What is gender neutral parenting, and why would you do it?
I am raising my children to be “gender neutral”. This is a concept that is often widely scorned, and I think I understand why, but I also think it’s a misunderstanding. I’m not raising my children to be neither a boy nor a girl, I’m raising my children to be who they are regardless of whether they’re a boy or a girl.
I truly believe that the idea that gender is innate is one of the most toxic and insidious ways our society suppresses our children’s natural instincts. It is how the world has tried to force women into the wife and mother role, and convince men they must be emotionless warriors. Gender is a box that we are put in from birth and told to conform to, and if we don’t, then we are wrong. But generations of feminists have helped fight our way out of these boxes, and I will not push my children back inside.
This is why I am a gender neutral parent; because I am raising my children without stereotypes. I am raising them to be free of societies expectations that girls must be feminine and pretty, like dollies and flowers, and be meek and mild. I am raising them to be free of the idea that boys must be tough and sporty and never cry. I am raising them to be free.
Recently, Matt Walsh wrote on Twitter that his six year old boy and six year old girl are evidence that “gender” is innate. I strongly disagreed.
Aside from the fact he’s using the example of two children to try and represent the entirety of society, and how flawed this is as a manner of providing evidence, it’s simply not true that this is the behaviour of all children, because it’s not true of mine.
My daughter and step son are also six. They’ve been raised together since infancy. And they are not stereotypes, they are humans. Sometimes my daughter likes to play with dolls or dress up as a fairy, sometimes she likes to run and climb and wrestle. Sometimes my step son likes to make fart jokes and pretend to be a soldier, sometimes he likes to wear a dress and sing. Sometimes they like to make mud pies, sometimes they like to draw, sometimes they like to read, sometimes they like to dance.
My children are not stereotypes. My children are human. My children are free.
Yet I have watched people try to force them into the gender boxes their whole lives.
When my uncle met my daughter for the first time he was bemused as to why I’d put my baby girl in a blue outfit.
“I thought you were having a girl?”
“She is a girl.”
“But she’s wearing blue.”
“Doesn’t mean she’s got a penis.”
And this is how the world tries to box children in from the moment they’re born. Because a girl in a blue baby grow is somehow wrong. And if you can be “wrong” because you’re wearing the wrong colour when you don’t even know what blue is, imagine how “wrong” you can be when you’re a little boy who picks out a doll or a little girl who wants to play with trains. Imagine how “wrong” you will feel when you become aware of the judgment.
Growing up feeling “wrong” is what we do to children when we convince them that gender is innate to their sex. That their personality should match their body. Because almost all of us are bigger than the boxes we are forced into. Because humans are diverse and interesting, and gender boxes are not.
My children will not grow up feeling “wrong” because they are free to wear and play with whatever they want. Because my children are not “wrong.” Trying to force them to conform to gender stereotypes is wrong.
Gender neutral parenting is not about denying biological sex, it’s not about dressing children in beige, nor about stopping them enjoying gender stereotypical toys should they want to. It’s about taking the box that says they HAVE to conform, and smashing it. It’s about recognising that children are more than your stereotypes. It’s about raising them to feel safe and confident enough to express the truth of themselves regardless of their sex, because their sex does not define their personality.
I am a gender neutral parent, and my children do not care about your stereotypes. And neither do I.