• Gina Dang

Queer and Pregnant

Updated: Oct 14, 2019


Until now I never felt the need to proclaim my queer* identity. When it comes to the degree I do or don’t conform to gender norms or what attracts me to potential partners, those closest to me know where I stand. If someone doesn’t know me well enough to understand, that's not a problem. Unless I’m trying to date you, (trust me, you’ll know if I am), there are other interesting attributes you can learn about me. If you're curious, I welcome sincere questions.

Yet as news of my pregnancy spread and became self-evident with my expanding belly, it also became apparent the importance of sex and gender on people’s collective mind. If I take people’s choice of conversation to reflect their priorities, or at least indicate the broad cultural norms surrounding pregnancy and parenthood, it appears infant genitalia are of utmost importance. How else do we come to accept that the most appropriate question to ask a pregnant person is “Do you know the gender?”

All variants of the question place me in the uncomfortable position of choosing to either steer the conversation to my queer identity or become complicit in perpetuating the gender binary.

 

*Relevant Vocabulary

(Source: Trans Student Educational Resources)

Queer: A term for people of marginalized gender identities and sexual orientations who are not cisgender and/or heterosexual. This term has a complicated history as a reclaimed slur.

Gender Identity: One’s internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or other gender(s). Everyone has a gender identity, including you. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity are not necessarily the same. Sex Assigned At Birth: The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex assigned at birth often based on physical anatomy at birth and/or karyotyping.

Binary: Used as an adjective to describe the genders female/male or woman/man. Since the binary genders are the only ones recognized by general society as being legitimate, they enjoy an (unfairly) privileged status.

 

Scene 1 – Hospital exam room

Gina sits donning a flimsy paper gown, waiting for the physical exam with her partner by her side. The practitioner enters. They exchange initial greetings as she washes her hands.

PRACTITIONER

Do you want to know the gender?

GINA

No, it doesn’t matter to me.

GINA'S PARTNER

Yea, we mostly care about having a healthy baby.

PRACTITIONER

Of course. And surprises are fun!

Gina pauses before responding.

GINA

It’s not that I’ll be surprised. I’m queer, so knowing the sex of my baby isn’t important to me.

The practitioner avoids eye contact and becomes fixated on something on the ground.

PRACTITIONER

Ah.

The physical exam begins.

 

The notion that we can be surprised by what's between a baby's legs is common for many people, but is foreign to me. Nonetheless, in the remainder of the hospital visit, we eventually discuss medical concerns and I leave the vicinity feeling..okay with our time there. Several weeks later, my esteem for the interaction changes dramatically when I obtain access to my medical chart and read the following:


"Identifies as QUEER" - The Freedom Crow

In case you missed that..under the subheading “problem details” is listed my known shrimp allergy, my surgical history with appendicitis, and my queer identity.

At this point I am already in the process of transferring my prenatal care to an at-home midwife. I miss the chance to say “fuck you” to the practitioner in person.

My queer identity is not a problem.

Unfortunately, the incident throws me off and, over months' duration, I falter each time the dreaded question of gender comes up.

 

Scene 2 – School student lounge

Gina eats lunch on a bench facing the kitchen area. A schoolmate is rinsing dishes in the sink.

SCHOOLMATE

Do you know what you’re having?

Gina swallows the food in her mouth and stops eating.

GINA

You mean the sex of my baby?

SCHOOLMATE

Yea.

GINA

No.

Schoolmate continues busying her hands in the sink and partially glances back.

SCHOOLMATE

It doesn’t matter to you.

Gina pauses.

GINA

No.

Schoolmate finishes at the sink, turns completely around, and stalls for a moment. Gina stares blankly at her.

SCHOOLMATE

That’s great. Baby’s health is what’s most important anyway.

Gina continues to stare.

GINA

I agree.

 

In imaginings of my transition into motherhood, I did not expect the questioning of my baby’s genitalia to be a reliable topic to encounter every time I step out of my home. I did not expect to become so embittered that I could not express myself with satisfaction without coming off as dismissing to well-intentioned people.

The bitterness drags me through months of writer’s block. I yearn through countless hours, sitting pen in hand, fingers on the keys, to capture the sense of excitement, awe, and terror that characterize my transition. To relieve myself from the blank pages, I fill my time with self-prompted, solitary projects.

Day after day, someone new broaches the topic and I brace for the suffocating stint of entrapment that befalls when yet another person makes assumptions about my experience. In each encounter, I snuff out my frustration with forced laughter to mask the oppressive force of having to face a the social construct where not only do people assume there are two gender identities, but that this falsity claims to be a fundamental priority in my preparation for parenthood.

