Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

I'm Raising My Daughter Without The Gender Binary, & Here's Why

Ad failed to load

As a pre-teen, my wardrobe consisted largely of my big brother's hand-me-downs and loose-fitting T-shirts from PacSun and the Billabong shop. I eschewed skirts for sweatpants and board shorts, and I wore my Converse with pride.

I was raised to adhere to the gender binary in the conventional sense of the term. I grew up believing that girls were meant to enjoy playing with dolls and wearing dresses, while boys could have fun with trucks and airplanes. In my mind, girls grew up to be homemakers, while boys grew up to become astronauts, businessmen, and general money-makers.

So it made sense why my 12-year-old self became something of a tomboy: it just seemed like a lot more fun. For years, my brother and I would play video games that targeted little boys, kick soccer balls marketed at boys, and collect miniature green military action figures made with boys in mind. I still remember my mom praying (like, literally praying to God) that He would help me become a lady.

Ad failed to load

As my newborn daughter Luna celebrates her 1-month birthday, I cannot help but wonder what "male" or "female" interests she might have someday. Will she like velvet skirts, or suspenders and denim dungarees? Will she prefer ballet or hockey? Will she want to be a pilot or a nurse? I'd like to think that socioculturally, we've moved beyond such dichotomies, and that she can like both or neither without facing any judgment. But I know that we haven't, not entirely. And while I know I cannot save Luna from being judged or facing others' assumptions based on her gender presentation, I do hope to raise her free of the gender binary in as many small ways as possible.

Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

One crucial part of this mission will be allowing Luna to develop her own sense of style. As Luna grows up, I will become less involved in the selection of her wardrobe, but for the time being, my partner and I are calling the shots, and I hope to call them mindfully.

Ad failed to load

Before Luna was born, I curated shopping carts on and Macy's filled with princess-like dresses and skirts. I imagined how fun it would be to put her in sparkly outfits and daydreamed about the day she'd want to play with makeup. But then something clicked, and I realized that I didn't want Luna to think that femininity or womanhood are limited to dainty dresses and frilly things.

I won't seek to define my daughter's style, because she's too young to have one. Instead, I'll help her wear anything and everything, until she's old enough to make these choices for herself.

While I would never want to correlate such aesthetics with weakness or fragility, I want Luna to know from a very young age that her femininity (or lack thereof) is for her to define. If I only dress her in pink and buy her dolls and prioritize Barbie over Bob the Builder, my actions won't be mirroring my goals. So I hope to put her in all kinds of clothing: sure, she'll wear dresses, but I also want her to wear items from the boys and unisex sections, such as suits, bowties, blues, baseball caps, and tartan rompers. I won't seek to define her style, because she's too young to have one. Instead, I'll help her wear anything and everything, until she's old enough to make these choices for herself.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

The same goes for buying toys. Although I'd love to sit around and play dolls with Luna, I'd also love to introduce her to the wonders of transportation. We could play race games with trucks, airplanes, and cars. We could build all the Legos. We could play with my old-school Nintendo64, and we could kick around the soccer ball like my brother and I did a few decades ago. There won't be a toy or a game that's off-limits to her because of something as meaningless as a boy/girl tag. And while only time will tell what her interests are, she'll hopefully know beyond a doubt that her imagination and creativity and sense of exploration are limitless, and that there is nothing wrong with liking something that's supposedly "for the boys" if you're a girl.

Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina
Ad failed to load

But the gender binary is not only reinforced through clothing and toys. The way we absentmindedly speak to children can often reinforce societal definitions of "boy" and "girl." I still remember being a kid and constantly being asked by adults what I wanted to be when I grew up. Did I want to be a princess, a secretary, a nurse, a dancer, a schoolteacher?

My career goals shifted constantly, but if I told the adults I wanted to be a veterinarian or a scientist or a construction worker or even a writer, their shock was tangible. "A construction worker?" my grandmother once asked. "Wouldn't you rather be something that would allow you to wear something like this?" As she gestured to her vintage pencil dress, I could feel my stomach drop, along with all of my ambitions. And I don't want the same to happen to my own kid.

