Baby, plan your birth!

A couple of queer expats in Singapore on a quest to make a baby


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Parental Honorifics, or a modest request to honor my gender identity by calling me a nonsense word I made up

Hey all, sorry we’ve been MIA. We’ve both been super busy with travel, baby prep, and trying to get as much work done as possible in our respective careers before there is so much poop everywhere. I won’t promise to fill in the backlog (because I’m writing poems about the pregnancy instead!) except to say that the wee one is healthy, male-bodied, and due June 4.

Actually, the reason I’m writing here today is that I want to share something baby-related in a larger space than a facebook post permits. If you wandered here from facebook, I’m glad you’re reading.

Okay, so this is about what my parental honorific is to be. But I should back up.

If you didn’t know this, I’m genderqueer. What does that mean? It’s a subset of transgender, and it means that a person is not exactly male or female. Maybe somewhere in the middle, or a little of both, or some third thing, or whatever. For me, it means that I don’t self-identify as female or male. Sometimes I joke that my gender is velociraptor. I’m not planning on transitioning from my female body to a male body because that won’t actually line me up right either. Instead, I just kind of dress like a teenage boy but use female pronouns and get on with my life because I don’t really notice my own gender that much.

So, since I don’t identify as female, I also don’t identify as girl, woman, lesbian, butch, wife, etc. But usually, I just let these things slide because I can’t be bothered, and I understand that it’s with love when a friend says, “Hey girl!” and with acceptance when someone in Singapore miraculously calls me my wife’s wife.

Do you see where this is going?

Our child has to call me something. I have to pick that something, and I have to get a reasonable number of people on board to call me that something.

We thought about this for a long time.

We considered variations of Mom, which all felt very wrong. I love moms. I love my mom. I aspire to be as awesome a parent as the many moms I know. But I am not a mom. Our child will not have two moms.

We considered variations of Dad, which felt somehow less wrong, but still not right. I love dads. I love my dad. I probably identify more with stay-at-home-dad culture than anything else, but I’m still not Dad.

We considered Baba, which is the go-to parent name for many butch and genderqueer parents in the US. But it actually means Dad here in Singapore. So that’s not going to work.

We considered culturally appropriating some word for parent in another language. Not only did that feel icky, but I didn’t like any of the choices.

I briefly championed “the AP” or “the aged P,” but my wife says that not everyone likes allusions to minor Dickensian characters when being introduced to their kid’s friend’s parent.

Finally, we picked something completely random. You will laugh. But I hope you will get on board.

Dabo.

It’s not a name, no. It’s a couple of syllables a baby can say. (Da rhymes with ba + bo like in bowtie.) It means “I will give” in Latin. (It also means “bread” in Amharic, and “gold” in Aramaic. For the Trekkies among you, yes, it’s also the Ferengi roulette game.)

Mainly, it feels good. We’ve been using it for a couple of months, and we like it.

For our kid’s teachers, we can be his moms, sure. Teachers have enough to deal with, and I’ll personally be happy if they just remember that we all go together. But for everyone else, we’ll be Mom and Dabo.

There will be some downsides.

He will be the only kid with a Dabo, and if he wants to tell the other kids something else, that’s cool. We’re not trying to make his life more complicated than necessary. (We’re also not going to be in Singapore by the time he starts school, which will help. Maybe. Depending on where in the States we land.)

Not picking one of the recognized Mom/Dad names may also mean that strangers won’t immediately realize I’m his parent. The fact that I often look like a 17-year-old boy may not help. But E is confident that the parental glow will surround me. Perhaps more realistically, we may have to accept that strangers won’t know what’s up right away. But if the people we care about get on the Dabo train, then it doesn’t matter that much what the others do. (Besides, I have around 26 years of experience in having awkward conversations about my gender, my sexual orientation, and what the hell I’m doing in the women’s room.)

Which is why I’m writing this post. To introduce myself, perhaps for the first time (though you may have suspected), as a genderqueer velociraptor who’s going to be a Dabo in a few short months.

I can’t wait.


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Question Box Answers: Names!

We’ve received some excellent questions through the Anonymous Question Box so far. I’ll be honest: some of them are hard. It’s going to take some time to figure out the legal stuff, for example, and it’s something we definitely need to do soon. We promise to let you know as soon as we wrap our heads around it ourselves.

In the meantime, I’d like to answer a pair of questions about names. No, not for our non-existent baby-being – for this blog and for E and me.

1) Where’d you get the name “Baby, Plan Your Birth”?

Whoa! Be so excited! I’m about to introduce you to the coolest baby board books ever. (Okay, tied with Go The F#@k to Sleep.) Lisa Brown’s Baby Be Of Use series is a set of six board books that suggest your baby start pulling his or her weight around the house. Titles include Baby, Do My Banking and Baby, Fix My Car. We thought we’d take it a step further and increase expectations for fetuses, too.

2) What will your child(ren?) call you? Is there a special name for genderqueer parents?

E is thinking “Mom” with an option for “Mama” when the wee one is at its most wee.

I don’t really self-identify as female, so you’re right that Mom/Mum/Mama/Mommy/Mumsy/Motherdearest are not quite right. But neither are the Dad set of monikers. And I’m not into having the kid call me by my first name.

