Recently, The Guardian UK published an article highlighting the case of a transgender parent opting to mark their baby’s sex as “U”—signifying it was undisclosed or unidentified. Putting aside the fact that sex is determined and differs from gender, which is not necessarily sex–dependent, we can see the point this couple is trying to make:
Why should a child’s sex necessarily dictate his or her gender and personal preferences?
I can’t claim to have given deep thought to the possibility that my child might throw in her lot with the LGBT crowd (aside from knowing that it wouldn’t bother me a bit), but I have already made a conscious effort to practice gender neutral parenting. Her room is a blue-green, her first stuffed animal is a tiger shark, the color pink is minimally present, and while she does have a few dresses, she also has several dinosaur and motorcycle onesies.
If she goes ape for frilly dresses and doll sets, I won’t deny her those things (though I might gag a little). But I’m certainly not going to make the assumption that that’s her preference before she’s even taken her first breath in this world. I’m not simply avoiding putting her in a conscribed gender box, I’m adamant that no one else does either.
The accepted division between genders disturbs me. Take the children’s clothing department as an example: a garish divide between Navy Boy Blue and Barbie Sparkle Pink. This might explain why the adult hipster trends of today are so confusing (gay, bi, or just stylish? I can’t tell). And may even have something to do with why I’m not always sure who on the street is a prostitute and who is just keeping on top of the latest fad (The Disney Princess Promise having failed to deliver, she decided at the age of 19 to try a more direct tactic).
Why is it so important to me to not buy into the gender game?
I want my child to decide for herself who she is and what she likes, not feel pressured to be like everyone else.
The expectation to mold oneself to social norms begins at Day One. If I can give her a variety of choices—the full spectrum of color preferences, cooking and carpentry classes—and let her decide what she likes best, perhaps she’ll be independent and self–aware enough to stand up to the peer pressure of her teenage years. Maybe I can even save her some years of confused wandering trying to find herself.
Blanketing my child with my own expectations and assumptions about her personality and preferences would only hinder her confidence. Refusing to bow to gender roles seems to me to be the very first thing I can offer to help her realize freedom and confidence.
What are your thoughts on gender neutral parenting? Leave a comment below.