I. Coming off a seven-hour shift at the bookstore where I work, I texted my boyfriend something like “I cannot handle the idea of coming home and finishing my reading list, I am so tired, I cannot stay up late tonight, pity me,” except with more capital letters and swear words. He suggested, gently, that I divide the MEGA HUGE OMG IT’S PRIDE MONTH reading list/information dump I planned into several smaller segments, one for each week this month. (He’s pretty smart.) That’s what you have to look forward to this June: I’ll take a particular aspect of community (family, religion, history, etc.) and apply it within a queer framework.
II. Everyone I know has complicated feelings about pregnancy, childbirth, and raising kids, including me. My friends are considering foster parenting and adoption, as well as birthing themselves. I am not sure I will ever have kids; I may not be cut out for parenthood, and that’s okay (I wrote a reading list about living child-free, in fact). So here’s an announcement: I’m going to be training as a doula beginning in late July. This comes as a surprise to everyone who knows me IRL, myself included. I’m excited and terrified. It never occurred to me that I could support other people in their birthing endeavors outside of being a kickass aunt one day or participating in future baby showers. My palms were sweating as I answered questions like “What is your philosophy about birth?” I stuck to short, stark sentences. I admitted my inexperience; I am, after all, the person who shrieked out loud while reading about the movement of pelvic bones during labor. My application explained my interest in helping queer-identified families feel safe and strong. I insisted on using inclusive language and gender-neutral pronouns throughout. Not only women give birth; the experiences of people who don’t identify as cis should be respected, too.
III. That said, I’ve had childbirth on the brain, so this reading list is dedicated to childbirth and/or queer parenthood, focused primarily on the experienced of mothers and non-binary parents. Here’s some of the weird, wonderful stuff that happens when someone(s)–married, partnered, single, poly, or any combination thereof–decide, “Hey, let’s love and care for a child-human forever.”
Up first is “Queer Parenting: Being Genderqueer and Pregnant” (Medium, May 2016), an interview with Janelle Ishida, who generously shares their experience of pregnancy and childbirth, including their misgivings about strangers’ scrutiny about their body and the decision not to use the word “mom.”
“…How traditional heterosexual families want a strong “male” or “female” role model for their kids, I want a strong trans/genderqueer role model for mine.”
At the New Zealand Herald, Katy Chatel opens up about “My Life as a Queer, Single Mum” (NZ Herald, May 2016). Chatel knew from a young age that she wanted to be a mom, but she couldn’t see how her feminism and queerness would ever gel with parenthood.
“It wasn’t until I dated a woman with a child that I could truly see myself as a parent. The harsh lines I’d seen between queer life and parenthood melted. There were so many names a parent could be. My partner honored my maternal and masculine self equally. I became seen in our community. When I gave birth myself, I saw my nurturer and warrior selves working together; I didn’t have to choose just one definition.”
In one of my favorite books of the last year, The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson examines her life with her genderfluid partner, Harry, as well as stepmotherhood, pregnancy and childbirth. I am one of many people affected deeply by this book. In the essay “All That is (Almost) Good (Enough),” (Hazlitt, June 2015), Sarah Liss appreciates the The Argonauts for revealing a linguistic framework for the in-betweens of queer motherhood. Just as I copied many passages of Nelson’s book into my journal, so I did with this quote from Liss’ essay:
Motherhood can be both a particle and a wave, an embrace of normalcy and an act of resistance, a unifying force and something fundamentally alienating. It’s all these things simultaneously, and yet trying to explain how, or why, or where, invariably involves reducing a complex experience to a collection of generic adjectives.
At Autostraddle, you might enjoy the columns Queer Mama and Countdown to Baby T-Rex, as well as “Gayby Maybe? The Epic Queer Parenting Roundtable” and “Adventures in Baby Making as a Single, Black Lesbian.”
Finally, I commend Allegra Hirschman for “Don’t Tell Me My Daughter is Lucky to Have Two Moms” (Mutha Magazine, May 2016), in which the author dissects the stereotypes such compliments reinforce—from the false idea that women are natural caretakers, to the assumption that two women don’t have the skill set to raise a son.
If you’re interested in reading more about queer family-making, I’ve been reading Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships and Identity and Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter. Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag is also on my to-read list.
Next week’s reading list will feature essays, interviews and more about LGBTQ history in the United States.