British parents Jake England-Johns and Hobbit Humphrey are raising their child Anoush as gender-neutral without revealing the child’s sex to other close relatives.
The parents refer to their 17-month-old baby as “they” instead of “him” or “her”, and dress their child in gender-neutral clothing. Their parenting style attempts to “mitigate the gender bias that society places on children,” as told to BBC.
The parents want Anoush to “grow into their own person” and choose their gender identity once they are old enough. “The neutral in gender neutral refers to us trying to behave neutrally towards our child rather than trying to make them neutral,” England-Johns was quoted as saying.
Among the few parents who are raising their kids as gender-neutral are also celebrities like Kate Hudson and Pink. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have also reportedly taken a “fluid” approach to gender for their baby Archie.
A study by Efren Perez, University of California, and Margit Tavits at Washington University, concluded that using gender-neutral pronoun reduces mental biases favouring men and improves sensitivity towards LGBT people.
This also explains Merriam Webster’s recent announcement about including “they” as a singular pronoun to their dictionary for gender non-binary people. Traditionalists, however, have reportedly argued that using “they” as a singular pronoun is grammatically incorrect.
But how does a gender-neutral child survive the otherwise gendered structure of institutions? That’s a question troubling some parents, who fear their child might have to battle additional challenges for being “different” from others and may be bullied for the same. Parent blogger Natasha Mahtani, for instance, writes in an article, “…let’s be honest, unless you’re willing to keep your child cocooned at home or only surrounded by people living the same ethos as you, your child is going to be subjected to everyone else’s idea of gender…It’s all about balance and allowing our children to find their feet. Not disassociating them with who they really are.”
England-Johns also shared how people reacted to their decision. He recalled, “I don’t think people really took us seriously initially because what you say you’re going to do when you’re pregnant can often be very different later when you are faced with bringing up a crying, screaming baby. But over a year in, it’s clear that we are serious and gradually people have got used to it. Although, that still doesn’t stop some pretty confused looks from old ladies in the park when they come up to us and ask if they’re a boy or a girl. It can take a bit of explaining.”
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