Mommy, daddy or mama and dada are shouted just as much among children of LGBT parents in parks and Target — sometimes in mind-numbing repetition — as the straight community.
But there is also a growing number of self-designated LGBT monikers for moms and dads like, Abba, which means dad in Hebrew and Maddie, an amalgamation of mommy and daddy, according to a recent story in the New York Times.
‘Undoing gender’ is one reason
One reason for adopting names beyond the traditional parent names, according to a Clark University study now under peer review, has to do with “undoing gender.”
Parents are merging terms like mother and father so a name becomes “Mather” because the traditional names don’t fit with their self-understanding, said Ellen Kahn, the director of the Children, Youth & Families Program at the Human Rights Campaign. Kahn told the “New York Times:”
“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.”
About 13 percent, or 20 percent of lesbian couples and 5 percent of gay couples, participated in some version of “undoing gender,” the study found.
Other reasons surmised from research include:
- A willingness to push boundaries because of hard-won LGBT rights, particularly the right to marry.
- A desire to distinguish themselves from straight people and not assimilate in a heterosexual, patriarchal society.
L.G.B.T. parents’ legitimacy questioned?
One psychoanalyst and psychologist said that adopting atypical names may not be good for LGBT parents or kids. Dr. David Schwartz told the newspaper that it would be hard for parents to explain the unusual name and that LGBT parents already have their legitimacy called into question.
“And you certainly don’t want to do anything to devalue your family.”
‘Being a parent is a parent’
Study author, Abbie E. Goldberg of Clark University, would call the unusual name challenging, at first, anyway. Goldberg said: “It requires a lot of explanation and clarification, maybe even push back from schools in certain geographical contexts, less gay-affirming areas of the country, like, ‘What do you mean you go by ‘Maddie’?”
The vast majority of participants in the study about naming practices of same-sex adoptive families did stick with familiar names that stemmed from mother and father. And Kahn thinks she knows why.
“It so powerful to be a parent. To have the title mom or dad. A lot of us want that because for decades it seemed like it wasn’t on the table for us to build a family, so there’s almost like a privilege in finally being able to say ‘I’m a mom’ or ‘I’m a dad.'”
Goldberg agreed: “The label is not the role. Being a parent is being a parent.”
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