Courtesy B R Sanders

I'm Transgender, & It Makes Co-Parenting Incredibly Difficult

Ad failed to load

Parenting is difficult any way you cut it, but it gets even more complicated when you and your co-parent (or co-parents, in my case) don't bring the same life experiences to the table. That's the case in my family. My kid, Arthur, has three parents: me; his mom, Sam; and his dad, Jon. Our family is built on a bedrock of love, but all three of us came to parenting from different places. For instance, I'm transgender, as is our kid. Sometimes, my gender identity makes it difficult to parent with my partners.

All three of us have a different constellation of identities. Sam is a person of color, and both Jon and I are white. Both Jon and Sam are cisgender, while I am a non-binary transgender person, which I don't identify as either a man or a woman. The gender binary — i.e., the cultural construction of masculinity and femininity — does not feel authentic or useful to help me define myself. Like many (but not all) non-binary people, I identify as transgender, because the gender I was assigned at birth feels uncomfortable to me.

My gender identity means I have had life experiences informed by oppression and stigma that my partners will never have. Because I have a transgender son, it's also an asset: I can engage with him on a different level than my co-parents can. I think my perspective is valuable, and that being a transgender parent means that you bring to your family an understanding of the multifaceted nature of gender, as well as the deep need to respect other people's self-identification. The sooner we can teach our children to respect other people's gender identities, the better.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy B R Sanders

Jon and Sam are generally respectful about trans issues. If they weren't, I wouldn't live with them, and I wouldn't be raising a transgender son with them. They do a ton of truly wonderful things. When they read with Arthur, sometimes they change the pronouns of a character to match mine (they/them) so that he sees non-binary people like me outside of our home. They also looked at the calendar and figured out the date halfway between Mother's Day and Father's Day, so they claimed it as Baba's Day for me, because Arthur calls me his Baba. All of these little gestures go a long way to validate my existence as both a parent and someone who is trans.

But still, they are cis, and I am trans, and there is a gulf of experience between us. I've dealt with systemic traumas, such as constantly being misgendered, and they have not. There are times when what I do or how I react as a parent is very much driven by my experience as a trans person, and that's not always immediately clear to my co-parents.

Ad failed to load
The sooner we can teach our children to respect other people's gender identities, the better.

For example, I have a very strong need to let Arthur tell us when he needs a haircut, instead of the other way around. This is rooted in my history as a trans kid with parents who did not listen to me about my own hair and what it signified, and how it made me uncomfortable. I hated my hair. I hated how it marked me so visibly a girl. I wanted to feel comfortable, and for me that was the ease of having short hair. But my parents, very explicitly, refused to take me to get my hair cut, because they didn't want me to look like a boy.

When you're a kid, you don't have the technical language to explain gender dysphoria, but you are pretty clear about what you want and you're pretty good about articulating how miserable you feel. Being told to stay miserable because looking the way you want embarrasses your parents sends a toxic message to a kid: that your desire as a parent to not have a gender non-conforming child is more important than their comfort and self-acceptance. That was my history. I don't want it to be my son's.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy B R Sanders

It's not that Jon or Sam disagree with me about issues like whether or not Arthur should get his hair cut. It's that I need to explain where I'm coming from before they can understand. For them, it's just a haircut. For me, it's a lifetime of trauma. It's a minefield. It's all this baggage I have to unpack in order to even explain why I'm reacting to the situation in the first place. That's what makes co-parenting with cisgender partners so difficult. I can't always predict what parenting choice is going to hit a nerve, and neither can they. The conversations about my gender identity and how it informs our parenting don't happen with the big decisions, but with the small, day-to-day ones.

Co-parenting as a trans person with cisgender people is complicated. It just is, and it always will be. Co-parenting with these particular cis people is wonderful because they are wonderful, but sometimes they mess up, because they are human. It just happens. Would I parent with anyone else? No. Would I rather parent alone? Definitely not. Our family chugs along, but only because we all put a lot of work in. Sam and Jon do their best to show up for me, and I do my best to show up for them.

Ad failed to load

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s Bullsh*t

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

I’m Registered At Babies “R” Us, & I'm Freaking The Hell Out

Hi. My name is Abi, and I’m registered at Babies “R” Us — and I’m freaking out. This may sound silly, but after being a die-hard Toys “R” Us kid, I was so excited to register at their baby store once my husband and I finally got our big fat positive …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

Women Who Miscarry Early Deserve To Grieve — Here's How Hospitals Should Be Helping

When I lost my baby back in 2013, it was because of a very early miscarriage. Because of the little amount of time I spent being pregnant, it was though my child had never really existed, which made the next few years hard — I felt like they had been…
By Risa Kerslake

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

Millennial Women Are Getting Married Later Than Gen X, & The Reasons Why Are Pretty Badass

The battle of the generations seems to come up when it comes to every lifestyle or career choice people make. Women, especially, are an important demographic when it comes to analysts looking at the lifestyle choices we make or the expected milestone…
By Josie Rhodes Cook

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

I'm Pregnant & I Refuse To Read Any Parenting Books

I didn't read any parenting books when I was expecting my daughter, and I refuse to read any parenting books as I await my second child now. I'm the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to raising my daughter. A good d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

7 Reasons Why March Babies Are Total Badasses

From the moment you become pregnant, you begin to wonder what your little one will be like. Will they look like you, your partner, or your Great Aunt Edna? Will they be the quiet, thoughtful type or arrive on this planet raring to go? It's fun to ima…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

12 Overnight Face Masks To Use To Wake Up Feeling Pampered AF

Spring is right around the corner, and as far as I'm concerned, the sunshine and warm breezes can't come soon enough. But now that we're about to say goodbye to winter, it's a good time to take stock of your facial skincare routine. You know, in the …
By Katie Malczyk

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger

Here's How Early An Ultrasound Can Actually Determine Your Baby's Sex

From the moment you see those two lines on a pregnancy test, there are a few markers along the way that stand out as especially exciting. Amongst them are hearing your baby's heartbeat and feeling that first, sweet little kick. And if you are finding…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

9 Easy Kid Foods To Turn Green, Just In Time For St. Patrick's Day

The best part about having kids is that you get your own personal crew to celebrate the holidays with, in all your color coordinating and matching glory. And with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, you are obviously working on turning everyth…
By Mishal Ali Zafar