Every mother is more than a mom. At Wear Your Voice, we realize that motherhood is different for everyone. Every parent plays many different roles, and every child defines their parent in a different way. As many as six million American children and adults have LGBT parents. Eighty percent of single-parent families are headed by single mothers and ten percent of children live with someone other than a biological parent.
We invited 7 families to participate in our #MoreThanMom photoshoot. Each family expands our understanding of what it means to be a mom.
These families show that there’s no one right way to parent, or to define family. As our culture evolves, so do our conversations about gender, privilege and what it means to be a family. Conversations about sex, sexuality and gender no longer focus solely the “birds and the bees” as they once did. Adults are learning about the fluidity of gender and allowing space for their children to express it. Gender and sexual expression is nothing new, but conversations around it are.
All image credit: Suma Jane Dark for Wear Your Voice Magazine
Cian and Arlo
“My own gender hasn’t changed the way I parent,” says Cian, a genderqueer mother, says of their transgender daughter, Arlo. When I had Arlo, I wasn’t ‘out’ as genderqueer yet. I felt it on the inside, but didn’t quite understand what was going on at the time. So, Arlo has seen me change quite a bit. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. In fact, I see people who aren’t trans go through these changes too. It’s just a part of life! That’s exactly what I tell Arlo. I have taught her to think outside the gender binary, and she’s always got a lot of questions. I feel that by teaching her to ask me those questions, she won’t be afraid of confronting her feelings about her own gender in the future. Also, if Arlo doesn’t know what pronouns to use, she will usually ask someone. I think that’s quite cool.”
Christin, MeLisa, and Westley
“As same-sex parents and as gender non-conforming people, we try not to fall into the typical expectations that boys will be one way and girls will be another way. When we shop for clothes we shop in both the boy and the girl sections. Every decision is carefully thought through so that don’t trap Westley into societal expectations. Currently, we have yet to cut his hair. As a boy people expect or ask us when we will cut his hair but if he were a girl we would just comb his hair into styles so we go back and forth between letting him wear his hair down or pulled back,” MeLisa says of their attitude towards gender.
Saucye West and Blythe
Sarah and Becca
“I’ve always related to my daughter as having a say in her experiences, growth and development. To that end, I’ve always honored her choices in self-expression and checked in with her when planning our visits, holidays, education, and experiences like museum tours, etc. On the other hand, I always held her to account for actions and gave her clear boundaries. Sort of… you can do anything you want, but you own the results. That’s how we dealt with her educational and help at home performance. When she struggled with school work I became very involved breaking up her assignments into pieces and showing her how to succeed with the small pieces, slowly packaging them together until she developed confidence in tackling any sort of a problem from math to science to creative writing. That confidence helped her to become a high performing student. When she was 7 she said she wanted a puppy. She can be quite obsessive when she wants something. So, I told her that she could have a puppy when she did her chores for three months without me having to say anything. She continued to grumble about it for three years until one day she declared that she was going to do the chores until she got a puppy. For three months she did her chores with no prompting. As soon as she completed the three months she came to me and said pay up. I had no choice. I’d always kept my word to her. We’ve had that dog for eight years.”
Suellen and Duleesha
“As a mom of three boys, I feel a particular responsibility to raise boys who are sensitive to the needs of others, to be empathetic and aware of their emotions, and to not feel confined to the gender stereotypes. I don’t react any differently when my son chooses to play with a Barbie doll versus an army guy, and neither does Dad. My older son loves Legos and I remember when he really was into Lego Friends (the Lego theme that targets the girl market). … I was so surprised by this, and when I asked him why, he just said (at age 5), “because they are like real life.” And I was kinda proud of him because he didn’t care that Lego Friends had a lot of pink and purple on their boxes, the colors that kids from age 3 “know” signal girl-related products. Even though he is a gender-conforming boy who loves catching bugs, making guns with Legos and dressing as superheroes, he totally ignored how other boys his age dissed Lego Friends. I am also working on teaching my older son to be more considerate in his language towards me. … My overarching goal as a woman and mother is to teach him that women are not there at his beck and call, that women are not there to pick up after his messes, that women should be respected. I sometimes say to him, “I have thoughts and feelings, and I don’t like the way you asked me that. Try again,” Suellen Lee says of navigating gender as a feminist and mother of three energetic boys.
Maya Songbird and Ty
“People are going to talk, no matter what. Everyone flipped when I announced I don’t spank Ty. It was the whole spare the rod, spoil the child … but we have to find what works for us. Although, I do lose my temper at times. This mama has Naomi Campbell tendencies, but usually after I have yelled is that moment when he tries to outsmart me! I hate that! But at this point, I have been Ty’s mom for almost 12 years. Can’t no one tell me a thing about how to parent my child. I am very involved 100 percent in his life. He came from my planet and we are good,” Maya Songbird says of mothering Ty, who is often seen at her avant-garde feminist performance art shows.
Charlie and Christina
“As a family that contains trans people and knows and loves many other trans people of various ages, from kids to adults, we talk about gender A LOT. My kids know that gender is not about what body parts you have and to always ask and respect someone’s pronouns regardless of what their outer appearance is. We talk about trans oppression and intersectionality and all of it. Kids are never too young to learn social justice, especially when it relates directly to people they love,” Christina says of her beautiful brood.
This Mother’s Day, we invite you to join the #MoreThanMom movement! Share photos of you and your family with the hashtag #morethanmom and follow the movement across social media by liking Wear Your Voice on Facebook and following us on Instagram and Twitter! Special thanks to photographer Suma Jane Dark, as well as the NOTAFLOF Community Center for welcoming us into their space in order to catch these beautiful moments.