Sunday, January 09, 2022

Angry at being Called a Mother

NPR Radio book review, about 6 months ago:
Belc's family structure often confounds the people around him. Anna carried their eldest and youngest children, while Belc carried the couple's middle child, all three conceived using the same donor. Belc carried his pregnancy before his medical transition — he knew he was not a woman, but the world often read him that way — and credits the pregnancy and birth of his son, Samson, with helping him realize that he needed to go on testosterone. "Without him," Belc writes of his son, "I never could have believed in myself enough to say yes. Yes to hormones, yes to finding out how to live."

Belc's gender often occupies an in-between space that defies categorization, both for himself but also for the world around him. People do not know how to make sense of a child who was "made by their dad." There are no models of other transmasculine parents that Belc can turn to for support, or to show his children that they are not alone in the world. "[Samson] asks when we can meet other families like ours and I say, honestly, that I do not know," he writes. Even an interaction Belc has with Anna, a nurse who is seeking lactation support certification, shows how much of an outlier gestational parents who are not women are thought to be: Belc suggests Anna change the word "mother" to "parent" on worksheets she is creating for a class; she brushes him off, telling him not to "take everything so seriously."

The book is not linear in structure, and skews literary and lyrical, told as a collection of fragmented essays. Belc seamlessly weaves in primary source documents with historical references, including the history of ultrasound machines, and of mastectomies to treat breast cancer ("The problem with reading about the science of pregnancy is that I cannot help being angry at the words mother and maternal," Belc writes).

It is hard for me to imagine someone giving birth to a child, and then being angry at being called the mother. In today's society, you are the oddball if you do not appreciate that anger.

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