The First Question
“Do you want a boy or a girl?” I heard one of our friends ask my husband, Brent, after finding out we were 5 weeks pregnant. Ten feet away, in my feigned ignorance, I continued looking away from them but was listening harder than I’ve ever listened.
After a short pause, Brent responded, “I really don’t mind.” I felt myself breathe a little easier and relax a little more. Brent didn’t have to explain our parenting style just yet. But he would soon.
“What are you having?” is the most common question people ask after discovering someone is pregnant. We quickly learned that responding, “a baby,” wasn’t going to work for very long. People would tell us we were brave, or crazy, or patient for deciding to be surprised. They would tell us that when they were expecting a baby they had to know so that they could prepare.
Zoomer will learn to see gender for what it actually is – constructed, mostly unnecessary, and sometimes harmful.
A lot of the time, people do have a preference for what sex their child is. Sometimes, people who are not the parents even have a preference. Many people prefer one sex over the other so much that they will go to lengths such as using technology and methods to conceive a specific sex and others will terminate a pregnancy if the fetus is not the sex they desire. Because of advancements with ultrasounds and blood testing, expectant parents can discover the sex of the fetus fairly early in the pregnancy. Aside from the general health of the fetus, knowing the sex of one’s future kid is quite possibly the most important thing many parents want to know.
For many people who believe sex and gender are the same thing, knowing the sex helps parents-to-be answer the following questions:
1. What will we name the baby?
2. What color will we paint the baby’s room?
3. What clothing, toys and equipment will we buy for the baby?
4. How do I categorize their generic kicking of my ribs in the night – ninja or dancer?
5. What type of future can we envision for this child?
For us, knowing Zoomer's sex didn’t help us answer any of those questions.
1. We knew we would name the baby Zoomer, regardless of their sex. We actually decided on the name Zoomer Coyote about a year before we conceived them.
2. We weren’t painting anything - A) we’re renters; B) we like neutral colors anyway; C) I’ve never painted a wall in my life and wasn’t about to start.
3. We bought and will continue to buy the cutest gender-creative clothes and products for Z until they can make fashion and toy decisions for themselves.
4. A fetus's genitals are not correlated with its kicking style or frequency. Z moved very little, I felt like I was gestating a hibernating bear cub.
5. We knew that Zoomer’s sex would not predict their future interests, career path, sexual orientation, or personality – and we were simply along for the ride that would be Z showing us who they are.
Gendering a baby is the mainstream thing to do and most people never think twice about it. Brent and I completely respect parents who decide to assign a gender to their child, just like we completely respect parents who decide to not assign a gender to their child.
Because Brent and I are so aware of rampant gender inequality in the world, not assigning a gender or revealing Zoomer’s sex to the public was a fairly easy decision. We want Z to have as much time as possible to just be a kid - without being treated differently based on their sex.
However, not everyone sees things the way we do (as to be expected) so we have a lot of explaining to do to help people understand why we are raising Zoomer this way. Although, to turn the tables, how often has anyone had to explain why they raise their child according to traditional gender roles and norms, even though we know gender inequalities are very real?
It must be said, that the closer someone is to us – family, friends, and coworkers in particular – the more we care about helping them understand how and why we parent this way and ensuring they don’t feel outrageously uncomfortable or worse, decide to distance themselves from us. Raising Zoomer will not be easy – raising any child isn’t easy. Brent and I have taken on the added burden of creating, explaining and defending our parenting philosophy.
Brent and I have both thought about and discussed ‘gender preferences’ we may have for Zoomer. While Z’s sex is already determined and we will be thrilled with whoever they are – our concerns revolve mostly around broad gender inequality facts. For example, if Z is female, they will be at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted in their lifetime. If Z is male, they will be at a higher risk of committing suicide. These are risks that are associated with gender, risks we wish every child and adult lived without.
Our preference for Zoomer’s gender is that they get to pick it and be creative with it. They will be exposed to gender and taught about gender. Zoomer will learn to see gender for what it actually is – constructed, mostly unnecessary, and sometimes harmful. Our bonus hope is that you may learn this too.