Gender neutral parenting was in the press recently. More specifically, the press reported that Harry and Meghan, aka the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are planning to raise their child gender neutral.
Of course this very probably isn’t what they’ve said at all. I’m sure they’ve said that they will raise their child without traditional gender constructs, which is what parents with any common sense do anyway. You know the thing – if they have a son and he wants to play with dolls that’s fine, and if their baby is a girl who wants to play with cars that’s also fine. That’s not gender neutral parenting at all. That’s just being a good parent. And a modern parent. Both of which Harry and Meghan are able to be, despite the fact that they’re royals.
He or she?
Gender neutral parenting is raising your child without acknowledging their gender. Not calling them he or she. Not referring to them as a boy or a girl. Allowing them to find their own way and decide on their gender as they grow up and experience life
Now I am neither a parent or ever have the intention of being one (regardless of the suggestions I mentioned in my last post!) so you may think my opinion is a moot one. That said, this is my blog and I pretty much have an opinion on everything, ergo I’ll proceed.
In a nutshell, I think that gender neutral parenting is absolutely bonkers. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll be aware that I have no issue with gender fluidity or changing gender. I very recently posted about an enlightening and heartwarming transgender documentary I’ve been watching. If you haven’t been following then let me make this statement – I very much believe that people can be and are born in the wrong body, and that they should be entitled to treatment to correct biology’s mistake. Science says it’s real, the experiences of actual humans say it’s real, and so, for me, it’s real.
But I’ll say it again, gender neutral parenting is, in my opinion, bonkers.
How are you supposed to know what you are, or more specifically what you aren’t, if you’re brought up without an identity? Surely transgender women know that they’re women, because they’ve been raised as a boy and know that doesn’t “fit”. And vice-versa, obviously. If you’re raised as “they” then what do you rebel against? You have nothing to identify with, and therefore nothing to compare yourself against, surely?
Imagine sending a child to nursery or childcare, and insisting they do not be referred to as he or she. Immediately you’re setting them apart as different; as deserving of special treatment. They get called a different pronoun to any of the other children, and the other children maybe want to know why? What toilet arrangements are made for them? Because, like it or not, male and female toilets are still a thing in life. Not everywhere, of course. But if a young child comes across male toilets and female toilets and no “they” toilet, what is that telling them? Isn’t that stripping them of an identity? Making them, from a young age, into something that doesn’t always exist?
The difference between adults and children
Gender neutral adults can handle situations like this – they’ve been around long enough to know that we live in a gendered society (even if they don’t agree with it). But young children don’t have that understanding. Why would you choose to set your child apart in such a way?
I’m no expert, obvs. Some would argue that starting with gender neutral parenting is the way to achieve a gender neutral society in the future. But, for now, I can’t help but think some parents are trying too hard to do the right thing, and in doing so they’re doing something very wrong.
Your child is born a girl or a boy. If at some point they tell you they’re the opposite of their assigned birth gender, listen to them. Support them. Be there for them. If they tell you they are neither male or female then the same applies.
That’s good parenting.
In the meantime, if your son wants to play with dolls and has a toy cooker, that doesn’t mean he has gender issues. If your daughter tells you she wants to be Superman instead of Superwoman, that doesn’t mean she’s transgender.
In trying to do the right thing, parents are going too far. They’re creating something that doesn’t need to exist at birth. Experience and research shows that children who are transgender will begin to self identify at a young age, regardless of what they have been labelled as in early months and years. Jazz Jennings is perhaps the most prevalent case of a boy knowing they’re a girl. Thankfully Jazz’s parents listened to her. Would gender neutral parenting from birth have helped? Who knows.
All I know is that if and when my nephew (due July this year) wants to try on my shoes, I’ll be right there suggesting the ones that look best with his outfit! Experiencing different things, with no restrictions because of what society might think is appropriate for your gender, is the best way to become a well rounded person.
I’d love to know your thoughts. Let me know in the comments!
Thanks, as always, for reading. x