Beyond Mom and Dad: How to Choose Your Name as a Nonbinary Parent

Here's how to get creative when traditional gendered terms just don't cut it.
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Published June 5, 2024
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As a transmasculine nonbinary parent, I almost always prefer gender-neutral or masculine labels. However, there’s one exception: My children still call me “mom.” When asked why, I like to recall Albert from the 1996 comedy classic The Birdcage. Albert represents everything that I conceive motherhood to be for myself—a parenting relationship built on a nurturing presence, combined with a femininity that transcends gender. When Val introduces Albert as his mother to his fiancée and her homophobic parents, I always see a commonality between their parent-child relationship and my dynamic with my kids.

In a culture where our language surrounding parenthood relies on strict binaries, nonbinary parents face a unique challenge. We don’t have a universal term that reflects the nuances of our gender identity and our parental relationship with our children. A study from the Williams Institute reports that in the US, 19 percent of transgender adults are parents, with one-third of that population identifying as nonbinary. Knowing there are so many of us sends an optimistic message to my fellow nonbinary parents: You’re not alone in trying to find a parenting label that feels right to you, and there’s a community behind you who can help.

Unlike other terms associated with womanhood, such as “wife,” “sister” and "daughter,” the title of “mother” has always felt gender-neutral to me: a role to play within a parental structure. But for other nonbinary parents, using traditionally gendered terms like “mom” and “dad” can feel dysphoric. Whether you’re nonbinary and stepping into parenthood for the first time, or you’ve recently come out and would like to use a title that feels right for you and your family, here are some tips from fellow nonbinary folks on how to choose a parent name that feels affirming.

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1. Modify Binary Terms or Create Something Gender-Neutral

If you have a more fluid relationship with your gender, consider combining binary terms to reflect that fluidity. Emi, who’s nonbinary and genderfluid, offers “Moddy, as a combination of mommy and daddy; and Mapa, as a combination of mama and papa.” Kai suggests Nommy—a nonbinary “mommy”—and Renty, a casual take on “parent.”

2. Use Your Name as Inspiration

“NiNi is the term that I’ll be using when we welcome our child in a few weeks!” says Nicholas Prosini, a teacher, activist and educator. “The term is unique to me, and that is very affirming. I decided on it because one of my sixth-grade students gave me ‘NiNi’ as a nickname. It’s the last two letters of my last name and the first two letters of my first name.”

Other nonbinary parents have turned to their middle names and childhood nicknames, choosing parenting titles as individual to them as their gender identity. Your name is already one of the most personal titles you’ll ever have, and you can embrace that as a parent as well.

3. Look to Fiction

Sometimes, gender-nonconforming and nonbinary people find kinship in characters from movies, television, books, video games and more. One of my personal favorites is my partner Spot’s choice: Moogie from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. You can even choose a favorite character’s title like Captain, Chief or Doc.

The beauty of using a fictional character as your parenting title is deciding which traits fit you and your parenting style best. You could be a Binx, a Tigger or a Snarf. The possibilities are endless.

4. Ask your Kids

If you’re thinking of changing your parenting title to better reflect your nonbinary identity, ask for your kids’ input on labels you’re thinking of using. Perhaps they have ideas on titles you can use or have nicknames they already use for you that aren’t related to a binary term. Finding a parenting title together could give your child an opportunity to bond with you and support your gender identity.

5. Give Yourself the Freedom to Experiment

You may not land on a parenting term that feels right to you on your first try. That’s okay! You may want to give a few labels a try before settling on one that fits you best. As humans, our relationship to our identity is always changing and expanding. This is true of parenting as well. As I’ve been taking gender-affirming steps recently, I regularly ask myself if “mom” still fits me and how my kids relate to me as their parent. I like to leave the possibility open that “mom” might not be the parenting term I use forever.

Being a parent is a fulfilling and important identity on its own. You deserve to feel affirmed and proud in that identity—wherever you fall on the gender spectrum.


Williams Institute, 19% of Transgender Adults in the US Are Parents, October 2020

Learn how we ensure the accuracy of our content through our editorial and medical review process.

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