Thanks to NBC News and others, a new word entered the lexicon in recent days – theybies.
Theybies are children whose parents do not tell them whether they are boys or girls and wait for the children to reach an age where they can decide which gender to identify with.
“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.”
“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.”
The story mentions a blog, Raising Zoomer, by parents of a 2-year-old who is being raised in this way. The blog features headlines such as “Gender Creative Hair Photo Shoot!” “Navigating Sex, Gender, & Formal Documents,” and “100 Gender Creative Playgroups.”
It also reports that a Facebook group of parents with theybies numbers about 220.
NBC News also produced a video report on Nathan and Julia Sharpe of Cambridge, Mass., who are raising their fraternal twins – Zyler and Kadyn – as theybies.
“Are we a normal family?” asked the father. “In many ways, we hit the normal stereotypes. We’re raising them with gender-neutral pronouns. They can decide if, when and how they want to identify as a gender.”
The mother said she knows “the sex or gender is important to other people partly because of the social script. They don’t notice that they are any different from any other children. They have no idea some children are he and some children are she. They’re all children; they don’t notice any difference from the other children.”
Scientists say children know their gender and all its implications by age 10.
“Some developmental experts see gender-open parenting as a noble goal, but they also wonder how it will hold up once kids enter a gendered world that can be hostile to those who don’t fit clearly into categories,” NBC News wrote in one of its two pieces on theybies to appear in the last five days. “Gender-nonconforming children are more likely to be buillied.”
It quotes Lise Eliot, professor of neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School and author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain: “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. And depending on how conventional your community is, you could be setting your child up for bullying or exclusion.”
The parents maintain it’s better to shield kids from knowing their gender until the children decide whether they want to be boys, girls or something different.
“A lot of young girls are told don’t get dirty, that’s not safe, be careful,” said Julia Sharpe on the video report. “They grow up to think they are not capable of doing all these things. Young boys are told ‘Oh, don’t cry. You’re OK. Be strong. Then they’re not comfortable having emotions, which can cause a lot of problems.’”
The father said he and his wife are as concerned about the day their children ask about gender as most parents are the day their children ask about where babies come from.
Finally, the piece quotes Christia Spears Brown, author of Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: “There is research that shows when you use gender binaries in our language – when we say good morning boys and girls or when we just say to our kids, ‘Come on girls. What a smart boy you are’ … using gender to sort and categorize kids, we do know that it increases gender stereotypes.”