Question: Can a feminine woman be a dad?

Blookulele asks…

I got into an argument with my friends at school the other day, because they didn’t agree that I could be a father. I’m biologically female with a splash of genderqueer. I believe that any kind of person can fulfil any gender role, disregarding biological factors. Can a (mostly) feminine woman be a dad?

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on June 25th, 2011 at 04:00 pm

Category: questions 26 comments »

26 Responses to “Question: Can a feminine woman be a dad?”

  1. gk

    YES! I’m a queer trans guy and I want to be a mom (if I ever become a parent). It took a long time for me to accept it: I was afraid it meant that I actually felt like a woman, or something.

    It isn’t even about parental gender roles, because I’ve always wanted to do typical “dad” things (and “mom” things, too; although I know it’s silly to divide activities/attitudes between genders). I just see myself being a mom, regardless of whether I give birth to my child.

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  2. Teagan

    No.

    What is a Dad? Simply put, a father is a male parent. You say that any kind of person can fulfill any kind of “gender roles.” The implication there being that there are roles, behaviors which make one a mother or a father. That’s false. Teaching my son how to shave won’t make me any less of a mom (I’m a transsexual woman). A male parent staying home with the kids doesn’t make him a Mom.

    If you think about it, saying that you could be a Dad because you can fulfill that gender role means you’re buying into the very stereotypes that most of us would just assume do away with.

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  3. Raien

    I think the answer might be no, but only because of the accepted definition of the word ‘father’ (also the definition of the word ‘mother’) as opposed to the word ‘parent’.

    I say accepted because society as a whole ‘accepts’ that the word father refers to the male progenitor of a family. The word itself can also mean “a person who founds a family line” – it’s also a verb that means to create or procreate (offspring), so in the strictest senses, you could use the word ‘father’ to define *anyone* who starts a family line or creates offspring.

    The issue is that society has ascribed a sex to the term and one person would have a difficult time changing that, even for just the people in direct contact with them?

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  4. Dr. Tof

    Of course you can – as the above posts explain (indirectly) it’s all a matter of definition of terms. If you define “father” as “sperm donor,” then (barring hypothetical advanced in medical science) the answer is “no.” The problem with that argument is that it means that all adoptive fathers are “fake” dads and should be called something else.

    But if you take many (not necessarily all) of the traits culturally associated with fatherhood as definitive, you can be a dad.

    The problem with that perspective (pointed out above) is that it may risk “supporting” the idea of normative gender roles.

    I’m biologically male, genderqueer, and an English PhD (not an MD), but I generally prefer “parent” to father or mother for myself, as I really want to be a full partner and parent (as opposed to a 3rd definition of “father,” the kind associated with absentee and emotionally unavailable dads).

    In short, if you like the title father, or dad, you have a full and reasonable right to it. Of course, you can’t expect others to acknowledge that right – that’s the nature of our society.

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  5. Poet

    Don’t look too hard at it, being non-binary is about forgetting the binary in the first place. If you feel that you’re a dad then you’re a dad–do and be what feels right.

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  6. InfinitySquared

    You can do whatever a dad does. But it wouldn’t be semantically correct to call you a father because you’re not male or primarily masculine. The idea that a mom can’t do what a dad does is kind of silly… though I am and probably always will be of the opinion that a child needs more than just one trustworthy person to grow up right, whether that’s two parents, or parent(s) and a grandparent, a parent and a mentor, or any other combination of two or more…

    In the case of non-binary/off-the-binary I really wouldn’t know what to say, because our language hasn’t really got a word for a parent that doesn’t imply gender. Well, other than “parent”, but that sounds odd… If I were in that position I’d just throw up my hands and have the kid call me by my name.

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  7. Anonymous

    “In short, if you like the title father, or dad, you have a full and reasonable right to it.”

    So, by this logic, anyone has a full and reasonable right to ANY title that they “like”, regardless of the historical, ethnic, and/or cultural provenance and implications of said title? That kind of attitude is incredibly appropriating and disrespectful of cultures other than one’s own. I absolutely do NOT have a full and reasonable right to call myself samurai, or bard, or rabbi, etc. etc. I agree with the original responder – at the very simplest definition, a father is a male parent. Yes, that absolutely includes transmasculine parents. But I do not think that someone who is both female-bodied AND feminine identified (or mostly identified) can call themselves a father.