I want my kid to know that gender should never get in her way: that even if there is still a wage gap and rampant sexism in the workplace, she deserves to be all the things women once weren't allowed to be and more.
Ad failed to load

People critique members of my Millennial generation for having been taught that we can be anything and do anything our special snowflake hearts desire. But I hope to express to Luna that she can be anything she wants to be. I want my kid to know that gender should never get in her way: that even if there is still a wage gap and rampant sexism in the workplace, she deserves to be all the things women once weren't allowed to be and more. So I'll never ask her if she wants to be a princess or a nurse. Instead, I'll just let her tell me of her hopes and dreams and try my best not to put limitations on them.

Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

What will perhaps be most difficult to teach her, however, is the simple fact that gender identity in and of itself is not "male versus female" at all. I am thankful that Luna will grow up during an era where terms like "non-binary," "genderqueer," "androgynous," and "gender non-conforming" are somewhat more mainstream than they were in decades past. But I am also saddened by the reality that even though these words are more mainstream, they are seemingly only mainstream in certain liberal, progressive circles.

Ad failed to load
I will tell Luna that not everyone identifies as a boy or a girl. I will tell her that how she identifies is her own choice, too, much like who she loves or likes or is attracted to is entirely her choice as well.

So when Luna is old enough to talk and have short conversations, I hope to introduce her to gender non-conforming individuals in the media. I will display inclusive artwork around my home, some of which celebrates people who are not masculine nor feminine. I will tell her that not everyone identifies as a boy or a girl. I will tell her that how she identifies is her own choice, too, much like who she loves or likes or is attracted to is entirely her call as well. I will bring her with me when I meet up with my LGBTQIA+ friends. I will reiterate that no one has to be just one thing.

Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina
Ad failed to load

While our culture of toxic masculinity still largely suggests that men are to be strong, emotionless, and career-oriented, I believe small actions can help shift the narrative while society slowly catches on. And it is catching on. When Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiered in Dec. 2015, I overheard a little girl no older than five telling her mom, "I'm not afraid of anything anymore because Rey isn't afraid of anything," after the film ended. "I can do anything, right?"

I trust that Luna will have strong female role models to look up to in film and TV who wouldn't have existed when my mom or grandma were kids. I trust that she'll see women who break the mold of womanhood. But I also trust that small behaviors in the household can make all the difference. If she is taught that men can wear skirts or grow their hair long or be ballerinas or have sensitive dispositions, and she knows that women can wear pants or cut their hair short or be loud and brash and fond of farting, then she will hopefully learn not to define people by their sex or gender identity or seek to put them into boxes. And with a bit of luck, she won't put herself into a box, either.

Ad failed to load

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

6 Early Signs You're Going To Have A Short Labor, According To Experts

As far as I'm concerned, a short labor is right up there with winning the lottery in terms of lucky life events. (And when I was actually in labor, I would absolutely have traded a bucketful of lottery winnings for a speedier birth.) While some women…
By Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In March

You can always count on Netflix to keep it fresh: though there are already so many movies and shows to choose from, every month there's an influx of new content to keep your entire family entertained. As February enters its final weeks, it's time to …
By Megan Walsh

Here Are 10 Ways To Boost Your Baby's Immunity To The Flu

As I'm sure you've read in the thousands upon thousands of articles written about it this winter, the flu is spreading like wildfire and it's bad. Really bad. This strand of flu is the worst we've had in a very long time and it's the most widespread,…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Khloé Kardashian Asked Twitter About Her Bump, & Moms Totally Delivered

Like her younger sister Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian managed to keep most of her pregnancy a sort-of secret. But unlike Jenner, Kardashian chose to publicly announce her pregnancy several months before the baby's due date. While there's no wrong wa…
By Sophie Hirsh

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

An Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the t…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack