In traditional parenting, most of us assign whatever binary gender matches the child’s biological sex when they are born. We then raise them based on gender norms predetermined by society. This parenting duo decided to use gender-creative parenting when raising their child. This method’s main value is that children raised without gender will be more self-assured and more comfortable in their own skin. Five years later, this is how it’s going. (1)
Zoomer: The Child Raised Without Gender
Dr. Kyl Myers and her partner Brent are the proud parents of a five-year-old child named Zoomer. Five years ago, when Kyl was pregnant, they decided that they wanted their child to be raised without gender. Known as “gender creative parenting,” this parenting style allows the child to decide their own identity for themselves over time. (1)
They allowed Zoomer to choose whatever clothes and toys they wanted, not paying attention to the “girls” and “boys” sections. They could participate in whatever activities they wanted to and watch whatever children’s movies and shows they wished, regardless of whether it was “girly” or “for boys.” (1)
Pronouns and Bullying
The couple raised Zoomer using “they,” “them,” and “their.” They were warned that their child would be bullied in school and have trouble making friends, but they found this wasn’t the case. Zoomer has always been well-liked by teachers and preschool classmates alike. (1)
“Curious kids would ask Zoomer, “Are you a boy or a girl?” and three-year-old Zoomer would confidently respond, “I’m a person”,” wrote Myers. “The inquiring child would casually shrug their shoulders, satisfied with the answer and carry on colouring.” (1)
Every year on Zoomer’s birthday, they do what they call a “pronoun check.” Simply, they ask Zoomer what pronouns they are liking or feeling connected to at that time. On Zoomer’s fourth birthday, Zoomer smiled and answered, “I love he/him!”. Sometimes Zoomer will call himself a boy, but Myers says he prefers the gender-neutral term “kid.” (1)
Of course, Myers and her family have received many nasty messages and emails, and even letters to their places of work, about how they are terrible and deserve to go to hell for how they are raising their child. The thing is, they are not the only family choosing to raise their children this way. In fact, many families are now. (1)
Firstly, many parents choose this method because they believe that a child should be able to decide what they identify with best, rather than having it decided for them. Second, raising them this way goes against harmful gender norms. (1)
“Many people treat boys and girls very differently, and that treatment has lifelong repercussions. For example, boys’ emotions are often stifled in childhood, which leads to men not knowing how to ask for mental health support. Girls are sexualized from a young age, and if they are harassed or hit by a boy in school, adults often tell girls, “He must like you,” instead of putting a stop to boys’ behavior.” she wrote. (1)
Myers says generally, people’s first reaction is confusion, surprise, or even fear. She understands that this is a foreign concept and is not something that everyone is comfortable with. Even if they don’t necessarily want to raise their children this way themselves, many people do agree with the reasons why it is better. (1)
How To Do Gender Creative Parenting
Practicing gender parenting when you, yourself, were raised under traditional gender norms. The best practice for this parenting style is to allow your child to take the lead without allowing your own gender identity or ideas to get in the way. (2)
You can start by doing what Myers and her partner did, using gender-neutral pronouns while periodically checking in with the child to see what they felt comfortable with. Recognize that even if our child “picks” a gender, you should continue to check in with them if they change their minds. (2)
Next, don’t allow gender stereotypes to get in the way of their choices. Frilly socks, basketball shorts, pink, blue ball caps, and skirts are on the table regardless of what anatomy they were born with. On that topic, you may get asked, “well, what anatomy/parts were they born with?”. Remember: You do not have to disclose your child’s physical body parts or biological sex to anyone. It is not up to them to decide how your child should be treated based on that. (2)
Be Prepared For Criticism
As Myers said, you have to be ready to face many questions and a lot more criticisms. People are afraid of what they don’t understand or what isn’t normal to them. Please do your best to remain calm, educate them on gender-creative parenting, and ignore any hateful or malicious messages.
You also don’t have to raise your child without gender. It doesn’t make you a bad parent either way. If your child gets older and decides for themselves that they do not identify with the gender that you assigned to them, your job is to love and support them, no matter who they decide they are.
Lastly, make sure you find support groups both for yourself and for your child. Educate yourself as much as possible. Send messages to other people practicing gender-creative parenting and ask as many questions as you can. At the end of the day, it is about supporting your child to become the person they know themselves to be and not who society tells them they should be. Love them through every phase and transition, and they will grow up to be an incredibly open, loving, and accepting person.