One way of shielding children from gender stereotypes: Keep their biological sex secret

One way of shielding children from gender stereotypes: Keep their biological sex secret. By Julie Compton.

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. A Facebook community for these parents currently claims about 220 members across the U.S.

“A theyby is, I think, different things to different people,” Nate Sharpe told NBC News. “For us, it means raising our kids with gender-neutral pronouns — so, ‘they,’ ‘them,’ ‘their,’ rather than assigning ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘him,’ ‘her’ from birth based on their anatomy.”

Parents in the U.S. are increasingly raising children outside traditional gender norms — allowing boys and girls to play with the same toys and wear the same clothes — though experts say this is happening mostly in progressive, well-to-do enclaves. But what makes this “gender-open” style of parenting stand out, and even controversial in some circles, is that the parents do not reveal the sex of their children to anyone.

Even the children, who are aware of their own body parts and how they may differ from others, are not taught to associate those body parts with being a boy or girl. If no one knows a child’s sex, these parents theorize, the child can’t be pigeonholed into gender stereotypes. …

A family with twin theybies:

At first, Nate didn’t understand why Julia wanted to wait to find out the babies’ sex. … When the Sharpes arrived at the hospital for the delivery, they asked the staff not to announce the twins’ sex. Even after the newborns were put in their arms, their anatomy remained a mystery for several hours. …

Family, friends and day care workers struggle with they/them pronouns, and not everyone understands the Sharpes’ decision to keep the children’s sex private. …

Kadyn and Zyler still have little understanding of gender, according to their parents, but have started to pick up on it. One day recently, Zyler asked Julia what “she” and “he” mean.

“Since we’ve tried to avoid really getting into gender until they’re old enough to understand it, I answered that ‘he’ and ‘she’ are pronouns and you use them to make sentences simpler, so instead of saying someone’s name over and over in the sentence, you’ll say ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘they’ instead,” she said, “and Zyler got distracted after that and moved on.” …

So few parents are raising “theybies” that there is no research yet on how this type of parenting affects children. Anecdotally, many children raised this way come to their own conclusion about their gender around age 4, just like their peers.

The psychiatrists of 2040 are rubbing their hands in glee.