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    jordan replied:

    >” I absolutely do NOT have a full and reasonable right to call myself samurai, or bard, or rabbi, etc. etc.”

    Yes you do.

    You can call yourself whatever you want, no-one is going to stop you.
    Others may choose to be offended by this, that’s their right – but it’s ultimately their own business what they get offended about.

    To use another example: Should LGBTQs all retreat into closets, because their existence offends homophobic/transphobic notions of “proper” male and female identity?
    NO

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    JAy replied:

    i sooo agree with T.C

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  8. TC

    You can be called what ever you want to be called. Gay male couples often choose to both be ‘dad’ even though one (or neither) is the biological father, likewise lesbian parents with ‘mum’, adoptive parents are no less ‘mums’ and ‘dads’ than bio parents, some families don’t use the terms ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ at all, preferring first names, trans parents can be mums, dads, whatever. I’m biologically a mum and my kids call me that but I dress and pass as a guy (as, incidentally, does my daughter!)and they’ve never had an issue with it. A trans guy who identified as fully male before parenting is perfectly justified in being a dad, even one who switches after parenting can decide what they are called and how they identify. Children are as broad minded and accepting as their parents have raised them to be. Raise your kids to accept and revel in the variety of language and the fluidity of all aspects of human nature and you’ll have heaps of fun. And why not have a family where a female-identified mother is called ‘dad’? Who is harmed by that? I think it’s hilarious!

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  9. ty

    ““In short, if you like the title father, or dad, you have a full and reasonable right to it.”

    So, by this logic, anyone has a full and reasonable right to ANY title that they “like”, regardless of the historical, ethnic, and/or cultural provenance and implications of said title? That kind of attitude is incredibly appropriating and disrespectful of cultures other than one’s own.”

    I think you’ve missed the point, though. “Father” is not a term that carries any historical, ethnic, and / or cultural weight, at least as far as I know. I think you can self-define terms based on what feels right to you, while simultaneously remaining sensitive to the accepted definitions and implications of the terms. Thus, though it might ‘play in to’ culturally accepted gender roles and the gender binary, I absolutely think a female-bodied-and-(mostly)-female-identified individual can be a father, if that’s what feels right to you. And I don’t think it’s ignorant or offensive unless you claim, in doing so, that nothing outside of the binary exists. I hope you don’t feel that way.

    (And at the same time, the same way that I would think about what it would mean to self-identify as a father, I would think twice about what it would mean to self-identify as a samurai, or a bard, or a rabbi, etc. Knowing that it would mean I were appropriating a culturally significant, loaded term for my own sense of self, and that me using that term would be taken as offensive, I would be left with a choice: use the term and offend, or find a new way to label my identity. I just don’t think that choice is the same here.)

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  10. TC

    Words, words, words! The concept of ‘appropriating’ a title or a word as disrespectful to a culture or ethnic group puzzles me. Who owns language? Who has the right to say which titles we can and cannot use and in which circumstances? There are few words so fraught with cultural significance as ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and yet many of us are ‘playing’ with them daily in application to ourselves.
    If I called myself a ‘pirate’, does that make me a pirate? Does it immediately imply that I condone hijacking, stealing and killing? Maybe I just like to carry a sword, maybe it’s the parrot that does it for me, maybe I just like to think of myself as a pirate, it pleases me.
    With respect to all who do believe they have a right to certain terms, I cannot conceive that particular combinations of words are owned by particular groups. They may assign specific significance to them, which is none of anyone else’s business, but as soon as we lose the ability to share our rich language, we return to a time when the reclaimation of some of the worst terms of abuse will cease to be a method of diffusing their power.

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    Samson replied:

    With respect to you as well, I think there are words we do need to be careful of appropriating because they are (or at least should be) culture- or context-bound. Two-spirit, intersex, and kathoey come to mind as recent examples that I’ve seen people discuss. I think there are groups that can and should “own” those words, at least as self-referents, by definition–I don’t think their meaning properly exists outside those groups. My identity may closely reflect the way I hear two-spirit people describing themselves, but I feel I’d be pretty remiss if I were to start calling myself that.

    But crosscultural words for our roles in life… father mother parent sibling partner whatever… I’m all for pulling and bending and playing with those.

