Gender Non-confirming Gestation
By Dr. Meghan Lewis
At the beginning of 2019, a handful of states across the country began adopting new and progressive laws similar to New Jersey’s Babs Siperstein law. Among other benefits, this change provides a non-binary option for parents to select on the birth certificates of their newborns. Germany took a progressive leap and recently upgraded birth certificates including the option for intersex as well as the option to eliminate sex identifiers all together. These recent changes in the codification of live birth legal documentation suggest a unique surge may soon flood the mainstream- one that will invariably influence the timely erosion of rigidly held stereotypes within our gender-binary-obsessed society.
Similarly, in the face of the ever-predictable and unsolicited question proposed to the pregnant, “what are you having?” a parent might find a pinch of progressive resolve by directly retorting, “an addition to our family”. Perhaps more possibly, given the frequent repetition of such an annoyance, the parent-to-be might glaze over with a quizzical, semi-vacuous gaze, as would Dorothy in attempts to understand why anyone could have the audacity to measure up the inherent integrity of her beloved Toto, and with a barely perceptible quiver of suppressed concern, assert in an entirely efforted formidability, with head cocked and arms akimbo, her resoundingly declarative retort, “why a baby, of course!” With this reply, seething in sarcasm, the parent’s aim might be to disrupt the insidiously non-conscious questioner’s questioning of any other pregnant person. Possibly, thereby, even catapulting the questioner into the realm of awareness wherein it is re-cognized that such the question is simultaneously poignantly invasive and remarkable unnecessary.
As a private practice family formation consultant and alternative reproductive technologies writer for ESME.com, I am asked from time-to-time to share possible statistically-relevant tips and techniques to enhance the chance of conceiving a baby with certain sex traits. Generally, my response to those intent on having a baby with particular chromosomal markers is to counsel them to take the time necessary for a thorough exploration into why such a strong preference is firmly held. What twists their thinking that a certain combination of sex chromosomes will give them the child they desire? Additionally, it may be suggested that they look into the possibility of parenting an older child who may have already determined and established their gender expressions and pronoun preferences.
That said, more and more parents-to-be are whole-heartedly choosing to not participate in the growing trend of throwing gender-reveal parties. And considerably more parents are choosing not to be informed about the shape of the gestating fetus’ reproductive features, sometimes even avoiding unnecessary ultrasound scans all together. Furthermore, some parents consciously wait many hours after the birth of the baby to see evident body parts. Their primary preoccupation is the immediate revelry of cherishing the new life before them without activating the burdensome projections of decades of gendered enculturation, thereby delaying the inevitable first blasts of gender-biases onto the sponge-like mirror neurons of the newborn.
And rather than a midwife or doctor determining for themselves the sex of the newborn, aka
“assigning male at birth” (AMAB) or “assigning female at birth” (AFAB), there would be no consequence for requesting providers refrain from such declarations. Perhaps we will see this “non-declaration of sex” request more and more frequently included on families’ birth preferences lists; Perhaps a rising trend trumping the one day outmoded gender-reveal parties..? Maybe sooner than later we will see this addition on hospital birth options checklists across the county, similarly to what we are seeing with the recent iterations of birth certificates.
Another dynamically gender-free parenting practice seen particularly frequently with the Generation Zers families is an approach to raising “theybies” wherein gender constructs from labels to lapels are uniquely blended or decidedly banished. (Think lace-edged, plaid flannel onesies on babies with non-gendered names or pronouns). This parenting practice provides a safe haven, a kind of buffer from the potential daily abrasion of genderized suggestion and unchecked expectation espoused by society at large. With the aid of contemporary, gender non-conforming (GNC) clothiers such as Wildfang, Hautebutch, Kipper Clothiers, Saint Harridan, Butch Baby & Co for adults, as well as gender-free clothing (GFC) for infants and kids such as Celinununu and Boy, Wonder, we now have options to further a fashion-forward fluidity for all members of the family. Visible outerwear markers indubitably help “clothe the gap” between gender-normative expectations and gender non-confirming expressions.
Additionally, picture books for kids such as Cory Silverbergs, What Makes a Baby (2012), describing, in age-appropriate language, gender-free conception to the celebratory photo portraiture of gender-queer pregnancy as in Meg Allen’s, Butch, (2017), to the growing scientific possibilities of uterine transplant for transgender people, we are seeing enormous cultural strides toward the inevitable.
I joyfully predict and willfully intend there come a day when we really aren’t so hyper-focused on identifying what’s in the crotch area as a figurative crutch supporting and validating our societally prescribed perceptions-ones that compel us to treat infants in ways irrespective of their unique essence. As an ecofeminist birth justice activist and doula, this intention of assisting in the eradication of both sex and gender-based biases in human procreation leads me to support the growing expectation, in both my colleagues and clients, that the expecting will indeed lead the way in cultivating a more holistic, gender-free gestation.
To put a bit of spin on Gertrude Stein’s sentiment on the law of identity, i.e. of equality, together we are adjusting the prescriptive lens to see more clearly the inherent reality that ‘a baby is a baby is a baby’. And on this note, at a hospital birth I attended recently in Berkeley, CA a pediatric nurse came in after the baby was born and plainly asked, “now did we have a boy or a girl?” To my surprise (and delight) the OB both revealed and posited, “Perhaps?”