Published on March 25th, 2014 | by Andrea Lawlor29
ANDREA LAWLOR on Why Hart Doesn’t Have Two Mommies
So, here’s my news, if we’re not Facebook friends: I have a really sweet and beautiful new baby, Hart, who at seven months  is both enormous and tiny. As a new parent, I have been welcomed, on a nearly daily basis, into the worst-kept secret society ever. I always enjoy entering a new discourse community and learning its special terminology and customs, so I am having fun bragging about our baby’s excellent flange or comparing swaddling techniques or parsing the various diaper options. People with whom I for my entire adult life have never thought to speak (and who have never spoken to me) suddenly appear like sages, keepers of esoteric knowledge about sleep schedules and vaccines and the fact that babies growl (what? yes! for real!).
Our baby had the great good sense to grow for nine plus months in my girlfriend’s belly. This is one lucky kid, to have her for a mom. Many moms are wonderful! My own mom, my baby’s grandmother, is wonderful. Some babies have two moms—actually a lot of babies, here in Western Mass—and that’s wonderful. But I’m not my baby’s other mom.
I knew, going into this adventure, that I would need talking points. Let me back up here for a minute. I never thought about having kids before my girlfriend brought the subject up, maybe ten years ago and extremely hypothetically at that. To the extent I thought about kids, I thought, that’s for other people. Because I came of age in the early 90s, in Queer Nation and ACT UP, I even thought, with righteous contempt, that’s for breeders. Mind you, I knew queer parents way back then. I even knew queerspawn. I just never imagined myself as a parent, in part, undoubtedly, because until quite recently I felt like a teenager myself, in part because of internalized homophobia, and in part because the parent role that seemed to be available—mom—was anathema to me as a butch. In much the same way, I’ve had trouble with the word “lesbian.” I don’t identify as a mother, a lesbian, or a woman at all, frankly. Yet I don’t identify as a man either.
When I realized, after countless discussions about gender identity and the heteropatriarchy and many partial hours of therapy, that I could be a parent without being a mother (or transitioning), everything changed. I turned out to be excited about parenting. I like kids; we share many of the same interests: baby animals, puns, tiny things, Legos, asking “but why?” repeatedly, science fiction trilogies.
So one of the biggest decisions of my life came down to a missing word. If I’m not Mom, who am I? I didn’t like the idea of my kid calling me by my first name, as if I were the manny. I wanted a title, to be a noun. I began asking friends and acquaintances how they’d solved this problem. Most of the lesbian or queer couples I knew with kids used some variation of Mom and Mama, even for the butches. Most of the gay and/or trans guys were using variations on Daddy or Papa. I am already Papa to our cats, so I was drawn to that word, but claiming it outright felt like too much of a project for me, and also perhaps a nonconsensual experiment we’d be doing on our child .
My girlfriend suggested “Baba,” which in many parts of the world is a word for family members (often father, sometimes grandmother) and also is an easy sound for a baby to make. I took to the internet, and lo and behold, other butch parents had grappled with this same issue and ended up babas themselves.
I like “Baba” because it’s sort of in between Mama and Papa, which gestures towards my position in between what’s expected for my sex (female parts) and my gender (masculine) . I also like the growing critical mass of butches who are babas. I like to be one of a group, part of a plural noun.
In my ideal world, strangers would glance at me and my girlfriend and our baby, and just assume that I’m the baba, and that my girlfriend is the mama, and that I did not give birth. Why do I care, I ask myself. I have dear friends who are butches who bore their babies (see A.K. Summers’ genius graphic novel PREGNANT BUTCH.) Some of them probably want strangers to take a glance and assume they are the mothers. But that’s not me.
We’re all just coping with being misunderstood so often. When I go out to eat with my girlfriend, and the well-meaning waitrons (who, especially in Northampton, have been trained within an inch of their lives to recognize androgynous or masculine-appearing female humans as women) call us “ladies,” I don’t trip. They’re at work and how important is it, really? I know other people don’t get me all the time and I’m usually pretty okay with that. But I’m going to have to start insisting on who I am in the world, and soon, because my kid is watching. And how important is that? Extremely.
 When I started this essay, Hart was 13 weeks old. I have since changed this number about five times.
 I’m not particularly androgynous or genderqueer. My masculinity is fairly similar to that of many white middle-class Gen X dudes: formed in reaction to organized sports, embracing of poetry, completist in regards to Pogues’ albums and certain Vertigo titles, a little awed by girls.