Words don’t mean a thing…
… continued Talking Heads, in “Give Me Back My Name.”
who .. i ask you … who? could have guessed that.
This popped into mind when this Guardian article raised the issue of terminology for the post-divorce, IVF and same-gender marriage world of non-binary and non-nuclear families. What are we to call those who donated no genetic material but are closer to family than those who did?
Illustration by Jasper Rietman
…For families, the lexicon remains cramped. As a consequence, when we refer to new modes of relatedness we tend to rely on the few existing forms for inadequate similes. We shoehorn the expanding variety of families back into their capacity to imitate the traditional. When my husband’s biological children, Oliver and Lucy, learned to talk, they called their birth mother Mama and their adoptive mother Mommy. Then there was the question of what to call my husband, to make it clear that Mama and Mommy were the primary parents, but that John had a special relationship to them. John suggested Donor Dad, but they didn’t know what “donor” meant, so they called him Donut Dad. Now they call my husband Papa and me Daddy, and the son who is legally John’s and my child calls them Mama and Mommy. A man I recently interviewed had wanted to have children but was HIV-positive. He couldn’t afford sperm-washing, a process to separate the sperm from virus-carrying semen. So he asked a close friend to be the sperm donor, the niece of another friend to be the egg donor, and a third person to be the surrogate. Through this unlikely calculus, the four of them produced children who live with him and see him as their primary parent. “Because we were his idea, he’s our real dad,” his 10-year-old daughter explained to me. But what are they to call those other three people, each of whom is involved to a degree in their upbringing?
On a similar note, this Chap was chatting with a close friend recently and realized she really did believe that all girls were biologically and genetically girls, boys the opposite, and always stayed that way. Hence, no need for any singular pronouns other than he and she. But as anyone identifying with a non-traditional gender will tell you, finding the correct pronoun has become a key tussle-ground in establishing and holding that identity. Gender and sexuality identification becomes even more complex, with all its shadings and gradations.
John would like to emphasize that … … in case you are reading this and thinking that the other chap is making ‘a mountain out of a mole hill’, if not, ‘it up altogether’ - consider this article / podcast from NPR … yes NPR (Audie Cornish to be very precise) … three years ago! 
The piece concludes …
Ladin believes that in the future, male and female will always refer to some people but not all. The reins of gender expression will become looser.
This awkwardness around finding the correct word in a fast-changing and fluid society also came over in recent Presidential statements – which were clearly verbs looking for tenses, and failing.
If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened. ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.
Sixty words in search of an editor …
… if we ever saw them. Almost enough to make this Chap ask – what are words worth, when valued so little?
nicely bookended with Tina and Jerry.
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