gender

Gender Creative Parenting – by Rachel Jordan

As you’re standing in line at the store, someone approaches you with the question, “Do you know what it is going to be yet?” as they stare at your pregnant belly. The individual is looking for the answer of whether you’re going to be having a boy or girl but, with a new aspect of parenting emerging, parents are participating in a new practice of raising their children outside of typical gender roles called gender creative parenting. By allowing your child to be gender creative, you’re allowing them to express themselves freely, and without judgement. The surrounding idea is that this will help children as they grow up to feel fully supported in their own gender expression, rather than the stereotypes that are placed upon them at birth. Essentially, gender creative parenting means granting children full autonomy to decide what they like and dislike, with no regard to labels such as “boy” or “girl.”

With its growing popularity thanks to social media outlets such as Tik-Tok and Instagram, gender creative parenting has become more and more of a normalize parenting technique. Dr. Christina Spears Brown, a developmental psychologist and author defines gender creative parenting as, “throwing gender stereotypes out the window and focusing on your kids’ unique characteristics.” Using the labeling theory of sociology where it focuses on ways in which aspects of social control attach stigmatizing stereotypes to particular groups, and the ways in which the stigmatized change their behavior once labeled, placing gender labels on children at such a young age can cause confusion with their self-identity and gender roles when they grow up. Ways in which labels are placed on children at a young age involve the types of clothing they wear, to the types of toys they play with. A simple trip to the department store’s boys’ and girls’ section is a great learning opportunity for parents wanting to expand into more of a gender creative parenting role. Brown recommends with younger children, that it is important to be mindful of having a wide variety of toys that can focus on positive traits, such as building creativity or athleticism. Dolls in particular are a great example because they can teach nurturing as well as caring at a young age. By helping children become more in touch with the fact that the binary world that they see is not their only option, we are allowing them to navigate their way their life on their own terms, rather than placing them into it without a choice.

Though it is not a requirement, parents are choosing to not reveal the sex or assign a gender as a way of practicing gender creative parenting. A big step for families to take is creating a safe and supporting environment for them by getting all friends and family on board with their way of parenting, even though it might not be the way others choose to do so. Dr. Kyl Myers and her partner Brent share their story with their son Zoomer whom they decided to raise without assigning a gender to them. While the family didn’t disclose their reproductive anatomy to those who didn’t need to know, the family decided to use the gender-neutral personal pronouns they, them and their until Zoomer was able to disclose what pronouns fit him best. The family taught Zoomer about the body, gender, identity and expression in an expansive and inclusive way so that they could hold a space for the possibility that Zoomer could be inter-sex, non-binary or transgender. The family committed themselves from protecting Zoomer from experiencing sexism in an early childhood by allowing him to wear all the clothes, play with all the toys and got to experience a childhood free of gender stereotypes. Around Zoomers forth birthday, he told his family that he was a boy and that he enjoyed the pronouns he/ him, by doing so, Zoomer knows who he is and understands that gender is not binary and that his body doesn’t define his destiny.

With a lot of different parenting styles out there, there is no surprise that gender creative parenting will have its downsides and those who disagree with the way of parenting but, it is important to remember that it is okay to be different and not everyone is going to be on board. It is truly a gift these parents are providing their children; The gift of understanding gender is complex, beautiful, and self-determined. These children are given the opportunity to be who they choose to be and focus on inclusivity so that they have the instinct to make everyone feel welcome in their own shoes. There is nothing wrong with unlimiting yourself and your children from expressing themselves the way they choose to do so; This reflective affirmation of identity leads to an increase of authenticity, self-acceptance and joy, as well as a positive and honest relationship through the family.

 

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

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