Our guest post this week comes from Fab Mama, writing about identity, visibility, and family. Interested in submitting your own guest post? Click here!
Once I became a parent my identity was forever changed. When people ask me about myself one of the first things I say is that I am a mom (to the most amazing toddler on the planet). I am also a partner, a teacher, a cis-gender woman, a former dancer (who still itches to move), a quiet artist (who is probably a closeted crafter), a baker, and so many other things. But for the first year of Fab Baby’s life, my complex identity dissolved into one primary role: motherhood. I nursed Fab Baby around the clock, stayed home during the day to care for her, washed her diapers, cleaned up her spit-up, held her as she napped, and co-slept with her. The line between my end and her beginning was blurred; we were some kind of symbiotic being, breathing and pulsating together.
But, as we rounded the bend on Fab Baby’s first birthday I began to see that my “momminess” was showing. I had a frumpy haircut, carried more post-baby weight than I felt comfortable with, wore a “mom” coat because my more fashionable coats still didn’t fit, and felt overall uninspired.
So, here we are 16 months into parenthood and I am just now regaining some of my former parts. I’m going to the gym more regularly, I got some clothes that I feel good in, I got a part-time job out of the house, my partner and I schedule more time for me to be alone and do things that fuel me, and I got a better haircut. I have realized that while being a mom is important, I don’t want that to be the only (or even most important) way that I define myself.
I imagine most first-time parents, especially stay-at-home and nursing parents, can relate to this temporary loss of identity.
In addition to temporarily misplacing my identity in mommyland, I also struggle with finding a way to self-identify in the context of my new family. I have always struggled to find the right label for my sexual orientation. When I dated a woman it was easy to say things like, “My girlfriend…” or “My partner, she…” and people knew I wasn’t straight without my needing to come up with a label for myself. Now being the partner of a transgender man I am often misread as a straight lady. This is even more so the case now that we have a child; people hear that I have a baby and a partner/husband, and assume that we are just your average got-knocked-up-the-old-fashion-way hetero couple. This perception couldn’t be further from the truth. I am proud to be a member of the LGBTQ community (even if my identity doesn’t fall under one of those labels). Sometimes when I’m in a room full of straight-appearing folks I want to scream at the top of my lungs, “I’m not just like you! I’m different!”
But then, how do I talk about myself? I can’t casually mention my same-gendered partner to out myself. Sure I can use “partner” instead of “husband” when talking with people, but lots of hip folks – gay, straight, or otherwise—use this term now. I could also reveal that I am married to a trans guy, but I hate that one of the only ways I can think of to self-identify involves outing my partner. This is unfair to him, as he should be the one who gets to decide who is privy to that information, and it’s unfair to me. It makes me feel less than a whole person and that I don’t have my own unique identity without my partner.
How do I talk about my family open and honestly without sharing information that isn’t mine to share? How do I self-identify if my identity is wrapped up in other people? I suppose the larger question, for people of all family compositions, gender identities, and sexual orientations, is: how do you maintain a sense of self within the context of a family?