MY FIRST INVITATION TO A GENDER-NEUTRAL ‘THEYBIE’ SHOWER

Last week, my daughter marched into my kitchen and waived an open envelope in front of my face. Assuming that the invitation to her cousin’s baby shower had finally arrived, I stopped to see what she was so excited about.

“She’s having a theybie shower and we’re both invited,” my daughter blurted out her surprising news, unable to wait any longer for me to read the exact wording on the invitation.

Until that very moment, I had never even heard of a ‘theybie shower’. I thought I had misheard what she’d actually said, so after rereading the bright yellow invitation for the third time, I set it down and began quizzing my daughter.

It seems that her cousin and husband had chosen to raise their child in a gender-neutral environment. They would not be announcing the sex of the unborn baby even after birth, thereby, family and friends could not dwell on the child’s biological sex. They were going to allow the child to naturally choose its own gender as it grew and matured in a gender-neutral environment.  

How in the world could a child choose a gender? The penis or the vagina were formed months earlier in the womb. The baby would either be born a boy or a girl, not some Barbie Doll with smooth plastic between its legs instead of genitalia. I really didn’t understand the concept.

This was a trend, a new form of parenting according to my daughter, partially fueled by celebrity interest. She’d already encountered the situation at work after a co-worker had brought her child to the company Christmas party, subsequently announcing that her theybie was named Terry, and should not be addressed as either him or her.

This style of child rearing might be feasible if you live a secluded life, without daycare, preschool, or even neighborhood playgrounds. But in today’s society, our gender is a massive part of our child’s identity. I don’t think you can stand up and explain to every person you encounter that you have a theybie and have chosen a gender-neutral upbringing. It’s just not a realistic view of the world your child will be growing up in.

I do agree that the days of dressing baby girls only in pink, and little boys in blue, has become somewhat antiquated. My own children, who have now reached adulthood, were both raised to play with whatever toys they wanted, and to welcome friendships with both sexes.  

Our son’s childhood temper, or violent play was never excused because he was a rough n’ tumble young boy. In turn, our daughter’s pouting, and subsequent tears were never dismissed just because she was an adorable little girl. Both were raised in a home where they were responsible for their actions no matter if they were boys or girls. However, they did embrace their birth-genders and at no time did I hide their biological sexes.  

Remembering back to the early 80’s when my kids were little, it was already permissible for young girls to run around in jeans, sweatshirts, and basically anything else they wanted to borrow from their brother’s closet. This might have had something to do with their rural upbringing and the occurrence of repeated injuries due to exposed skin. But god help you if your son left the house in a skirt or flowery dress. The poor kid would have been laughed at and ridiculed by other children, and surely neighboring parents.

I don’t agree with stigmatizing children who want to experiment with clothes usually assigned to the other gender, still we must protect our families from being teased and tormented throughout their early years. I’ve stopped my teenage daughter from wearing sexually explicit clothing that would have brought her unwanted attention, just as I would have stopped by son and asked him if he truly wanted to bring down the wrath of the school by wearing one of his sister’s dresses if he had ever shown any interest in doing so.

Admittingly, it’s always seemed as if it’s been a little easier for young girls to dress according to their needs and personal choices, where little boys have had clothing expectations placed on them since the minute they could toddle around a room.

Still, I believe that not assigning the biological gender to a child could be confusing when everyone else in their world identifies as either male or female. Are we teaching our child that they have to prove a gender? Make us believe they are little girls or boys according to the toys they choose or the clothes they prefer?

I still remember the summer my mother decided to save a little money and cut my hair short with some kind of comb/razor contraption she’d bought. For three months I was repeatedly mistaken for her young son in public, and to this day, I find myself unwilling to cut my hair short as the embarrassment of those encounters still resonates with me. But that’s my issue.

A gradually more educated public is slowly coming to terms with the hardships transgender youth have felt, and continue to feel, during their childhoods. But wouldn’t our families be better served if we watched for clues in our children that they were uncomfortable with there biological gender, and then allowed them to experiment with dressing as the other sex? Wouldn’t that be a better idea than not recognizing their birth gender and raising them as some kind of neutral entity?

I truly support the struggle of transgender youth and adults, but I am wondering whether not assigning a birth-gender is creating another problem? Will we be raising a generation of children who feel as if they weren’t worthy of a specific sex? Will they feel unclaimed, and maybe a little cheated in their childhoods?

There is so much for a child to already  figure out with their developing personalities and their changing surroundings. Do they need the added pressure of either choosing or ultimately proving their gender?

Will these very children feel compelled to hide their genitalia as they grow up to protect their theybie status? Are we unconsciously instilling a sense of embarrassment when we don’t allow them to belong to a recognizable category of either male or female?

Unfortunately, only time will tell how this new form of parenting works out. I do worry about the children though. I pray that they’re not being used as a societal protest in respect to all the injustices that continue to fall on transgender children.

I worry that gender-neutrality might be today’s ‘it way’ to raise your family, similar to a generation that experimented with, and eventually dismissed, communal living back in the 60’s. A psychological experiment where young couples gave up their parental rights to their biological children, choosing to have them raised in communal groups by a collection of parental figures assigned to child rearing. An idea that never worked.     

As a proud member of THE FIFTY CANDLES CLUB, I will follow this new movement, and if my voice helps one child, I will continue to explore, educate myself, and write about this development and the subsequent changes in child rearing.  

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2 thoughts on “MY FIRST INVITATION TO A GENDER-NEUTRAL ‘THEYBIE’ SHOWER

  1. Well I want to thank you Gary. I’m glad you found some useful information in my blog. Since you bookmarked it, I hope to be hearing from you again.

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