She chafed at the assumptions

The New York Times introduces us to a fascinatingly original and independent-minded couple in a large west coast city:

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.

Oh, my, that must have been awful. Couldn’t the medical staff members see at a glance how not Mommy and Daddy our eccentric pair are?

Isaac Schankler, left, and Amanda Davidson are among a wave of gender-nonconforming parents reconsidering the labels of “mommy” and “daddy.”

CreditChris Schell

So…that’s Isaac on the left in the suit and tie and short hair, and that’s Amanda on the right in a dress and long hair and lipstick…so…uh…how could medical staff possibly call them Daddy and Mommy respectively? Don’t they…uh…realize that Isaac and Amanda are queering all the things?

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.”

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.”

Which is what, exactly? More special than everyone else? More thoughtful and rebellious and quirky and interesting than all those stupid “binary” couples with their suits and dresses and short hair/long hair?

Katie Herzog at The Stranger finds the whole thing rather annoying.

Now, I will admit that my first reaction to this article was to roll my eyes back in my head and pull out my application to a lesbian seperatist commune in Taos, but then I remembered that it’s against the rules to question other peoples’ identities (unless that person is Rachel Dolezal) so I reigned in my annoyance.

But then I read it again, and I thought about some lesbian friends of mine back in North Carolina who just had a kid last year. Unlike Davidson and Schankler, who, I presume, used the body parts they were born with to make a kid, my friends had to go about it the old fashioned ways: turkey baster, with sperm purchased from a sperm bank.

That was the easy part.

The hard part was the adoption, which they had to do if they wanted both parents to have parental rights.

It’s a cumbersome, stressful, and expensive process, but many attorneys specializing in LGBTQ family law recommend it. And so, this married couple who conceived a child together had to get background checks, have home visits with social workers, get reference letters, sign affidavits attesting to how their child was conceived, and have meetings with the county clerk—all so that Heather, who literally has two mommies, could legally have two mommies.

Now, same-sex adoption laws vary by state, but in many places, it’s still an arduous, time-consuming process that no heterosexual couple who birthed a child together would have to engage in. And, in most countries, it’s not even an option. It’s also something that Davidson and Schankler would never have to deal with, because, regardless of their pronouns, they are still, in the eyes of the law (and, lets be real, society) a plain old heterosexual couple. While I’m sure it is painful for them to be seen as straight when they feel they are queer, every time the New York Times or New York mag or whoever else elevates couples like this, they ignore the very real trials and tribulations that actual same-sex couples go through in a legal system that isn’t equipped to handle us.

That plus there’s the whole thing of what looks like deliberately creating a kind of “oppressed” status for themselves so that they can hang with the cool kids who already have actual oppression. It looks, in short, like exactly what people mean by “appropriation,” in a strikingly obnoxious form. Davidson and Shankler “pass” as exactly what they are, so they claim to be “queer” in the most nebulous and indeed meaningless sense possible. Herzog sums up:

I realize that I’m not the LGBTQIAS (the “s” stands for “straight”) hall monitor, but while everyone and their abba has decided that queerness is more about haircuts and pronouns than who you bone, actual queer people are still second class citizens under the law. As of 2018, only 22 states have full protections preventing housing, employment, and public accommodation discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people. And yet, the Times devotes column inches to a “queer” couple whose big struggle was resolved by adopting the Hebrew word for dad. Just an idea, but perhaps the next time the paper of note writes about LGBTQ families, maybe they could actually talk to a few.

Won’t somebody please think of the queer straight people?

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