Before we’re born, we’re already experiencing gender stereotypes. From blue is for boys to pink is for girls, princesses are for girls and monster trucks are for boys. But what happens if that gets thrown out the window and we give our children the freedom to make their own choices about what they gravitate toward? Enter gender-neutral parenting.
Gender-neutral parenting is a new approach to parenting and, in some cases, it can be controversial. On the furthest end of the spectrum is the Canadian parent, Kori Doty, a non-binary transgender person who identifies as neither male nor female – who’s fighting to omit gender from the child’s birth certificate, aiming to allow the child to discover their own gender.
On the other end of the spectrum is Shannon Walsh from West Sussex who has a two-year-old son Logan. Walsh has chosen to raise Logan without the constraints of gender. But in their family, this doesn’t include eliminating gender pronouns.
Walsh tells Parentology, “We don’t use gender-neutral pronouns as I don’t believe it’s my place to put those on Logan. Gender neutrality isn’t a choice a parent makes for their child, in my opinion. I refer to Logan as my son, he, him, etc, because he was born a male. Until he’s able to tell me otherwise, I will continue this way.”
Gender-neutral parenting isn’t the same as a gender-neutral child, it’s about encouraging a child to discover their own identity by eliminating gender stereotypes when it comes to toys, clothes and behavior. It’s giving children the freedom to make the choices themselves.
Think of it this way, it’s less about preventing your male child from playing with dolls and dressing up like a princess, and more about allowing him to explore both worlds without restrictions.
Walsh explains to Parentology, “Gender-neutral parenting, to us, is raising our son to know that his sex/gender doesn’t define him as a whole person. He’s allowed to be a boy who chooses to wear a dress sometimes, or wear every bright color under the sun, or chooses to have his hair long like his daddy, or play with ponies and dolls, because these things aren’t just for girls. They’re for everyone.”
In the Walsh family’s case, they aren’t raising Logan as gender-neutral so much as they are raising him in a home that refuses to limit his emotions, self-expression, or interests.
Supporters of gender-neutral parenting believe it can help erase sexism and improve human rights, particularly when it comes to gender identity and sexuality. In fact, developmental psychologists believe kids should be able to explore their gender from an early age be it through the toys they play with to the clothes they wear.
Gender-neutral parenting doesn’t need to be controversial. If your son wants to be a princess or your daughter wants to be Luke Skywalker, embrace their choices. Kids need a creative environment to thrive and develop their individuality. Erasing gender labels can help kids discover who they are and who they want to be.
What is Gender-Neutral Parenting: Sources
NY Times: How to Raise a Child Without Imposing Gender