For a while now, we’ve been following the ‘theyby’ phenomenon. It first really grabbed our attention in early 2018 but just recently –following the BBCtv interview with Jake England-Johns and Hobbit Humphrey about their baby Anoush – everyone‘s been talking about it.
What is a theyby baby?
‘Theyby’ is a new phrase coining a rise in people bringing up their children as gender neutral or ‘gender creative’ from the moment they’re born.
This is what Jake England-Johns and Hobbit Humphrey are doing: they shun sex-identifying pronouns for their 17-month-old toddler Anoush, referring to Anoush as ‘they’ or ‘them’ and not even telling members of their own family whether Anoush is a boy or a girl. “Eventually,” they say, “once our baby is old enough, they can decide for themselves what gender they want to be.”
They may be unusual in their gender-free approach to parenting but they’re definitely not alone. Not so long ago, we shared the story of a couple who were fighting to have “unknown gender” written on their baby’s birth certificate.
And then there was the couple who kept the sex of their baby under wraps for 5 years while the child decided whether they wanted to live as a boy or a girl.
But what’s the reasoning behind what some would say is pretty extreme parenting? Kyl Myers, mum of 2-year-old Zoomer, of website Raising Zoomer, puts it like this:
:Gender socialisation contributes to sex segregation, sex stereotypes, and micro-aggressions that result in gender inequalities in childhood and adulthood.”
Celebs and the ‘theyby’ debate
More and more, it appears, people are keen to ensure their little ones don’t get boxed into ‘male’ and ‘female’ roles – which we know can happen from an early age.
Just take a look at MFM’s toy experiment which showed children actually had no innate preference for traditional ‘girl’ or ‘boy’ toys until the age of 6 – when there was a significant move towards boys playing with cars and girls playing with dolls.
Even a few celebs have become part of the convo around gender creativity. Singer Paloma Faith has been the source of a number of headlines for refusing to reveal the sex of her baby.
While she originally said this was for privacy reasons, she also alluded to the importance she puts on not wanting her child to feel bound to any gender stereotypes.
Speaking to Hello! magazine, Paloma said: “I’m not in denial of gender but I want my child to feel that everything is available to them.
“And I have absolutely no problem if my child grows up not feeling an affinity with the gender they were born with, or if they’re homosexual or straight or whatever.
“It’s important to me that they’re given all the opportunities to be the person they want to be.”
On the other side of the scale, Victoria Beckham faced sharp criticism for sharing a pic of a classic poem she and daughter Harper had been working on together:
It goes: “Boys are made of slugs and snails and puppy dog tails…Girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice…”
One Instagrammer was said to respond: “Ugh. ‘Sugar and spice and all things nice’ is not girl power, it’s gender stereotyping and cultural rules that are telling girls what they are ‘supposed’ to be.”
Are things starting to change?
While the ‘theyby’ phenomenon might feel new, individuals choosing to be identified using non-gendered pronouns certainly isn’t.
Slowly, it seems that many people are starting to catch up – and are becoming more aware of the issues surrounding gender neutrality.
For example, a number of UK primary schools are introducing gender neutral toilets, and lots of online and high street stores have said goodbye to separate boy and girl clothing and toy sections.
Even Transport For London announced it would be ditching “Good morning ladies and gentlemen” announcements in favour of “Good morning everyone” – careful not to exclude anyone who doesn’t consider themselves either male or female.
So, what do you think?
Raising a child as gender neutral from the get-go’s not for everyone – but do you take gender stereotypes and ‘roles’ into consideration when raising your kids?
Perhaps you have decided its right for your family to have a ‘theyby’ until your little one tells you otherwise?
Images: Getty/Victoria Beckham on Instagram