According to NBC News, there’s a new trend in Millennial parenting: raising “they-bies,” or children who aren’t identified with either gender until they are old enough to “choose” their gender for themselves.
The idea is to shield children from “harmful” “gender stereotypes” that hardwire them to be either super-feminine or toxically male. They-bies are encouraged to dress how they feel, play with gender-neutral toys, and ask to be referred to with gender-neutral pronouns like, “they,” “them,” “their,” and “it.”
It’s still pretty rare, NBC News claims; only around 220 families — mostly upper-class, white, and progressive — are so committed to raising their children “gender neutral” that they’ve joined a Facebook support group. But the ones who are committed are really committed.
“Is Zyler a boy or a girl? How about Kadyn? That’s a question their parents, Nate and Julia Sharpe, say only the twins can decide. The Cambridge, Mass., couple represent a small group of parents raising ‘theybies’ — children being brought up without gender designation from birth,” NBC News reports.
The answer is clear: Zyler and Kadyn, who are twins, each have a biological gender, but that gender is kept secret from friends and relatives, and even from the kids themselves (though potty training seems like it might require an in-depth conversation). The theory is that the less they-bies know about their gender, the less likely they are to be “pigeon-holed” into a gender binary.
Not everyone thinks raising they-bies is a good idea, after all, much of the world isn’t woke enough to lack “gendering,” and raising a gender-neutral child could set that child on a path to confusion and bullying.
“Once your child meets the outer world, which may be day care, or preschool, or grandparents — it’s pretty much impossible to maintain a gender-free state,” one professor told NBC. “And depending on how conventional your community is, you could be setting your child up for bullying or exclusion.”
The they-bies’ parents NBC spoke to say they’re okay with that, because they’d prefer their child to be bullied than to be a bully, and they believe forcing a child into a gender is much more “coercive” than name-calling.
Gender-neutral parenting might be useful for teaching acceptance and counteracting gender dysphoria in transgender individuals, some scholars say, or to erase unconscious gendering that might come with typical parenting (like teaching girls emotions earlier, and teaching boys numbers faster). But most gender-neutral children end up identifying with one gender or the other, since while gender differences are almost completely absent at birth, they become ever more evident as a child grows.
Only 0.06% of the world’s population is authentically transgender, and woke parents who might want a more “progressive” bona fide — having a trans-gender or gender-neutral child — won’t get it simply by raising a child without gender roles.