Are You My Father?
Have I ever not found what I was looking for on the first page of a Google search? I wondered to myself, unable to recall such an instance. Yet here I was, on page two - which I basically considered the dark web - trying to find an answer to what I thought would be a relatively simple question: What does a child call his same-sex parents?
All I had encountered so far was a story featuring a famous gay couple, who were soon-to-be fathers, a not-so-credible article titled Bringing Up Gaybies, and a whole host of online forums with other expectant parents in the same predicament and no clear answer. Where was the thoughtfully curated, reputable website with clear guidelines to same-sex parent naming conventions? To this day, it doesn't exist.
On one hand, I could appreciate the lack of pre-determined labels ready to be doled out to LGBTQ+ parents as so much of our community's fight has been to remove conventional labels that are often cast upon us without regard for our preferred pronouns, names, or blatant refusal to accept them. On the other hand, as a Type A individual who flourishes with lists and order, I wanted clear options presented to me, ready to choose like sweaters held in either hand of the Barney's sales associate (RIP, Barney's).
After coming to terms with the fact that there was no naming standard, I shared my findings with my husband who reasonably suggested that we now had the opportunity to select our own names free of constraints or limitations...
I won't say it was easy, but we ultimately landed on Daddy (my husband) and Papa (me). Through my son's first year of life I still grappled with being called papa. I was objectively young - especially for a gay father - and often told I looked even younger than my actual age. Didn't papa evoke the image of an elderly, grey-haired, jolly, ruddy-faced grandfather? My deciding factor was my son's LatinX heritage. I spoke Spanish and we were immersing him in both English and Spanish at home and in daycare. And while daddy in Spanish is papá I opted to omit the accent to see how he would organically pronounce it once he started talking.
A year into my son's life, I was still unsure of the name. But it was too late to change as he had been exposed to it daily. He had already successfully been saying "Daddy" to my husband for a few months but still no "Papa." Was this a sign? Was there still time to change it then? I remained ambivalent until one otherwise unremarkable day my son stopped what he was doing, pointed to me while I was holding him, and - clear as a bell - exclaimed, "Papa!" In that moment, as the tears of joy trailed down my face, I knew I had chosen the right name.
In retrospect, any name would have been the "right" name. All parents, whether part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, have the option to choose what their child calls them. Sure, if you are a straight couple the ubiquitous mom and dad are the obvious choice. But you do not have to subscribe to any "standard." We all have the right to elect what best represents us. It may come as a surprise but Google does not have all the answers.
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