There is no right or wrong way to raise a child, but there is such a thing as childhood trends. Over recent years, it seems parents are opting to raise their offspring gender-neutral, which means leaving gender out of the equation — at least while they're young. Some may have heard the term gender-neutral in the news or amongst a friend group, but what exactly does that entail specifically? Does it impact a child's upbringing? Their toys? Their support group? Each parent has their own story to tell when it comes to gender-neutrality. Some have experienced a harder transition than others. Some have come to view it as a natural progression in society. Regardless of where parents stand on gender-neutrality, the most important thing is that a child is healthy and happy. The least we can do is open our minds to alternative parenting methods. Imagine if gender was no longer a "thing," would we still hang out with the same people? Have the same job? Shop at the same stores? Has anyone ever thought about how gender affects our language on a daily basis? Read on to see how these parents invited gender-neutrality into their lives. Their stories will inspire.
20 Gender-Neutrality May Not Be Enough
Ashlee Dean Wells, a mother of two, fears that gender-neutrality is not enough to stop gender-based stereotypes from affecting her children. Her first child grew up to be a "sensitive man-cub" who is "navigating [his preferences] for himself." But for round two, with Nova, things were different. "In the past few years, what I've begun to realize is that, in many circumstances, these attempts at gender-neutral parenting may not be quite enough," says Ashlee. "I've landed on a call to action to break down the gender binary altogether."
19 "Cute" VS "Strong"
Ashlee was quick to noticed that people described Nova differently based on her gender. When strangers thought Nova was a boy, they dropped adjectives like "strong, brave, smart, funny" — as if girls can't be those things, too. When others thought Nova was a girl, they used "cute, delicate, kind, and sweet." Ashlee feared these perceptions would shape Nova's character into something structured around gender, as opposed to the personality she wanted to develop. "It was both fascinating and unsettling at the same time," adds Ashlee.
18 So, How Do You Address A Theybe?
With language so closely tied to gender, many people simply had no idea how to talk to Nova, which, unsurprisingly, lead to a lot of frustration and confusion. "I have watched adult humans grow visibility annoyed and have had multiple people tell me that they simply don’t know how to talk to Nova without first knowing their gender." Ashlee was surprised how gender has such a stronghold on expectations and norms to the point where language falls apart if the word "boy" or "girl" isn't used. Shouldn't we talk to all genders in the same manner? Thanks Ashlee!
17 Judgment Galore
Next up we have Bobby McCullough and Lesley Fleishman, an NY-based couple who decided to raise a "theyby" — a baby without a gender. Lesley found that the most challenging part of doing so was explaining her decision to her mom and dad, the grandparents who are slightly more traditional and conservative. "I mean, having a baby is already difficult, but then having to explain that to your grandma?" The overall "concept" of gender-neutrality was much easier for Lesley to grasp... it's the putting-words-into-actions part that stumped her a little bit.
16 The Grandparents Felt Left Out
Kyl Myers found herself in a similar situation, challenging herself to tell her mother about raising Zoomer as a gender-neutral kid. To avoid any tension, Kyl thought it was best to keep the gender-neutrality thing on the down-low by keeping Zoomer's gender a complete secret. Unfortunately, this type of secrecy limited Zoomer's bonding with their grandparents. Kyl's mom wanted to bathe her grandchild, watch them run around at the pool, take them shopping for clothes... When Kyl spoke to The Cut, she explained Zoomer's grandparents felt like they were missing out on valuable experiences.
15 Gender Can Determine Future Medical Issues
A second reason Kyl is choosing to raise Zoomer gender-neutral is to even the health playing field. "So many of the root causes of health outcomes are related to gender,” she told The Cut. According to Kyl, asking about a child's gender is similar to asking what medical issues or illnesses they'll develop in the future. For example, it's more common for girls to develop an eating disorder over boys — and vice versa for deathly car accidents. It seems Kyl didn't want to jinx or put a hex on her child's health by giving them a gender.
