I’m standing in one of the baby aisles at Target looking for daddy-themed onesies. Our first kiddo is due soon, and I thought it would be cute to prematurely celebrate Dad’s Day. We don’t know the biological sex of our first child yet, and we won’t know our child’s gender identity for a while, so I’m looking for something gender-neutral — which I naively thought would be somewhat simple. Maybe a yellow onesie with “I love my Daddy” on it. Something to that effect.
Instead, I’m staring down two options: a onesie that is either baseball-themed with “Daddy’s Rookie” scrawled on it, or one that is covered in pink flowers with “I love Daddy” written on it. I’m suddenly caught standing pregnant in the baby section of Target in a psycho-emotional tug-of-war with myself.
Certainly, I could buy either. Who the hell cares if boys wear flowers or if girls wear baseball bats? But then I find myself wondering, is it more socially okay to put a girl in baseball gear than to put a boy in flowers? And if so, what does that say about our social perception of masculinity? Of femininity? What does it say about my ability as a parent to overcome these social expectations for how I dress my future child? And for shit’s sake, why can’t Carter’s just make a simple yellow daddy onesie without covering it in stereotypically gendered crap?!
I bought the baseball bats and moved on with my life. Sorta.
“Sorta” because this struggle is not over. My partner and I have made the decision to find out the sex of our child at our 20-week ultrasound but to not tell anyone else until the baby is born. And I do mean anyone else — family, friends, and strangers included. As it turns out, this is not a very popular choice. Responses have ranged from “Boooo!” to “How will we know what to buy?”
Our response: Precisely.
Here are five reasons why it’s nobody’s damn business what the sex of our child is, and five reasons why we have no intention of telling anyone until our child has entered the world:
1. We might have another kid one day.
And that kid might not be the same sex (or gender) as this one. I don’t want all of my baby stuff to be pink — not because I dislike the color pink, I think it’s lovely — and not because it matters if I have a girl and then a boy and the boy uses pink stuff; that doesn’t matter to me either. I’m more concerned about the general confusion of society at large, and I’d like to have baby things that I can put to use multiple times in case we decide to procreate multiple times.
It’s why the nursery is yellow, the crib sheets are green, the stroller is beige, and the carrier is blue. Yes, blue. And maybe the curtains will be pink. And guess what? Having pink curtains in his room won’t make my little boy “less of a man,” and riding around in a blue carrier won’t make my little girl “less of a woman.” We believe as much in color diversity as we do in gender diversity. We just don’t necessarily believe that all the other people in our lives are as into color diversity (or, ahem, gender diversity) as we are.
2. My child’s sex does not determine his or her gender.
Our child’s biological sex was determined the second my husband’s industrious little sperm got through that stubborn egg of mine, but his or her gender identity is yet to be determined. Radical, I know.
If you need schooled on gender identity, check out this Last Week Tonight episode, because John Oliver does a pretty good job explaining something about which many people these days are often pretty stupid. I don’t want to gender-assign my child. I don’t want to assume that because she’s biologically a she (or he’s a he), she’s (or he’s) going to like princesses. Nor do I want to assume that because she’s biologically a she (or he’s a he), she’s (or he’s) going to love football. I want to assume that she or he either loves princesses or football because that’s who he or she is and what he or she likes, period. Which brings me to my next point…
3. I find toy stores disturbing.
It completely freaks me out that toy stores (and apparently the baby sections of Target) are divided by socially-defined gender identities. That there’s clearly the “boy part” and the “girl part” of the toy store, with the possible exception of the craft section (and even parts of the craft section are disturbing… there are girl crayons, people).
Maybe it’s because we didn’t go to toy stores much when I was a kid, but by the time I was an adult buying toys for my baby cousins, I found toy stores particularly disturbing. Research tells us that not only are toys strongly gender-typed, but that “If you want to develop children’s physical, cognitive, academic, musical, and artistic skills, toys that are not strongly gender-typed are more likely to do this.” Further, research shows that children who do not fall into our stereotypical understandings of what it means to “be a girl” or “be a boy” are more likely to be bullied or socially outcast by their peers. Not to mention the hate that proliferates among adults in our society towards transgendered children.
This is neither a paradigm I want to feed into, nor is it one I want my child to ascribe to, though I fully understand my control over such things is limited, since I don’t plan to raise my child in a bubble.
4. Surprises are fun.
We only get to have our first child once. My mom only gets to meet her first grandchild once. My sister only gets to meet her first niece or nephew once. Everybody loves surprises and anticipation, and I can’t wait for all the little surprises that will come with being a parent to a whole new human being.
Our kid is going to surprise us with who he or she is on a daily basis. Maybe she’ll surprise us by being amazing at pole-vaulting. Maybe he’ll surprise us by being an incredible artist. Maybe she’ll surprise us with her incredible memory, or he’ll amaze us with his compassion for animals.
We’re excited to find out the sex of our child in a few weeks, but we’re also excited to reveal our tiny new person to our families in a few months — and to let them meet him/her without (many) preconceived notions of who he or she will be based on her biological sex. And we’re excited for all of the surprises (some welcome, some probably less so) that will come along with watching our tiny human become a person.
5. It’s none of your damn business.
Why is “boy or girl?” the first question people ask when they see that you’re pregnant? Sometimes it comes after “When are you due?” which often feels just as invasive. “Well, stranger-person, the doctor says I’ll be open-legged and displaying my vajayjay to the universe while I push a watermelon out of my lady parts sometime in a few months.”
At the moment, I’m able to answer the question “boy or girl?” with “I have no damn idea, I’m only four months pregnant (and yes, I look more like I’m six months along),” but in a few weeks, I won’t know what to say. “We know, but we’re not even telling the grandparents, so no, random stranger, you don’t get to know the sex of my child.” I’ll probably just lie and say we don’t know, but that basically promises a host of other comments.
Why is this important information for everyone? It’s as though your pregnancy isn’t legit until you’ve unveiled the sex of your child, perhaps in a gender reveal party (don’t even get me started).
Most people choose to reveal the sex of their unborn after that exciting 20-week ultrasound, and I completely understand that decision. If nothing else, it makes moving through a world of nosy strangers a lot easier on already-taxed pregnant moms. Many of these moms believe the same things we do about gender identity. Our choice is an unconventional one, and not one I expect others to emulate. However, it is a decision I find myself needing to explain regularly.
So there you have it. Five reasons why my husband and I are the only people who will know whether my child has a penis or a vagina while its still in utero.