There's something about pregnancy that apparently invites people to make inappropriate comments. Pregnant women get asked if their baby was an accident, subject to rude remarks about their changing bodies, not to mention unwelcome hands on their bellies. But what really gets to me is the general public's obsession with the gender of unborn babies. There are several reasons why saying "You're definitely having a boy" is so insulting.
I've grown a lot in my understanding of gender so, knowing what I know now, I might not have found out the sex of my baby. However, this was two years ago, and I did. My midwife performed an ultrasound and told us we were very likely having a girl. I was undeniably excited. I picked out a family name for her and a gender neutral nursery theme. People started to buy us "girl clothes," and I was OK with that as long as I had some balance to the pink. I didn't do a gender reveal party, because something about it didn't sit right with me personally.
When I was eight months pregnant, I traveled across the country for a dear friend's wedding. I treated myself to a pedicure, only to be told by my nail technician that I was actually having a boy and she was never wrong. Another wedding guest told me, "I don't know what to tell you. I carried out in front like that and I had two boys." Both of these comments really got under my skin, so much so that the first thing I checked when she came out wasn't for ten fingers and ten toes.
I am completely aware that this is ridiculous. It shouldn't f*cking matter. I'd like to think of myself as a badass gender warrior, but the unsolicited commentary really threw me for a loop. So in the interest of progressive thinking about gender, keep your boy or girl opinions to yourself.
You Can't Possibly Know That
There are literally dozens of old wives' tales for predicting gender. It's said that if you crave sweet treats, you're having a girl. Jonesing for salty snacks? Boy. Another superstition says that you can determine gender from how mom is carrying (high for girl, low for boy).
Perhaps the most bizarre method is one in which the pregnant woman plucks out a strand of hair, threads her wedding ring on it, and dangles it over her belly. The pattern supposedly predicts the baby's sex.
You know what, creepy-ass soothsayers? That's all a bunch of garbage. Even if you had X-ray vision, you couldn't possibly know whether it's a boy or girl.
Only An Individual Knows Their Gender
When you are born, a doctor assigns you a sex based on your physical characteristics. Sex has everything to do with anatomy and surprisingly little to do with a person's inner sense of being male, female, both, or neither. That's gender identity, and it exists independently of sex (and sexual orientation, for that matter).
By age 3, children will start generally start labeling themselves as a boy or a girl. Most will have established their gender identity by the age of 5. Until that time, no one gets to decide for them who they are, and comments like "you must be having a boy" are low-key trying to do that.
You're Talking About My Baby's Genitals
Now that we've established that sex and gender are completely different things, doesn't it seem out of line to share your opinion about what's inside my uterus? Basically, you're saying, "Hey! I think you've got a little penis in there!" That's totally cringe-worthy, right? Right.
So, unless you're the doctor, mind your own business about what's under my kid's kilt.
What About Non-Binary People?
It's time to kick the gender binary to the curb. The idea that an individual is either male or female limits people and fails to represent the experience of many. Within the term non-binary, there are identities such as agender, genderfluid, transgender, and genderqueer. So what you think of as putting in your two cents about a baby's gender perpetuates the myth of either/or. Not cool.
Gender Doesn't Define Someone
We are so much more than our gender. There are many other aspects to our identities (culture, religion, language, occupation, etc.). My daughter was assigned female at birth. But she's also a quarter Vietnamese, bilingual, and an intrepid explorer. Whether she identifies as a girl or not doesn't change the essence of who she is.
Am I Supposed To Be Excited Or Disappointed?
Gee, I'm so glad you pronounced my baby's gender so I can, well, what? Clasp my hands in glee? Cry in despair? How about we let pregnant women enjoy the fact that they're expecting a human baby. Celebrating that you think I'm having a boy makes it seems less desirable to have a girl and vice versa. It's insulting to expect some kind of reaction to that end.
Two Words: Expectation Management
The practice of predicting gender allows stereotypes to exert their power over a freaking fetus. Not on my watch. When you announce that "it's a boy," does it conjure images of footballs and mustaches? Likewise, does knowing a baby girl is on the way make you want to buy tutus and fairy wings? That's because we have an expectation issue. We'll serve our children much better if we evaluate our own biases and work toward making our homes and schools gender expansive environments.
Pronouncing that my baby will be a boy doesn't mean he's necessarily going to like trucks and playing in the dirt. It could. But so might my baby girl.
Rule #526: Don't Talk About My Pregnant Body
Complete strangers for some reason feel justified talking about a pregnant woman's body. Whether noting that she looks "about to pop," asking if she's sure there aren't twins in there, or observing that her ass is getting big; it's just plain rude. So using my the way I'm carrying for your gender prognostication is strictly verboten.
We're In The Midst Of A Gender Revolution, Y'All
It's not exactly new. For thousands of years, cultures around the world have recognized a third gender, from the hijras of India to the muxes of Mexico. The gender binary is actually a Western concept that has been imposed on rest of the world.
In recent years, there's been a push to recognize genders other than male and female. There are the Japanese genderless danshi, as well as a movement among genderqueer youth in our own country to upend the gender binary.
It's an exciting time. Pardon me if I want to be a part of it because it means your gender guessing game isn't welcome here. You might say, "You're definitely having a boy," but we pregnant women know what we're carrying: a beautiful, perfect, unique individual. I'll tell you what I'm having — a f*cking unicorn.