14 Barbies Vs Tonka Trucks
You'd be surprised at how many objects have their own pronouns. For example, people always use "she" when describing a boat or car. "She's a beauty!" Doesn't that sound familiar? Kyl had to be extremely careful when providing Zoomer with toys, making sure to use "they" instead of "he" and "she" for Batman and Barbie dolls. Most toy stores organize their shelves based on gender as well. The same goes for clothing departments. Girls can wear blue, boys can wear pink, too. In Kyl's dream world, all those signs and labeling would disappear.
13 Providing The Child As Many Choices They Can
Like any big shift, eliminating gender pronouns all together makes some getting used to. It may seem complex at first, but at gender-neutrality's core, there's a very simple concept — the freedom of choice. Here's how Emmalie Lynch put it: "We want to make sure we do as much as we can to not hinder that self-identification process for our own child. That means providing our child as many choices as we can. I carefully chose items for our registry that were neutral colors or that didn’t specify 'boy' or 'girl' in the description." We all want the power to make our own choices.
12 You Calling Them Boy/Girl Affects Them As Early As 2
Believe it or not, children as young as two can pick up on gender cues. Everything from the color of their room, the toys in their bucket, and the length of their hair. According to professor Jo B. Paoletti, "[Gender-specific clothing] encourages young children to judge and interact with others in highly stereotyped ways." Neuroscientist Dr. Lise Eliot also had this to say: “Infant's brains are so malleable that small differences at birth become amplified over time, as parents, teachers, peers — and the culture at large — unwittingly reinforce gender stereotypes." It's because of this that Emmalie practiced gender-neutrality before her child was born.
11 The Great Battle
Some families have chosen to fight for gender-neutrality on a larger scale. In July of 2017, parent Kori Doty received the world's first gender-neutral health card for baby Searyl — a process that took a staggering eight months. Kori had to fight tooth and nail for a health card that reads "U" for "undetermined" or "unassigned." But the battle isn't over. Now, Searyl is looking at an uphill battle to have gender erased from Searyl's birth certificate. "I'm raising Searyl in such a way that until they have the sense of self and command of vocabulary to tell me who they are."
10 Gender-Neutrality Is Often Passed Down Through Generations
While many of us can't imagine eliminating "he" and "she" from our vocabulary, others see it as a very natural progression. Just ask Dani, an English stay-at-home parent raising a 5--year-old. "My ideas on gender were already part of my life before I gave birth, so that was just an extension of what I believed and practiced," Dani explained to Vice. In their eyes, gender-neutrality is ultimately about choice and less about finding a gender middle ground. There should be no obligation for a child to pick pink or blue, and they shouldn't feel guilty or wrong about that choice.
9 Did The Word 'Tomboy' Spark Gender-Neutrality?
Next up is Miranda, a Stockholm-based LGBTQ-activist, and loving parent. Miranda was raised by a "tomboy" mother who consistently doubted her femininity and character, especially around other women who may see her as strange or different. "My mother was worried she wouldn't naturally do girly stuff with me, so she actively took me to ballet and horse riding. But I hated it," Miranda said. Their mother overcompensated for her tomboy ways by dressing Miranda in pink and red. "She didn't like the fact that I cut my hair short."
8 Gender Labels Can Make Children Feel Insecure
Here's a fun fact: did you know Pink is raising her children gender-neutral? Yes, the singer! The pop star suffered from momentary heartbreak when 6-year-old Willow broke down in tears because she looked too boyish. At the 2017 VMAs, Pink disclosed that Willow said "I'm the ugliest girl I know" and "I look like a boy." Pink could easily relate, having been dubbed too manly or butch by the media many times before. "When people make fun of me, that’s what they use. They say I look like a boy or I’m too masculine or I have too many opinions, my body is too strong."
