right direction, I suppose. Sometimes my son will make an attempt at correction, but the truth is when it happens, I let it slide because I’m happy to be recognized as one of two female parents and there are moments for Trans 101 and moments where I don’t need to have that conversation.

But it makes me wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier in many cases…in most cases to be the “other” mom. Would it be easier for my kids? More easily acceptable to friends and schoolmates?

I imagine so. But I wonder if there is some measure of harm in allowing the fallacy.

You see, being the female parent ≠ mom presents me with the opportunity for teachable moments and as an educator, we are always on the hunt for those. I am out personally and professionally. At the same time, I don’t wear a badge that says so. I exist in the world as I exist. I live as I am, which means that I am perceived as I am: a female parent. When the opportunities arise, such as this past weekend speaking with another parent, I will provide a course in Trans 101 even as I learn Aspergers 101.

But those moments are few and far between. Most of the time at best, I’m going to be seen as one of two moms, the other female parent. At worst, I’ll be seen as the mom who is the Other.

I’ll be interested to see how this develops over time. I say this because when my kids are old enough to make the decision, I’ll let them decide how they speak of me to others. If they wish me to be the other mom (who used to be the dad), I’ll be that. If they want to give lessons in Trans 101, I’ll support that decision.

The fact is, I will always be their father. Nothing can change that.