Mommy is a Noun

Last night my family plus a friend were seated at the dinner table.

“Are you a man, Daddy?” asked my daughter, Roomba.

“Yes I am,” he replied, deepening his voice a little cartoonishly.

“And Mommy, are you a…” Roomba hesitated a moment. “Are you a woman?”

I hesitated a moment, too. “Close enough,” was the answer I finally settled on.

Later, our family friend asked me about my choice. “Do you identify as genderqueer?”

Yes, I do. We agreed that it’s important to teach children, even children as young as mine, that there are more than two categories of people, that not everybody falls into “man” or “woman.”

“So are you thinking about teaching her other words to use?”

Yes, I am.

I’m just not sure which words to teach her to use for me.

I’ve run up hard against my own identity issues, it turns out, as my children enter a new developmental stage where classifying people according to any number of categories — including but not limited to gender — is now a serious preoccupation.

I am genderqueer. My particular flavor of genderqueeredness seems to require multiple layers of descriptives. I am butch, for certain values of butch. My pronoun is “she.” I feel edgy being described as a “woman” with no qualifiers. I am a masculine woman. Whatever that might really mean. I am a bisexual, queer, genderqueer butch-flavored person who moves in female-assigned social-identity space.

That might be a bit of a mouthful for a preschooler.

There are no children’s books on this issue (if someone wants to publish one I might write, though, we can talk). No movies, no stories, no outside models I can point my children toward. Without that, it’s hard for me to broach the subject in the first place, considering the lack of specific terms I myself am comfortable with.

Interestingly, there is one identity term I embrace without qualification. I am perfectly comfortable with “Mommy” and “mom.” I never felt the need to come up with an alternative term. There is nothing more accurate. I’m Mom.

What else am I? Mommy, are you a woman? Are you a butch? Close enough. “Close enough is going to have to do for now.

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