I've been pregnant six times. Three of those pregnancies resulted in bellies big enough to be seen. Those bellies meant all sorts of prying eyes, hands, and questions from virtually every stranger I encountered. We're going to put aside the frustration I have over people assuming ownership over pregnant people's bodies. Instead, and for now, I'd like to focus on just what makes people think, "Is it a boy or a girl?" is still an appropriate question to ask pregnant people. Because, to be honest, asking, "Is it a boy or a girl" makes me cringe. I mean, once the answer is given to the question "boy or girl," the response is always the same, right? Something like, "Oh! That's so exciting!"
I always felt so much pressure whenever I was asked this question. Like I wasn't sure what the asker's intentions were. Did they want to celebrate with me? Mourn with me? Were they hoping for excitement or gender disappointment? Certainly some of the reactions to my second pregnancy were wildly inappropriate versions of, "Aww, aren't you disappointed? Are you going to keep trying after this one?" It's like, let me get through this pregnancy first, OK? Geez. Then, of course, there was the comment I heard through the grapevine. Apparently, after hearing I had one "boy" and one "boy" on the way, a former peer laughed derisively and said something along the lines of how it was nature's payback for my feminism.
So, and aside from the responses a pregnant person can and usually does hear after this particular question is asked, here's why inquiring about whether or not I am having a "boy" or a "girl" has always made me cringe.
Because WTF Is The Point Of Enforcing Gender Roles?
So, who else is so tired of the arbitrary gender roles we enforce in this society? Even if gender was binary (spoiler alert: it's not) why do we insist on telling one half of the population they can only do this and the other half of the population they can only do that?
It's actually pretty disturbing when you begin to deconstruct all the ways we force people into roles, even before they exist outside of a uterus.
Shortly after my last child was born I received a scathing message from a relative who was horrified that I wasn't correcting people on social media who were using the wrong pronouns for the then 2 week old. Really?! What's the purpose is in making sure people know what kind of genitals my baby has ,beyond forcing them into a predetermined role of what society thinks they should be? If gender roles are natural, then we wouldn't have to teach them, would we?
In my family we enforce kindness, not gender roles.
Because Sex Does Not Equal Gender
As a gender 101 educator I feel like I have to say this a lot. So, sometimes I skip it based entirely on the assumption that, duh, everyone knows that sex does not equal gender. Again, totally my bad. There are obviously people left in the world, maybe even people reading this right now, who still don't know that sex does not equal gender.
Before you get all riled up, this isn't some newfangled idea a bunch of agenda-pushers are pushing. Sex has never equaled gender. Not scientifically, not actually, not traditionally, and not "naturally." Still, somewhere along the line it became less socially acceptable to say "sex" in public when talking about gender, so everyone got really confused. Here's a simple breakdown:
- Sex is not binary (translation: there is not just one biological makeup for what we deem female, same for what we deem male).
- Your sexual anatomy does not determine your gender identity.
Because Intersex People Shouldn't Be Erased
In the question, Are you having a boy or a girl?" where does intersex fit? I'll tell you: it doesn't. This kind of societal collusion to erase an entire biological identity is repulsive to me, and contributed to hundreds of years of medically unnecessary genital mutilation on infants.
I get that I'm the intersectional feminist killjoy at your parties. However, for this, and many reasons, "is it a boy or a girl" is actually a hurtful, damaging questions. We need to acknowledge this.
Because I Don't Talk About Your Genitals
I promise I won't ask you about your genitals if you don't ask me about mine or my fetus'.
Because Please Get Your Hand Off My Stomach
I might even forgive you for asking this insensitive question if you just get your hand off my stomach.
Why? Why would you touch a person, pregnant or not, without their permission? Just, no.
Because It Doesn't Matter How Many Kids Of What Sex I Already Have
Sadly, sometimes I'm convinced people ask this question in order to figure out if the pregnant person is devastated they have too many or too few of children with a certain genitalia? No. Just stop.
Because The Question Is Archaic And Misogynist
Though I wasn't able to uncover the origins of this ubiquitous question, I can certainly imagine it. Let's review what people do with this information, historically speaking:
Because Gender Isn't Binary Anyway
Just like there's not one way to have a biological female, a biological male, or a biological intersex sex, our gender identities come in all different colors and flavors. Can we please, please get rid of the pastel blue and pink as the only baby-appropriate colors?!
Because Who Cares?
I mean, really. If we're going to celebrate the baby, let's celebrate the baby with reds, oranges, purples, golds, silvers, blues, greens, and all the colors of the rainbow!
If having a trans child has taught me anything, it's that it doesn't matter what you assign your child at an ultrasound. They will tell you their gender identity when they're good and ready.