Gender Inclusive Parenting
Some of my friends keep apologizing when they accidentally gender my fetus. They sometimes refer to the baby as “he” or “she” and immediately apologize, knowing that I use “they/their/them.”
There is no need to apologize.
After this happened for the umpteenth time, it occurred to me that people do not know what I mean when I say I am not gendering my child. Wanting to be respectful, they think that any gendered terms will offend me. This is not the case so I wanted to write a post about my views on gender inclusive parenting.
Lots of people tell me I’m having a girl. This may be true, but I know that my child’s genitals have little to do with their gender identity. I may very well birth a girl. I could birth a girl with a vagina or a girl with a penis or a girl assigned intersex. All those people could be wrong and I could birth a boy; a boy with a penis, a boy with a vagina, or a boy assigned intersex. Or my child could be non-binary.
The point of not gendering my child is to give them the chance to discover their gender identity on their own. Even though my worldview, values, and lifestyle will influence the formation of my child’s identity, I do not want to impose a socially constructed identity on them.
I am not a fan of gendered social conditioning. Gender assignments at birth come with a script that the child is expected to follow. Example:
The doctor sees a vulva, assigns “girl” and suddenly everyone has expectations for how that child can and should behave. She is given a costume that contains a fairly limited color palate, is expected to wear her hair in a certain way, is expected to carry out specific gendered roles, and is expected to exhibit specific gendered traits FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE.
The doctor sees a penis, assigns “boy” and suddenly everyone has expectations for how that child can and should behave. He is given a costume that contains an even more limited color palate, is expected to wear his hair in a certain way, is expected to carry out specific gendered roles, and is expected to exhibit specific gendered traits FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.
I do not want to do this to my child. I do not want to hand them a gender script from the moment of birth. My hope is that I will create space and experiences for my child to explore their identity in a variety of ways so that they can decide who they are and what they want. Most people would not want their child’s career paths picked out at birth so why do we approve of gender paths?
It starts here:
and ends here:
And check this out:
Both of the above pairs of shorts are children’s size 7. The orange ones are for girls, the white for boys…. These shorts exemplify gendered social conditioning stemming from a misogynistic culture which dictates that girls show more skin. Size 7! These are not tween or teen clothes, they are for young children and the message is clear: objectify girls’ bodies. I don’t mind the short shorts, I mind that they are not available for boys! Shouldn’t boys wear short shorts if they want to and girls wear long shorts if they want to? I want my child to have options.
I do believe there are some people who align with gendered traits and roles. If my child’s gender identity is congruent with their birth assignment (i.e.: they are cisgender), I will absolutely celebrate them! If I give birth to a girl with a vagina who loves pink, long hair, dolls, and is heterosexual, I will absolutely celebrate her! I do not have an issue with cisgender identities, I just do not want to assume cisgender until proven otherwise.
There isn’t a model for gender inclusive parenting, so I leave room for lots of hiccups as I embark on this rather trailblazey journey without expectation or attachment. I just know how hard it is to discover one’s true identity when immersed in normative scripts and I hope to create space for the developmentally appropriate formation of gender identity without imposed limitations from me (or as much as I can in our very gendered world).