    And there are plenty of people who’d happily deny me the “trans*” label that I so fiercely affix to myself.

    Comes down to respect, I guess.

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  11. Teagan

    Cow!

    Goat had big wheels, but if basketball went south, prison might not going up the hill. You downstairs, quiche, cleaning.

    Antidisestablishmentarianaism,
    Clock

    Yeah, you know what? To hell with words and their ludicrous definitions. They constrain me. They can have whatever meaning I like and it matters not how they’re used in typical conversation. TC, I’m with ya! Rock on!!!

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    TC replied:

    Trumpet banana fishpie. x

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    Chloe replied:

    I think Teagan was being sarky!

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  12. Fae

    YES. Your chosen parental-role (or sibling-role, or child-role) identity is an important part of your chosen gender identity. This has been really well explored by one of my favorite bloggers http://www.lesbiandad.net/about/ – read through that, and her choice to claim the term Baba. She’s not transmasculine, though she is quite butch, and her Fatherhood is absolutely valid.

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  13. Alexx

    You CAN be a Dad, but not a Father.
    Father=male parent but Dad=Parental figure you call “Dad,” I know my Father isn’t much but my Dad is a really great chick.

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  14. Dani

    I think you are getting stuck on semantics. “The word is not the thing”, as Noam Chomsky once said. You can be whatever you want to be. Your actions will define what you are not the label you apply to yourself. If you want to be a father or dad, then embrace the actions that those roles entail and be a father to your child. The nice thing about being “gender-centered” is that we can take action in either direction and sometimes be spectacular at it. My advice is to just be a parent and not worry about labels such as mom or dad. Isn’t it about challenging the necessity for such dichotomous labels anyway? Just be you and love your child. That is more than some parents can manage.

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  15. Jessica

    Can a (mostly) feminine man be a dad?

    When one has children, you are what you are to them. They get to define who you are. You get to choose the term you use, but the term does not make you that.

    In a mutual relationship of equals, there are infinite possibilities, including wife and father or husband and mother. We are who and what we are. We are often misidentified and misconstrued. This is part of the human condition.

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  16. Sarah-Sophia

    I say yes. In my mind a father is the more disciplinary parent, the one who pays the bills, etc. I don’t like gender roles much… I know I am kind of using gender roles with that statement… but what I’m trying to say is, someone of either sex could be a “Father”.

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    Sarah-Sophia replied:

    Let me break this down step by step actually.
    A father refers to the “male” or “man” who parents the child.
    The definition of man can be a million different things. Let me show you some of the examples from google.

    A human being of either sex; a person

    * – God cares for all races and all men

    A person with the qualities often associated with males such as bravery, spirit, or toughness

    * – she was more of a man than any of them

    Then there is the more “obvious” definition.
    An adult human male

    But here is the question, does the father, have to be a male? Can it be a masculine/FEMININE FEMALE who does “masculine” things? Could it be a woman who supports the child, takes care of it, or even maybe adopts the child? I think a father could represent a million different things. So could a man. In my mind you don’t have to be a physical male to be a man.

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  17. Adair

    Yes, a mostly feminine woman can be a dad. I think as long as you don’t insist or believe that dad/father means the same gender roles to everyone, then using “dad” as part of your gender/parental identity is fine and increases the wealth of gender freedom available to everyone who knows you.

    Being feminine doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your gender identity, either. You could be biologically female and very feminine but male or agendered or something else. So I think being feminine is irrelevant to the question of what gendered nouns (father, brother, man, etc) may or may not apply to you.

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  18. Jos

    I think the framing of the argument is the problem. Can’t parents just be parents?

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  19. A

    Extremely late answer is extremely late, but I want to throw in $0.02. I’m also FAAB, feminine in presentation, and id as female (… I think). I’m childfree, but if I did have children, there is NO WAY I would want to be their mother/mom/momma. My mother was abusive and did me great psychic damage. I do not want to identify with that. If I should ever acquire a child, I’d want to be called “Dad,” after the parent who, however imperfectly, actually parented me.

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  20. Anonymous

    What’s the big deal if they want to be a dad? If they feel like “father” is a more accurate and authentic term for themselves as a parent than “mother”, then whom does that hurt? Dads can be feminine. Dads can be female bodied. What matters is that you can raise a child.

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