I couldn’t speak of it. I couldn’t write about it. So I essentially trap myself in my inability to express my extreme discomfort. I allow my belly, my baby, to be the culprit for psychological assault.

Then on a quiet afternoon, as I lay sideways on my couch and stew in my bitterness, an image of little Gina surfaces out of the stillness. I am four, an age I cherish for multiple reasons, one being it is the final year before the gender binary is demonstrated to me upon entering kindergarten.


Ms. Gina Dang of The Freedom Crow talks queer identity

Scene 3 - Flashback - Elementary school playground

TEACHER

Restrooms! Line up!

Children dash and scurry from the playground toward the teacher and begin to form lines. A young Gina in a pastel green track jacket and Power Ranger velcro shoes heads towards the line on the left. The teacher intercepts her path with an extended arm.

TEACHER

“Wait, you belong over here!”

He gestures Gina to move to the other line. With full attention on her, the children in the line display a mixture of stares, grimaces, and wrinkled brows, some waving their hands, and others shaking their heads to alert the teacher of the mistake he had made.

CHILDREN

“Eww! No!”

“She belongs over there!”

“She’s a girl!”

Teacher stands fixed in position, glancing between the energized children and at the one child whose path remains blocked by his arm. He surveys her from head to toe. Gina looks onward at the line on the left. The children in that line look away.

 

Back on the couch, the memory prompts me to curl up tightly. I clutch my belly in my arms as if by cradling it, I can somehow reach the little Gina stuck between the lines.

I begin to tear up. Finally, the release is here.

A writer's block can be alleviated a number of ways. This time, it is lifted. The bitterness, the hidden grief, what had been weighing me down for 9 months is lifted in an instant.

I mutter aloud, "It's okay. It doesn't matter. It's okay. They don't mean to harm you. They just don't understand."

We don't need to share the same truths. Beneath my lifted bitterness lay two truths.

1. Gender matters

In dominant culture, gender matters because people care about it and people tend to care about things without examining exactly what it is they care about, especially when they live within the normalized, majority perspective and experience.

That's what happened on the playground for the children and the teacher, caught between the lines with younger Gina for those few seconds. I have compassion for him in his moment of disorientation. He was taught, like we all are, that there are two lines, two restrooms, two genders.

It's easier to pick between two than to allow room for greater variance. Binaries allow for a simpler ordering and structuring of children, people, and populations. Only, when someone doesn't obviously fit or isn't easily identifiable, it leaves little room for resolution aside from forced conformity.

2. Gender doesn't matter

Younger Gina eventually goes to the restroom she chooses and on a later date, out of curiosity, ventures into the other restroom. She learns the only differences are the layout, a distinctly greater amount of odor, and the presence of urinals. She finds solace in the ability to explore this curiosity, but also confusion in the adamant nature through which the kids announced she did not belong in this other restroom, attractive as it may be to pass through additional putrid quarters.

I still to this day find solace that despite dominant culture's effort to create a binary of social structure, there will always exist a gray area, a space that naturally exists and when explored, leads to more common denominators than one may originally expect. And I am less confused that to acknowledge this gray area can bring discomfort to those who prefer the more static realms of a binary system. At least it is a reaction I can understand, as it is most likely a mirrored reaction to that of mine towards the existence of the other truth.

For the belly I cradle, gender doesn't matter because it is of a fluid nature as are many facets of our identities, and I accept that not all people place value in this kind of fluidity.

My child is due to arrive into a world of many truths, but I am glad I have the chance to cultivate a home that will maintain the wonders of the less defined, less limited gray area, a space where curiosity thrives, where we accept discomfort as a necessary partner to exploration and growth.

 

Scene 4 - A Work Party

Gina holds a plate of food, seated by her partner's co-worker amidst a group of a dozen and a half people. The co-worker engages her in conversation.

PARTNER'S CO-WORKER

Do you want a boy or a girl?

Gina smiles as she finishes her bite of food and turns her face toward the co-worker.

GINA

I’m most excited about getting to know my kid’s mind, its interests, and its passions. I look forward to helping it become the person it wants to be. I don’t believe genitalia plays a large factor in that.

The co-worker watches her take another bite of food and nods.

PARTNER'S CO-WORKER

Hm..that’s true.

GINA

Yea, I can't wait.

#queer #gender #binary

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