When I announced my pregnancy to family and friends, one of the first questions they asked was if I was having a boy or a girl. And while the sex of my baby was something I was happy to share, not all parents feel the same way for their own personal, valid reasons. Such as these British parents who are keeping the sex of their baby a secret long after the birth to avoid welcoming gender bias into their child's life. Speaking on the BBC's series Inside Out, parents Hobbit Humphrey and Jake England-Johns shared that they've kept the baby's sex a secret even from family.
The child, who has been referred to as both Charlie and Anoush on various media outlets, has lived a wholly gender neutral life to this point. England-Johns said in the BBC video that he and Humphrey refer to their child with they/their pronouns and hope to raise them to be "who they are."
"Gender neutral refers to us trying to behave neutrally towards the child, rather than trying to make them neutral," he told the BBC program. "We're not trying to make them be anything. We just want them to be themselves. We are quite good now at holding space for people's discomfort in us saying, 'Actually, we don't tell anyone, we're not telling anyone for now'. We're just letting Charlie be a baby."
Humphrey chimed in to explain the reason behind their decision is to protect Charlie. As The Times reported, Humphrey said: "So much gender bias is unconscious, when I got pregnant we then had a conversation about how we were going to mitigate the unconscious bias, and we figured that the only way that we could do that was just not to tell people ... just for as long as we can, create a bubble for our baby to be who they are."
In the video, Humphrey and England-Johns show views some of Charlie's clothing, which includes a mix of items including dresses and floral prints, along with blue and purple patterned pieces, as Heart FM reported. Additionally, Charlie's toys range from tea party supplies to matchbox cars.
Despite the couple's determination to keep Charlie's sex a secret, they faced some backlash from their family when doing so. Humphrey's mom, for instance, appeared in the video and shared that Charlie was almost a year old before she learned their sex; and then, the information only became available when she was babysitting and changed Charlie's diaper, according to The Times.
Not knowing the sex was a bit difficult at first, but she is grateful for the "learning curve" of remaining gender neutral with her grandchild. “This is my only daughter who has had a baby, and wanting the details and things, and it was a struggle," she said in the video. "I grappled with what I called them and hating when I slipped into ‘it’ then changing from calling them ‘he’ and sometimes ‘she’. But over time it became embedded and they became ‘they’. And I am so glad I have had this experience.”
Charlie's parents plan to continue raising them gender neutrally until they are old enough to express how they want to be identified. “We’re not doing something that we think is dangerous, we’re just doing something which is a bit unusual at this point," England-Johns said. “We’re not trying to make them be anything, we just want them to be themselves.”
Humphrey and England-Johns are far from alone in their quest to raise a gender neutral child. Gender neutral parenting has caught on across the globe, according to Vice, and it doesn't appear to be going anywhere any time soon. In fact, Merriam-Webster announced this week that it's added "they'" as a nonbinary pronoun to "refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary." And while it remains a bit of a controversial topic in the United States, manty parents like Charlie's are determined to protect their children's right to decide who they will be when they're ready.