Parent! The Gender-Neutral Term for the 21st Century
By Rita Banerji on May 13, 2012
One of my mother's friends, after reading about Elton John's baby last year, expressed her disapproval to me with “He’s gay! First he says he's married to a man! Now he says he has had a baby with him. That’s impossible.”
I tried to explain the concept of egg donation and surrogacy to her. She brushed me aside like I was slow on the uptake. That was not what she was questioning. She said, “How are they going to raise a baby without a mother? A baby needs a mother.” She emphasized the word 'mother' like it was a critical component, not just for child-making, but for child-rearing as well. Sir Elton John may have found an egg donor, but now what was he going to do about the lack of an actual biological mother.
"What can a mother give to the baby that two father's can't, other than breast milk, which I'm sure with his money he has organized for through a wet nurse if the surrogate mother isn't willing?" I asked.
She waived me off, "You won't understand."
"Love, a mother's LOVE," she said, emphasizing 'love' like she did 'mother.' "Mamta," she said again emphatically. Mamta is the special word for 'mother's love' in Hindi.
"But can't a father give love, and care? Can't a father nurture a child so he grows into his full potential as a human being?"
There was a time when men said women can't study, they can't vote, they can't own land, buildings, businesses, they can't run the government -- because they were not men. There apparently was something inherent in maleness that bestowed only on men the ability to do all these things. But women went out and did all that and proved that theory wrong.
So here's three cheers to men like Elton John who are now doing the reverse! They making choices to show that men too on their own, can set up homes, and families and raise children, and that it is not necessarily an inherent genetic factor that bestows the ability of home-making and child rearing solely on women!
Let's hope that in the 21st century we can make the words 'mother' and 'father' obsolete, and replace them with the gender-neutral term 'parent' -- a term that will mean everything a child needs to be nurtured: love, care, warmth, sensitivity, protection, belief, and all those good things.
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