By Talia Porter
Looking back at your childhood, what are some of your earliest memories? Are they playing with pink or blue toys? What about dressing in flowers or car patterns? Were you described as daddy or mommy’s princess or were you their rascal?
Our first memories often have an impact on us and can determine the ways in which we view ourselves now. This is why many parents (famous and not) are opting to raise their children without assigning them a gender. Many have heard that in February, Elon Musk and Grimes announced that they would be raising their child without a gender.
Musk and Grimes are joining many parents in discovering how to raise a child outside of the gender binary and giving each child the opportunity to choose the ways in which they wish to identify. In the United States, there are only six states (California, Colorado, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington), and the cities of New York and Washington, D.C., where parents have a third option for gender on the child’s birth certificate, though there are no third-gender options for other legal documents. Luckily for the Musk/Grimes household, Grimes gave birth to X Æ A-12 in California, so their child’s gender or lack thereof can be reflected on their birth certificate.
Having the option to put “x” on a birth certificate and other legal documents, as opposed to only “f” or “m,” is incredibly important. While it’s major for parents wanting to break down stereotypes, it’s also crucial that parents of intersex children (Intersex is an umbrella term that describes bodies that fall outside the strict male/female binary) have the option to discuss their views on whether they want their child’s gender to play a role in their life.
According to a study done by The Endocrine Society, approximately 1 out of every 1,000 babies are born with intersex traits, meaning that gendering your child at birth is often a more complicated discussion than the gender binary often suggests and being forced to make that choice immediately following the child’s birth can be stressful for all parties involved. This choice can become especially complicated as the child grows and develops, considering that most children only begin to conceptualize gender and femininity versus masculinity at age four.
As a member and an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, I know many people who have questioned their gender identity, regardless of physical characteristics. I have completely reevaluated how I view gender as I’ve grown and learned about gender dysphoria, what it means to be transgender, and how my life has been influenced from my first experiences with gender. I am a cis-gendered female who grew up with four cis-gendered brothers, so I’ve always seen the difference in how men and women are raised. I often question how I would interact with my gender if I hadn’t had pink bedrooms and done eight years of ballet. From what I’ve seen, everyone could benefit from understanding their gender more, which is why parents raising their children outside of the gender binary is important – so that kids are more free to interact with the ideas surrounding the gender spectrum at a young age.
While there has been a large amount of support for parents trying to have their children’s identities validated by the government, there has also been backlash from those who are concerned about bullying and integration into modern society. A survey conducted in 2015 found that over 95 percent of LGBTQ+ youth ages 13 to 21 heard negative comments about not acting “masculine” or “feminine” enough and 20 to 25 percent of elementary school students have seen a gender non-conforming classmate getting bullied. These statistics are not outliers when looking at discrimination against the gender non-conforming community and the trangender community, so as a parent the responsibility to protect one’s kids from this could be overwhelming.
So, maybe as our world shifts towards a society that is more critical of the concepts of gender and gender roles, households with a larger spectrum of genders will become more common.