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Raising Gender-Neutral Children
July 30, 2019
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
-Maya Angelou
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"Three-year-old twins Zyler and Kadyn Sharpe scurried around the boys and girls clothing racks of a narrow consignment store filled with toys. Zyler, wearing rainbow leggings, scrutinized a pair of hot-pink-and-purple sneakers. Kadyn, in a T-Rex shirt, fixated on a musical cube that flashed colorful lights. At a glance, the only discernible difference between these fraternal twins is their hair — Zyler’s is brown and Kadyn’s is blond." So begins an article on the NBC News website about parents choosing to raise gender-neutral children.

"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.'"

And, in an article found in the Exchange Essentials collection, "Anti-Bias Education," Louise Derman Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards outline some anti-bias education goals educators can use to help them ensure each child is supported as a unique and valuable individual:

"(Identity) Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social/group identities.

(Diversity) Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity, accurate language for human differences, and deep, caring human connections.

(Justice) Each child will increasingly recognize unfairness (injustice), have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts.

(Activism) Each child will demonstrate a sense of empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions.

Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010)"

Source: "Boy or girl? Parents raising 'theybies' let kids decide," by Julie Compton, nbcnews.com, July 19, 2018





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Comments (9)

Displaying 5 of 9 Comments   [ View all ]
michelle ventimiglia · August 01, 2019
Pierce college
Woodland Hills, Ca, United States


I really agree that these parents and this article is a little over the top! While I am very positive about an anti-bias curriculum, the physical anatomy of a child is a boy or girl and I believe that it is ok to use that "title". What is not OK is to dictate what a boy or girl can do or not do-what clothes, toys, activities, etc. are only acceptable for one sex or the other. We want to promote gender equity for all children not gender confusion. I've been at this ECE game for over 40 years and have seen many different trends. Hopefully this pendulum will swing back to a more balanced view.

Lea · July 31, 2019
South Carolina, United States


I have read this article twice now and will probably refer to again in the coming days. I have no problem respecting diversity and culture, customs and familial practices and religious traditions. I am inclusive and I suspect that the vast majority of educators who will comment on this post are also inclusive because we respect families and children. I can see why some parents might feel this is the answer philosophically. I do understand and can appreciate it was born out of a well-meaning effort and passionate conviction to protect their children. However, it concerns me greatly that in our well-meaning effort to be unbiased towards gender has resulted in a movement as deep and serious as this. I feel that as an adult, educator, parent of two adult children. I am intelligent enough, emotionally mature enough to guide children in a non-biased way while in my care and to partner with parents in my program to be supportive. This approach, during the most formative years in early childhood could potentially contribute to self image and self esteem issues and create gender confusion as well. it will still not solve the problem of acceptance or how to approach a situation when a child or young person or adult decides to move into a transgender life or to come out. I have no doubt that parents who are practicing this philosophical belief feel within themselves they are creating an unbiased, safe approach to keep others from gender typing.(and being bullied or singled out). I feel that from what we know (through research and observation) about children and development this is one more approach that might still miss the mark and result in confusion as well. We need to equip our children with the emotional tools so they grow up to be healthy adults. Girls need to affirmed by FAMILY. Boys need to be affirmed by FAMILY. CHILDREN need to be affirmed by Family and other adults in their lives, throughout their lives. Those of us who are already supposed to be adults need to be HEALTHY adults.
We already have children who are confused about gender, this is why they are struggling and sometimes feel they do not know who to go to to confide in or express their feelings,tell their story or share their "wonderings". We already have young people who are searching for affirmation! We have suicide among teens, tweens, transgender populations. They have no hope. This is why they commit suicide. They are convinced there is no hope. We are the adults that are supposed to be there to help them and to give them hope. We already have issues with bullying in schools. We already have children who feel they must change to be accepted.

Gender is important part of development. A healthy outlook, self-image, self acceptance, being proud of who you are, whom you see in the mirror starts with how w e(adults) affirm our children, whether they are female or male. We may need to go back and reexamine how we might still be stereotyping children in roles that have been thought of as "girl roles" vs. "boy roles".

Finally, if/when we do notice one of our children is struggling with their gender, we can assist, guide and help accordingly out of compassion and love. We can be supportive to the parent providing them with resources. Instead of reinventing gender and childhood, let us add an additional area of affirmation and as we see a child begin to have questions, make comments, express certain feelings, then we learn how to help them through it all. Isn't life like that anyway? We struggle, we learn, we grow and then learn how to move through it all with the support of family and friends. We offer hope.
I am not angry or sad about this article, but concerned that we might be going too far in the effort to correct something that may not really need to be corrected. We just might need to approach it with renewed energy and intentionality. A goal to affirm CHILDREN as they develop into the men and women they are meant to be and to be comfortable in their own mind, soul, body and spirit. This renewed committment is inclusive of children who will have questions and struggle with their gender. This is also inclusive of any child, boy or girl that feels inferior to the other gender or that we observe struggling with "what girls can do vs. what boys can do".
I normally do not take offense about anything much. But just because one is from a rural area does not mean that one does not see or experience forms of diversity. This is a huge misconception that those of us who have been raised in or lived in rural communities have none or very little interaction with diversity. On the contrary, I have lived in rural areas in two different states and both had a vast amount of diversity. The difference between diversity experiences may be how I must approach and earn the trust of families and individuals. Deficits of support, emotional, social, financial or academic exist and are not exclusive to just Hispanic, Native American, African-American, Caucasian or Asian families or any other ethnic or group of people in the "big cities" or in one part of our country or the other. We all have disparity situation among our communities be it city or country.

Catherine M. Lane · July 31, 2019
Plainfield, CT, United States


This article is very disturbing! As parents we are to accept our children for who they are but to think that parents would intentionally create gender confusion for their children is very close to child abuse. A vagina is a girl and a penis is a boy. There is no such thing as "theyby". I would respectfully remind everyone that they, them, and their are plural pronouns and it is absolutely incorrect to use them when referring to a single person. And the word baby is already gender neutral. This philosophy is absolutely ludicrous.

Aretha Lester · July 30, 2019
AJFC Head Start
Natchez, MS, United States


This is crazy! And I laughed not at the children but at adults that say a child is born gender neutral and they can be whatever they decide.

What is on the birth certificates and what is the designation of their physical anatomy? So what is mom or what is dad?

Who becomes pregnant(physically)? What determines male and female? Choice?

Connie Hutson · July 30, 2019
Texas, United States


This is the most ridiculous and disturbing article I have ever read!! Talk about "how to confuse a child in 3 easy steps!!" They are either a BOY or a GIRL!! There is no either or!! If this is EE's new philosophy, I will have to remove my name from their email list. Pathetic!!
I joined in on the anti-bias webinar a while back and was extremely upset that the anti-bias of today is against these gender related issues. I suppose no one cares that there are little children with dark skin being treated unfairly! Or about religious biases. Or the real gender bias between men and women. I guess all the women libbers don't have anything to complain about anymore. I definitely have a lot to complain about on behalf of my children at my schools who are being unfairly treated based on skin color or family dynamics and who will go to sleep tonight hungry if I didn't serve supper to them first!! I am in the trenches trying to help little ones and then I get an email about how we should let them choose whether they want to be a boy or girl. Most of my little ones, just want to know the difference between the letter a and b, red and blue, or how to write their name. These are the issues that little ones should be facing. NOT the ridiculous garbage from this article!!



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