We actually poked around the web awhile ago to see what the other female-bodied genderqueer parents do. We found that a lot of people (usually white people living in English-speaking households) go with “Baba” because it fits into that pattern of repeated baby sounds (e.g., Mama, Dada, Papa) but doesn’t necessarily connote a specific gender since it means “grandmother” in some languages and “father” in others. But those baba=father languages include Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), which is a problem in a country where much of the population speaks Chinese. It also sounds too much like “bubba,” which means “baby” in much of the Anglo-speaking world.

Other people intentionally used words that mean “father” in other languages, but that didn’t click for me. I don’t identify as a father, whether it’s in English or in Māori. We kept looking.

Eventually, we came across a blog post (that I can’t seem to find now) about a polyamorous family that included a man who was not genetically related to the child. His name was Daniel (I think), but the kid couldn’t pronounce that and called him Dabo instead. The name stuck.

My name isn’t Daniel. There is no context for calling me Dabo, but after E teasingly called me Dabo a few times, I started getting really fond of it. It has a pleasing sound. It feels good in my mouth. It means, variously, “bread,” “gold,” and “I give.”

I’m aware that Dabo would be a strange choice. It would probably just confuse people and anger the ones who get pissy when people make up names. But that’s the best we’ve got at the moment.

Or maybe I’ll just reverse-engineer the claim that the baby’s first word was my name by naming myself whatever the child’s first word is. (Fast forward to the kid’s 17th birthday, when he’s still calling me Duckduck.) What do you think? No, seriously. We don’t actually have an answer, and we’re open to suggestions.

-H


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Question Box Answers: so many uteri, so little time

Anonymous question box” brings us a question!

“Being in a relationship where multiple individuals are biologically capable (?) of bearing children, how was the subject of who should bear a child decided?”

This comes up quite a bit, and it’s exciting to live in a time when we have SO MANY child-bearing options. One of us could carry, both of us could carry, neither of us could carry.  We could use our genetics or someone else’s genetics.  One person directed us to latest developments using three people’s genetic material to create one human.  The science is almost there but the legality/practicality side of things is yet to be sorted, and we don’t want to bank on our fertility at age 80, once it’s marketable.  Besides, our lives are interesting enough without being part of a science-fiction movie.   As it is, did you know that if one parent carries the other could still breastfeed? Our bodies are awesome.

The answer we came to, collaboratively, is me.

Short answer:  Way back in the day, when deciding whether we had a shot as a couple, we had very-important discussions about whether we wanted to have children (as you do). H said yes; I said yes.  H said there was no way a human would be coming out of her person, but that she’d leave it to me to decide between adoption or getting pregnant.  Fair enough.  I also liked the idea of adopting, but I have long thought that making a tiny human would be an interesting experiment I’d like to try at least once. I am biologically equipped to generate ears! That’s crazy. Let’s do it. End of discussion. Oddly, it’s one of the easier decisions we made – picking out an apartment involved more deliberation.

[I leave it to H to describe why she has zero desire to make a tiny human inside her – in short, feeling quite genderqueer makes the idea of being pregnant rather unappealing. Also she’s very protective of her bits. Am I allowed to say that?]

We’ve been surprised that a lot of folks had thought it would go the other way – H would carry and I would marvel and buy milkshakes.  As far as we know, either uterus would suffice, and I have a job that provides us with lots of dollars, while H has a job that provides us with few dollars.  Most cost-benefit analyses would suggest that it’s more efficient, more fair, more reasonable for H to carry.

I’m not entirely sure about that argument – having children at all isn’t particularly efficient.  Besides, H has signed up to do more than her fair share of childcare – including staying home with the wee one for at least its first year of life. The bottom line is that when you’re dealing with something you could describe as “creating the miracle of life” or, alternatively, “harboring a giant parasite in your womb,” personal preference matters A LOT.

So we got lucky, it was easy to pick.  I raised my hand!

-E


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Anonymous Question Box!

Remember the anonymous question box from sex ed class? You and your friends giggled and wrote all your embarrassing and/or inappropriate questions on slips of paper, disguising your handwriting so that the beleaguered teacher who pulled out “Does anal sex hurt?” or “Your face looks like a vas deferens!” wouldn’t know it was you who was making her sigh, cringe, and wonder whether it was too late to go back to school and become a welder or a travel agent.

Sometimes, being gay in public is like being that teacher. Putting aside the name-calling on the street, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked by complete strangers to explain how two women have sex (awesomely!), what it’s like to be attracted to women (much like it is for you, random stranger guy who’s asking), whether I was born this way (I can’t remember – do you remember your birth?), or whether maybe I just haven’t found the right guy (maybe not – my wife really discourages me from looking).

Add being genderqueer to the mix, and ohholytrexofkobol! do I get a lot of weird and personal questions.

Well, from what the other queer parents have told us, it’s all about to get a whole lot weirder and more personal. Because we’re entering the overlap of the Venn diagram of two groups that receive a lot of unsolicited advice and questions: the parents (or expectant parents) and the gays.

Venn Diagram

Unsolicited advice: try using coasters.

To prepare ourselves for all the questions we’re already starting to get as we try to get pregnant, we’ve made our own anonymous question box right here, and we’ll answer your questions in future posts.

So go ahead. Ask away. We promise to give sincere answers to your sincere questions, even those that we might normally tell a stranger are none of his/her business.

Just don’t tell me my face looks like a vas deferens because that’s a kind of tube-thingy, and I’ll know you weren’t paying attention in sex ed class. And seriously, who doesn’t pay attention in sex ed class of all classes?! That’s just asking to be naturally selected out of the gene pool.

-H