How old is your theyby? 4.5 years.
What do you call how you parent and why? We call It gender open parenting because the idea for us is to not assign a gender but leave it open for them to self-identify when they can. We don’t use the term ‘gender neutral’ because for us that connotes non-gender and we don’t feel that we’re eliminating gender in our kid’s life but actually providing them all the diverse gendered possibilities for them to experience and identify with.
What has been the most surprising thing about parenting this way? For us, it’s been easier than we thought. We’re lucky to live in a pretty progressive community in a pretty progressive city. We’ve had lots of support and any struggles people have had has been around how to get in the habit of using they/them pronouns rather than any refusals to do it.
What advice would you give someone just starting this type of parenting journey? Take the time to educate family and friends as early as possible. Use this website and the resources. Don’t engage in conversations or debate about ‘if’ or ‘why’ you’re raising your kid this way- instead, focus conversations on helping people get on board.
How have strangers reacted when you told them you were doing gender open parenting? Many strangers have responded with “Oh, I know someone who was doing that with her son/daughter!” but when I ask “Oh, you mean they used ‘they’ pronouns from the start?” the person would respond with “Oh no, but they let their son play with dolls/daughter play with trucks”. It showed they didn’t really know what I meant at first or couldn’t get their head around it. I think a lot of people think that gender open parenting is just letting your kid play with whatever toys they want, but gender open parenting goes beyond that.
Greater Vancouver, Canada -
Coast Salish territory
How old are your theybies? 9 (using he pronouns these days), 3.5 (they/them still), and nearly 2.
What do you call how you parent and why? I primarily use "gender autonomous," because it goes along with our overarching parenting philosophy of radically respecting our children's autonomy
What made you decide to parent in this way? For myself, especially as a trans and nonbinary parent, this is the true default. Assigning a gender at birth is by definition a cissexist act.
What advice would you give someone just starting this type of parenting journey? Take seriously the fact that people subconsciously treat children differently right from birth based on what they perceive the child's gender to be. Learn from my mistake: choose wisely who you let in on information about your child's genitals.
How have family and strangers reacted when you told them you were doing gender open parenting? My blood family hasn't been hostile about it at all, but in the beginning they did use the pronouns and gendered language associated with the kids' genitals. It's been a long process but these days they frequently use neutral language and even occasionally (not always!) correct themselves when they slip up.
As for strangers, reactions range from enthusiastic interest, to laughing in my face, to directly and confrontationally insisting on knowing about the kid's genitals.
Do you have an Instagram account you want people to know about? Check out @theybefox
How is your theyby? 7 months.
What do you call how you parent and why? Child led parenting (this applies to everything, not just our choice not to gender them). Only a child can truly understand their own potential. We are of course here to guide them by modeling positive behaviour in a non-judgmental way, helping them to understand what they want to become and how to get there. It’s their life; we’re just a support system.
What made you decide to parent in this way? Cera’s experience as an early years educator led to the belief that children are far more capable than almost all adults give them credit for, and that imposed hierarchies of old over young are both oppressive and often lead to children who don’t think or act for themselves. This hierarchy is starkly manifested in gender, which we’d long understood to be both performative and socially constructed, but it wasn’t until Cera was pregnant and we became familiar with “theybies” that we realised we didn’t stand a chance of avoiding this hierarchy (as much as we possibly could) unless we declined to gender them at birth and give them full agency over their identity for the entirely of their lives.
What has been the most surprising thing about parenting this way? How deeply embedded gendered norms/assumptions are in our own heads, two people who think of themselves as “enlightened.” It’s apparently not easy to simply start behaving one way when you’ve been thinking about something the opposite way for most of your life and society is constantly reinforcing the dominant discourse.
What advice would you give someone just starting this type of parenting journey? Critically examine your motives until you’ve honed the logic and it feels right, then be able to articulate it succinctly to family and friends; talk about it as much as you can with strangers, family and friends; practice not gendering every baby you meet (at least in your head); if you’re like us and don’t come from a queer milieu, submerse yourself in queer thought/literature.
How is your theyby? 3 months.
What do you call how you parent and why? Gender Creative Parenting; letting our baby create themselves as they were meant to be.
What advice would you give someone just starting this type of parenting journey? Stay strong, join FB groups and Insta each other. You aren't alone, we're all in this together
Have you had any funny stories about parenting like this? One day when I was pregnant I had zero energy to explain anything and straight faced told the subway girl I was going to birth a dinosaur. I was adamant. We both got a laugh out of it afterwards and I told her I was a gender creative parent and she said she wanted to Google it after work. :)
How have family/friends/strangers reacted? Thankfully the bulk of people have been slowly understanding and being patient with us. But we have lost several people in the process. Strangers are the worst and I avoid them now as best I can.
Do you have an Instagram account you’d like people to know about? Check out @bluesparrowfamily
Anything else you’d like to share? Theyby parenting changed my life for the better.