When Amanda Davidson, a 42-year-old Los Angeles-based artist and writer, welcomed her firstborn child in December — a boy named Felix — with her partner Isaac Schankler, 39, a composer, she chafed at the assumptions the medical staff members made about how the pair wanted to identify themselves as parents.
“‘Hi, Mommy! Where’s Daddy? Mommy needs to know this, but so does Daddy,’” she said with a big laugh. The binary clashed so much with how the couple sees themselves and exists in the world — she’s queer-identified, and her partner goes by pronouns they/their/them and uses the gender-neutral title Mx. — she refrained from calling herself anything vis-à-vis Felix for the first two weeks of his life.
She eventually settled on Mama. “I was racking my brain for a mama-alternate, but it feels right for the moment,” she said, adding that in her universe, “identity wiggles around,” and she’s open to other possibilities.
Mx. Schankler remembers reading the queer writer Andrea Lawlor’s essay on identifying as “Baba” (as opposed to some iteration of mother) in Mutha magazine and thinking that “dad” or “daddy” wouldn’t work for them either, so they opted for “Abba.” It means “dad” in Hebrew, providing a link to their Jewish heritage: “It does feel more gender-neutral, or at least doesn’t have quite the same baggage that dad and daddy have,” Mx. Schankler said.
Naming is particularly important to the pair as a means of signaling their queerness, since they “pass” as a straight couple. “We don’t look visibly queer,” Ms. Davidson said, “So in some ways, our choice of names helps us affirm our identities.”
It’s all about them. But not just them, in their them-ness:
And nearly 13 percent — 20 percent of the lesbian couples and 5 percent of the gay couples — participated in some version of “undoing gender.” Many do this by taking parental names from their native cultures or religions that strip away the binary in this cultural context, collapsing the dichotomy between terms by merging them, such as “Mather,” a fusion of mother and father, or creating nicknames (“Muzzie,” in one instance).
Ellen Kahn, the director of the Children, Youth & Families Program at the Human Rights Campaign, said the gender binary that underlies “mother” and “father” doesn’t jibe with some parents’ self-understanding and self-presentation: “For queer parents who don’t think of themselves as gender conforming, ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’ may be a little discordant with the way they think about themselves.”
The thing to do is to grasp that these people’s narcissistic insanity is a social contaminant, and that they cannot be allowed to graze with the herd, lest others catch the crazy. I’m actually not kidding.
UPDATE: Oh for heaven’s sake, readers, I’m talking about staying away from these nuts, not putting them in an internment camp. They should not be indulged, and their madness in any way recognized. If it should catch on, society will unravel. There are some things that societies cannot believe if they want to carry on. Unfortunately, what they believe has become mainstream to a significant degree, but there has to be a line. There has to.