Now that I am really showing at nearly eight months pregnant I am getting asked daily if I know the sex and of our babe. When I reply with a nope we’re having a surprise! it is often accompanied by a look of confusion. This is quickly followed up with the person telling me they can already tell the sex or gender just by looking at the way I am carrying the babe. I mostly just smile and nod and try to remember that this person is just having their process that has nothing to do with me.
And other days I am in total awe by how many people in our culture are obsessed with knowing the sex of babies. When women tell me there is no way they couldn’t find out or that they only want a girl or boy I find myself feeling super uncomfortable and wanting to exit the convo as fast as possible.
In a time when gender reveal parties are front and center from the U.S. to Australia I find myself wondering if our fixation on sex and ultimately gender roles is causing more harm than good. I ponder this for several reasons, the largest one being that sex doesn’t predetermine gender, so the very concept of a gender reveal party is honestly disturbing to me. Just because a baby is born with certain sex organs, doesn’t mean they are going to identify in a particular way. I also feel strongly that these types of parties which stem from a cis, heteronormative, outlook on life continue to widen the gender divide between all of us and leave no room for children to blossom into who they are, not who their parents or society says they are or should be.
I had a woman tell me that she needed to know if she was having a girl or boy so that she could paint their room color accordingly. It was in that moment I realized just what a bubble I live in with all of my mama friends choosing neutral tones for their babe’s rooms and many of them moving toward more gender neutral names. As our babes grow up they will face an onslaught of messages and cues telling them how to behave, dress, speak, and live in a world according to the restrictive cis gender culture we live in. Given how much babies and kids absorb it feels very important to Nic and I that we start them off in the most neutral space possible so that they can feel free to explore who they are without us showing or telling them.
Theybies are becoming more popular in some communities which is where the parents raise their babies in an environment free from gender bias and often don’t tell their children what sex they are until a determined time. While I fully support this, we’ve decided at least for now, that we are open to telling our child about their sex and creating a safe environment where they can explore gender roles with our love and support.
As humans we are hardwired to categorize, which is part of how we have survived for so long. I am simply posing the question, is it necessary to categorize for a baby or child? To me this need to organize babies and children in this way speaks volumes about our culture and the way we choose to parent. While the sex and gender obsession seems to start with many as soon as they find out they are pregnant, I question, if we, as a culture, are ready for more creative parenting when it comes to finding out the sex of our babes and gender roles?
The facts are that women still earn roughly 20% less than men across the board in the U.S. and this number increases significantly for women of color and in high paying jobs. 1 in 3 women in the U.S. have experienced physical abuse from their intimate partners.
The facts are that trans and non-gender conforming kids often grow up with very poor mental health outcomes and 48% of trans young people had attempted suicide and 80% reported self-harming.
When I look at the stats and take time to reflect on the gender norms I grew up with it feels really clear to me that actively participating in strengthening my creativity around how I want to parent is an incredibly important responsibility. A few of the things that Nic and I are doing to take action in this direction is that he is going to stay home with me for the first few months postpartum and we have agreed that when I am ready to go back to work we will both work part time so as to spend half our time with the babe and half at work. Of course this is all subject to change depending on how the birth goes, etc. but the point is we are already engaged in these types of discussions to create a more dynamic, gender fluid environment for our little one.
“The gender binary must not simply be smudged but wholly eradicated from the moment that socialisation begins, clearing the way both for their child’s future gender exploration and for wholesale cultural change”. – Alex Morris
When I think about common phrases I’ve heard over the years (especially in the south where I grew up) like ‘I don’t want to raise a sissy boy’ or ‘girls don’t know how to do math’ I think about how much space I want to hold for this little one to express who they are without all of these intense cultural imprints. And I know so much will happen that is out of my control. I also know that it is my responsibility along with Nics to establish a safe environment for them to explore who they are.
Boys can be soft. Girls can be tough. And everything in between. Spend time with any kid and you will experience how intelligent, creative, and curious they are about life. Shouldn’t our role as parents be to simply let them be kids? When I think about this babe growing inside of me who will be earth side in the coming weeks I am giddy with excitement to get to know them. I can’t wait to learn what they like, don’t like, what they are interested in, how they love. I want to look at them without a predetermined lens of a specific gender role, and see them instead as the beautiful, open, and inquisitive explorer that they are.
Imagine a world where children felt as free to explore their gender expressions as they do their future career choices?
That is a world I want to help create.
I want to really see them for who they are.
Photo x @mariellevchua + @paigegeffen