We are wrapping up eight months of living with the impacts of a global pandemic, impacts that have had a disastrous effect on so many people. Marginalized folks, including Black and queer people, have been disproportionately hurt by COVID-19. Parents have taken a hit too. When it comes to talking about how navigating the pandemic, resources and privilege vary, but the story always stays grounded in the assumption that all parents come with binary, heterosexual and cisgender identities. In this vein, articles highlighting women leaving careers to take care of the kids, moms carrying the burden of everyone’s physical and emotional needs, and the backslide in gender equality have been the narrative when it comes to talking about who has taken the brunt of the pandemic’s stress.
I get it: Women and mothers are overwhelmed, stressed, tired, and scared. But compared to who? How are you defining the words woman, mother, father, man, or parent? Are you seeing the queer community in these pandemic parenting conversations or just yourselves?
Because when these stories are told, they are done so through a lens that sees straight and cisgender people as the norm. In our grounded-in-heteronormativity society, the flip side is that men and dads are being impacted less than their wives and children’s mothers during the pandemic. While it’s true that cis-het men are being impacted less than everyone else, the “else” includes a much bigger picture than cis-het women.
As a queer, transgender parent I am used to being left out of the parenting conversation. During “normal” times I fight to find spaces to be respected and seen. I am nonbinary and don’t identify as being either male or female, so fitting into gendered parenting spaces can be tricky. As a non-biological parent to my kids, that can be messy too because people want to easily categorize parenting paths so that there can be a way to relate to each other. The everyday task of being a parent should be relatable enough to feel like there is a common ground; I learned quickly it’s not. The proof is in the number of times I have been asked how I “got” my kids, been questioned about what my kids call me, and the few times I was assumed to have a husband. Add consistent misgendering, and you have all of the usual parenting bullshit with built-in layers of ignorance, homophobia, and transphobia.
Unless you identify as a straight mom or dad, folks want to know more about your asterisk — but it’s not to include you, it’s to satisfy their curiosity so they can forget you. And if you happen to be a transgender dad—who perhaps gave birth to his babies—or a nonbinary parent, then you may as well crawl back into the closet you decided to come out of.
A pandemic may be hurting gender equality, but more than one gender is being hurt. There is no arguing that the people who call themselves a mom or woman have had to make hefty sacrifices. But for the transgender dads, gay dads—who don’t have a wife to stay home and take care of the kids and nurture a career not their own and may choose one dad to be the stay at home parent—and nonbinary parents doing the same amount of work with less support and respect, it’s a kick in the teeth to be left out of the discussion.
I shouldn’t be surprised, because we are often forgotten when the parenting journey gets rough and when abortion or reproductive rights are being stripped. Feminists get loud and there is an uproar in defense of women, but this uproar also feels like an attack on those of us who don’t identify as cisgender women. The uproar should be against misogyny, a patriarchal society, and the cisgender and heterosexual men who continue to place their egos, opinions, and beliefs above those who don’t identify with the same labels. Marginalized genders should not be competing against each other or fighting for airtime. We all just want a place at the table. The pandemic has highlighted how those seats already taken are not easily given up. And when it comes to parenting, they don’t seem to be shared well either.
The Trump administration continues to find ways to roll back rights for transgender people, including reversing health care protections. The most recently confirmed Supreme Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a direct threat to queer parents and couples. Anti-LGBTQ hate groups are on the rise, while poverty rates, depression, and homelessness among queer people are higher than the cisgender and straight population. And queer and transgender people carry all of this with the extra weight of COVID impacts that are heavier than the same cisgender and straight population. Add a child to the mix, and the mental load “moms and women” seem to be making headlines about, and it’s amazing to me how some of us even get out of bed.
I’m not asking for pity. I’m asking for transgender and non-binary parents to be included in the conversation when it comes to all things parenting, including how we are drowning in this pandemic too. I am not denying anyone’s struggle, but we need to reframe how we talk about COVID-19’s impact on parents. I don’t need articles telling me what I’m experiencing is hard because I know it’s hard—I live it every day. I need articles that acknowledge my existence. I need language to be more inclusive because it would be nice to feel a sense of camaraderie. Misery loves company, and we are at the threshold of hell.
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