7 There Are Different Kinds Of Beauty (That Aren't Just Boy/Girl)
Pink took her positive message on step further following the release of her music video, "Beautiful Trauma." In it, the singer plays a stereotypical housewife from the '50s with Channing Tatum next to her as her on-screen husband. When the housewife catches her husband dancing around in woman's clothes, she reacts in the most unexpected way. She's happy. She's joyful. The pair embrace each other's differences and start to lovingly dance around the room. Pink told Willow that it's important to "see more kinds of beauty."
6 In Sweden, Everyone Is Your 'Friend'
Let's go back to Sweden for a second, it's arguably one of the most progressive countries when it comes to gender-neutrality. In certain schools, teachers are urged to drop "boy" and "girl" and use "friend" instead. They've also invented the gender-neutral term "hen" to address each other. It just goes to show that it's never too soon to start. Some boys in pre-kindergarten are showing up to class in dresses, while others are encouraged to play in the kitchen. Meanwhile, young girls are being taught that it's okay to shout "no" at the top of their lungs.
5 If You Want To Get To Know Someone, Don't Ask What's Between Their Legs
What's more important: getting to know someone's personality or their gender? On a first date, we ask about dream jobs, life goals, and silly college stories. Gender doesn't really come up as much in adulthood. But as a kid, Storm (one of the first publicized gender-neutral babies) quickly became the most talked about child in Toronto. "If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” their father told the Toronto Star. "We've decided not to share Storm’s sex for now – a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation.”
4 Tutus Or Football
Freedom of choice seems to be a common pattern amongst gender-neutral parents and kids on the list. For Jordyn Smith, she didn't care whether her child wore tutus around the house or played soccer as an after-school activity. Whatever makes her child healthy and happy is the right choice. “For me - and for most other parents I know - gender-neutral parenting is about ensuring that kids are given every opportunity possible," Jordyn wrote in a personal essay to Cafe Mom, "regardless of whether their interests are viewed as traditionally feminine or traditionally masculine."
Remember when Nova's mother said frustration is a common reaction to gender-neutrality? Well, it turns out Jordyn had a similar experience. She heard nasty rumors from other parents and onlookers that she was "forcing" her child to dress in a certain way to be more gender-neutral. More specifically, other moms at school mistakenly thought Jordyn was forcing them to wear a dress. But in truth, it was the exact opposite. They chose to wear that dress themselves, regardless of anatomy. It's not about being different or standing out. It's about being comfortable.
2 The News Doesn't Like Gender-Neutrality
When UK singer Paloma Faith announced that she was raising her child gender-neutral, the media blew up in a frenzy. Strangers on multiple news outlets began imposing highly personal questions about the child's upbringing and Paloma's decision. It got so overwhelming that Paloma finally answered the media's number one question via Twitter. "For the record @DailyMailUK gender-neutral means an equal amount of so-called ‘boys toys and girls toys’ it doesn’t mean anything sensational.” If the media has such strong reactions, we need to be better as a society about this subject.
1 At A Certain Age, The Child Will Decide For Themselves
Look, there's only so long you can keep a person's gender a secret. At a certain age, they will learn for themselves what it means to be masculine, feminine, or neither. Paloma was quick to realize that her daughter had to have their "own mind" as soon as she came out of the womb. "She has denounced all things “girly” ever since, so I’ve had plenty of experience with standing back and letting your child define themselves." If gender-neutrality is all about choices, then the same goes for having a definitive gender. There's no right or wrong way to define yourself.
References: lifesitenews.com, upworthy.com, youtube.com, huffingtonpost.com, bustle.com, popsugar.com, keithgolfclub.com, naturalhealthforlife.com, kveller.com, google.com, parentmap.com, houzz.com, time.com, sheknows.com, vice.com, racheous.com, pagesix.com, teenvogue.com, theglobeandmail.com, slate.com, reddit.com, independent.co.uk, 1000awesomethings.com, noaa.com
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