Can We Get Rid of the Sex Stereotyping Behind Gender Reveal Parties?

First, comes love. Then comes marriage. Here come the heterosexual binary parents pushing the baby carriage!

That’s not all — don’t forget the gender reveal party! It’s the cherry on top of a traditional family dynamic that fails to represent the myriad of diverse families that exist and deserve representation, especially in a society that claims to be moving closer toward progressivism.

A gender reveal can be a simple release of blue balloons for a boy, or maybe a pink heart made of carnation petals for a girl. Some parental protesters traverse the middle route and use a rainbow filling or purple filling in a cake to say “we’re going to see what happens” or “the baby will tell us someday.”

This is probably the route we want to be moving toward if we’re dissecting what our traditions symbolize and represent. Identity is something we cannot decide for our children, so there’s really no point in holding a gender reveal before they’re even born, is there?

How many expectations and pressures should a child enter the world with? It’s standard right now that before a child even comes out of the womb, that child is met with a gender label.

In all the preparation, new parents often think too much about the expectations of others. They dress up their cakes with those expectations as though binary is the only way to go. Trucks vs. tutus, tractors vs. tiaras, pistols vs. pearls.

Newsflash — your child may later decide to be both. Or perhaps neither.

First-world societies are supposedly advanced, but our binary takes on gender and identity are infantile

People don’t like change, but gender has never been wholly male or female. Even if you were “raised differently,” gender fluidity is way older than many of us may think. Many societies embraced the concept of a third gender. In Scandinavian Viking culture, the sagas addressed the concept of a third gender in both the use of divination and amongst the Gods, such as Loki not caring about gender pronouns or wearing a dress when Odin baulks dressing as Freya.

Three or more genders are present all around the world, such as the Māhū of Hawaii — a name which encompasses the presence of masculine and feminine energies in someone. The Muxe of Mexico don’t fall into binary stereotyping and typically become the traditional caretakers of the old, and even the indigenous populace don’t categorise gender as binary. The Bissu in Indonesia spent generations subverting stereotypes by simply existing naturally as who they are.

First-world societies are supposedly advanced, but our binary takes on gender and identity are infantile and outdated. The world is becoming more rapidly connected thanks to the technological revolution we are currently witnessing, and gender fluidity is coming full circle as a vital current issue.

People who are less progressive are more comfortable sweeping gender fluidity under the rug, but even pediatric healthcare recognises and responds to the fact that gender isn’t straightforward or narrowly binary. Dr. Leena Nahata, a pediatric endocrinologist, stresses the fact that only the child can choose their gender and even holding a gender reveal can actually potentially affect a child later in life.

identity is a journey and gender is fluid

There is a difference between the biological sex presented on the sonogram, assigned sex and gender identity. When you assign a gender like you assign a child in school to a seat, it places constraints on them. Gender is not something to be policed, assigned or trained into — children who grow up and decide that they prefer a non-binary label sometimes shock their parents.

The potential loss of that relationship does damage, even for the parent trying to understand their child’s “new” identity. Some parents feel an imagined loss of a daughter or son and mourn, but they’re only mourning the narratives they’ve generated. The child and all the lovable things about them are still all there.

Celebrate your latest positive sonogram by throwing your family a barbeque and call it a day. Baby parts are baby parts. All tiny humans do the same basic things — peeing, pooping, spitting up. Be prepared with extra nappies.

As they grow up, they’ll decide exactly who they are, because identity is a journey and gender is fluid. One thing is always true about having a kid: it makes you grow up fast from whatever trivial stuff you thought was so important but actually wasn’t — for example, frivolous gender reveal displays that are rooted in stereotypes.

More about the author

About the author

Born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Kate Harveston is a recent college graduate and an aspiring journalist. She enjoys writing about social change and human rights issues, but she has written on a wide variety of other topics as well.

She blogs on social and cultural issues at  Only Slightly Biased.

Follow Kate on Twitter.

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