5 years ago, Facebook added a list of 58 gender options users could chose from when creating their profiles and/or the profiles of their newborn children. Among them was “genderqueer”, “transmasculine”, and “Two-Spirit.”
But thanks to an emerging trend among people who are raising their young children as “gender-neutral”, Facebook may need to add another gender type to their list: “Theyby.”
Tampa’s WTSP did a feature report this month on a Florida couple who have chosen this option for their 1-year-old child:
Instead of “boy” or “girl”, gender neutral babies are known as “theybies”. “Theybies” refer to babies without a known sex.
This parenting philosophy means only the parents and trusted caregivers know the baby’s anatomy. They believe the gender part comes later and is left up to the child. Ari Dennis is one of those parents.
“We did not assign a sex at birth which means when they were born, they had genitals, we know what they are, we just chose to acknowledge that those genitals don’t indicate anything about gender,” Dennis said.
NBC News examined the “theyby” style of raising children in a piece from last summer. One of the really bizarre things to learn about the “theyby” style is that not even the children themselves know their sex:
Parents in the U.S. are increasingly raising children outside traditional gender norms — allowing boys and girls to play with the same toys and wear the same clothes — though experts say this is happening mostly in progressive, well-to-do enclaves. But what makes this “gender-open” style of parenting stand out, and even controversial in some circles, is that the parents do not reveal the sex of their children to anyone. Even the children, who are aware of their own body parts and how they may differ from others, are not taught to associate those body parts with being a boy or girl. If no one knows a child’s sex, these parents theorize, the child can’t be pigeonholed into gender stereotypes.
And as to the way gender is explained to them when the children get older and have questions? Nate and Julia Sharpe, featured in the NBC piece, answer:
Kadyn and Zyler still have little understanding of gender, according to their parents, but have started to pick up on it. One day recently, Zyler asked Julia what “she” and “he” mean.
“Since we’ve tried to avoid really getting into gender until they’re old enough to understand it, I answered that ‘he’ and ‘she’ are pronouns and you use them to make sentences simpler, so instead of saying someone’s name over and over in the sentence, you’ll say ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘they’ instead,” she said, “and Zyler got distracted after that and moved on.”
Oh, that’s totally not going to confuse children. Nope. Not at all.
Author and feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has written extensively about how harmful it is to raise children in any “gender-neutral” capacity. This 2012 piece she wrote for The Atlantic on this issue is a must-read:
[Boys and girls] are different, and nothing short of radical and sustained behavior modification could significantly change their elemental play preferences. Children, with few exceptions, are powerfully drawn to sex-stereotyped play. David Geary, a developmental psychologist at the University of Missouri, told me in an email this week, “One of the largest and most persistent differences between the sexes are children’s play preferences.” The female preference for nurturing play and the male propensity for rough-and-tumble hold cross-culturally and even cross-species (with a few exceptions—female spotted hyenas seem to be at least as aggressive as males). Among our close relatives such as vervet and rhesus monkeys, researchers have found that females play with dolls far more than their brothers, who prefer balls and toy cars. It seems unlikely that the monkeys were indoctrinated by stereotypes in a Top-Toy catalog. Something else is going on.
–Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter.–