The Difference Between Raising Kids With No Gender Roles vs Gender Neutral

In this more progressive time, straying away from gender norms and gender roles has become much more common. I'm certainly one of the people who makes a great effort to avoid falling into traditional schools of thought. After I wrote an article about my lack of labels in terms of gender and sex, my friend asked me if I would raise my child without gender. My answer, which may be surprising to some, is no. I want to talk about why I’d definitely raise my child without strict gender norms but would never go as far as to raise them gender neutral.

For those unfamiliar with the difference between sex and gender, here's a little refresher. Sex is the classifications of male and female linked to biology. Gender is culturally created differences between men and women. Our culture’s expectations of gender are often harmful to boys and girls who gone on to become men and women. Raising children without those expectations is imperative to fighting toxic masculinity and internalized misogyny. We teach boys to be strong, tough, independent, unfeeling, and that they can do anything. At the same time, we teach girls that they are pretty, sensitive, caring and to define themselves in relationship to others (daughters, girlfriends, wives etc.). In a world where we stray away from gendered traditions, we would teach our girls to be strong, independent, and that they can do anything. We would teach our boys that they are sensitive, caring and can be feeling. Boys and girls would be encouraged to play with whatever toys and aspire to pursue whatever career path they chose. That’s how I’d raise my children, without gender roles or expectations.

Recently, I’ve seen articles, tweets, Facebook post or whatever you will about raising your children without a gender. This entails completely removing gender for the child’s life and doing things like using they/them pronouns. My problem with this isn’t with gender neutrality but placing an identity on a child they didn’t choose—especially one that isn’t the norm. Whether we agree with it or not, we live in a world that grants cis people privilege. Don’t make your child miss out on the opportunity to enjoy that privilege. Instead of raising a child gender neutral, take the pressure of gender off of them. Once they're old enough to begin to understand gender and the implications, encourage their feelings whether they're cis or trans because no one knows them better than themselves. Let them know they're not “supposed” to be anyone or anything. When they figure it out, accept them, love them and follow their lead.

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