Ever since gender reveal parties became "a thing," the whole idea left me feeling a little, well, weird. On one hand, if people want to get together with friends and family, have a party, and shoot off some blue or pink streamers, then more power to them. On the other hand, though, it all seemed pretty pointless. ("Yay, my fetus has a penis! Here, have a blue cupcake!") Because despite what that baby has going on between its legs, it has little bearing on their actual gender. Well, the mom who invented gender reveal parties explains why she now "cringes" at the tradition.
But first, let's start back when it all happened. In 2008, Jenna Myers Karvunidis was pregnant with her oldest child, Bianca. Karvunidis had experienced multiple miscarriages before this pregnancy, and wanted to celebrate the life growing inside of her. So she decided to throw a party.
"I was excited to celebrate the first detail of the baby you can know. At the 20-week scan, you learn the sex of the baby and that's all," she told Romper. "So you celebrate. It's just turned into this massive fixation on gender as the all-encompassing, paramount trait of a person and it's simply not true."
Karmvunidis ended up writing about the party on her personal blog and in a parenting forum in July 2008. An interview with her was ultimately published in The Bump magazine — where the idea quickly took off and the "gender reveal" party as we know it today was born.
On July 25, Karvunidis took to Facebook to address something that has clearly been weighing on her mind for years. "I've felt a lot of mixed feelings about my random contribution to the culture," she wrote in a now-viral Facebook post. "It just exploded into crazy after that. Literally — guns firing, forest fires, more emphasis on gender than has ever been necessary for a baby." She continued:
Who cares what gender the baby is? I did at the time because we didn't live in 2019 and didn't know what we know now — that assigning focus on gender at birth leaves out so much of their potential and talents that have nothing to do with what's between their legs.
Karvunidis — who has three daughters now, and never had another gender reveal party after her first child ("I cringe every time I see one," she told Romper) — ended her post by revealing an interesting "plot twist." Alongside of a family photo, she shared, "the world's first gender-reveal party baby is a girl who wears suits!" (It's worth mentioning that Karvunidis has clarified Bianca still identifies as a girl.)
As a whole, the reaction on Facebook seems overwhelmingly positive. Brian Sims — LGBTQ rights activist, Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and the first openly gay elected state legislator in Pennsylvania. "Thank you so much for having the character and the wherewithal to learn more and share what you’ve learned!" he commented.
Another person wrote, "Thank you for exemplifying what it means to learn and grow and adapt so that our community can hold and see everyone!"
As a mom of four who has never entertained the idea of having a "gender reveal" party — and always felt a bit icky when I saw people posting about it on social media — I love that Karvunidis is speaking out about them now. Because as she pointed out, a lot has changed in our society over the past 10 years. But above all, it's about empathy.
"I've slowly evolved over the years as I gained more knowledge. Yes, my daughter likes to wear suits and has atypical interests for a 5th grade girl so it's been about taking her lead, but also just about empathy for others," Karvunidis told Romper. "You don't necessarily have to be part of the LGBTQ community to understand that gender reveal parties reinforce a damagingly strict gender code. You don't have to be in a marginalized group to want what's best for everyone." She continued:
In fact, the current ideas of gender extremes, i.e. "GUNS OR GLITTER" is actually the radical. Why participate when there are so many other great reasons to have cake?
A. Freaking. Men.
Considering the hurdles transgender and non-gender-conforming individuals continue to face — and the fact that bigots feel emboldened by the Trump administration to lash out at at people who are different than they are, as reported by CNN — calling into question the celebration of a child's gender before they're even born absolutely matters. Because spoiler alert: A child's gender is not determined by their sexual organs or chromosomes. Full stop.
And it's about time parents at least reconsider the emphasis they're putting on gender before children even know for themselves.