What defines a person’s gender is not black-and-white. Scientists now understand that gender identity exists on a spectrum that many factors influence outside of X or Y chromosomes. As a result, some people’s sense of who they are doesn’t match what’s on their birth certificate, causing considerable distress.
What can parents do to help enforce a positive gender identity in their children? Here’s an overview of why you should embrace gender creative parenting and ideas for getting started.
What Is Gender-Creative Parenting and Why Embrace It?
Scientifically enlightened parents understand that it’s impossible to identify a baby’s gender identity at birth. External genital exams and even DNA testing can prove inadequate.
However, society exacts a toll on those who don’t conform to artificial standards of how they “should” act. Someone assigned a male gender at birth who in all ways feels female often endures bullying and other hurdles, even struggling with bathroom access at times.
As a result, some parents choose to try to raise their children without assigning a gender role at birth. Indeed, Canada recently issued a health card without requiring a gender assignment, a first for a government not requiring such a designation at birth.
Switching the practice of assigning gender at birth and letting children develop independent identities free from forced societal roles can save lives. Over half of all transgender male teens attempt suicide, and nearly a third of transgender female adolescents report the same — far outpacing rates among their cisgendered peers.
Creative gender parenting assures your children that no matter what, you love and support them. It provides the bulwark they need to withstand a sometimes hostile world.
6 Ideas for Embracing Gender Creative Parenting
Given the perks of gender creative parenting, you might want to embrace these ideals. Here are six ideas to get you started.
1. Seek “Gender Reveal” Alternatives
Managing other people’s expectations about how you choose to raise your children starts before birth. What’s the point in a gender reveal party if you won’t know for several years what identity your child would choose?
You can still throw a party, but replace your motif with rainbows. Other ideas include building your theme around pop culture or having a name reveal party. Of course, it helps if you choose a gender-neutral moniker for your baby.
2. Look for Gender Neutral Stores
Going shopping shouldn’t be a gendered experience — but it often is. Who among the over 20 crowd hasn’t witnessed nearly color-coded toy shelves with Barbie-doll pink on one side and Tonka yellow on the other?
California recently passed a law requiring gender-neutral areas in certain stores. However, you don’t have to reap in that state to patronize retailers who value inclusivity. Many gender-neutral retailers also go the extra sustainability mile, letting you feel all-around good about your purchases.
3. Embrace Take Your Child to Work Day
When Take Your Child to Work Day rolls around, don’t automatically assume that daughters go with their mothers and sons their fathers. Instead, give equal access to hard hats or nurseries, depending on your child’s preferences.
The same comes when it’s time for career exploration at school. Gender parity remains an issue in STEM fields. Embracing gender creative parenting could encourage more females to enter the field, especially if you include supplemental activities to fan their interest, like family “field trips” to the nearest science center.
4. Let Your Kids Pick Their Toys
Even if big box retailers in your area insist on the girls on one side, boys on the other model of product placement, your kids aren’t confined to certain aisles. Let your child gravitate toward toys that pique their interest regardless of how they’re marketed.
You might have more trouble enforcing this idea with relatives than you do following it yourself. Some folks might struggle to embrace the idea no matter what you do — you may never convince a certain grandparent to buy your son a doll. In such cases, suggesting a desired gender-neutral toy such as a video or board game as a gift might ease disappointments on both sides.
5. Teach Them Essential Skills
If you embrace no other aspect of gender creative parenting, please toss the stereotype that girls must learn to cook and do laundry while boys build birdhouses in the backyard. Tires and radiators don’t only blow when a male hand drives the steering wheel, and everyone should know how to feed and clothe themselves.
Therefore, teach your children essential skills irrespective of gender. Think of how much more prepared you would have been for adulthood if your folks taught you how to change the oil yourself or time the various Thanksgiving dishes perfectly. Do so for your kids.
6. Support Their Gender Identity
Children develop their gender identity over time. Most toddlers can label themselves as boys or girls by age three and have a firm sense of their identity by age four. By six, they start choosing their sports and leisure activities along gender lines. It’s crucial for parents to offer multiple options during this time and avoid influencing their children in one direction or another.
If your child’s identity doesn’t conform with what’s shown on their birth certificate, they will need your love and support most of all. Please listen to their experiences and concerns about bullying, making the best choices in terms of school placement to help them thrive in the most supportive environment possible.
Gender Creative Parenting Ideas
Gender creative parenting entails abandoning traditional roles and instead letting your child’s identity reveal itself over time. Science shows that a person’s sex depends on multiple factors, not only the shape of their genitalia or genetic makeup.
Allowing your child to determine this part of their destiny inspires a sense of agency and gives them the courage to be themselves in what can be a misunderstanding world. Implement the six gender creative parenting ideas above to help your little one thrive.