A Utah-based couple's decision to raise their child as a "theyby" (a baby without gender from birth) is creating a stir among the parenting community. From the moment their child was welcomed into the world, Kyl and Brent Courtney-Myers have tried to provide a gender-open environment for their now 2-year-old, Zoomer. The parents asked their doctor and hospital staff to not disclose Zoomer's sex, they have asked others to use gender-neutral pronouns (they/their) instead of "he" or "she," and they've avoided clothes with gendered or sexualized phrases on them—all of which are part of their "Gender Creative Parenting" philosophy.
On Kyl's site Raising Zoomer, the mom notes that there's no concrete definition for GCP, but the underlying hope is to promote "gender equality and the freedom to express oneself without stereotypical gender restrictions or expectations." Parents of theybies believe that sex and gender shouldn't be reduced to a simple binary, and that genitals don't determine gender. There's more to people than being male or female, boy or girl, they say, and children should be celebrated for their individuality.
"Using gender-neutral pronouns really helps create some control around that. Because we use gender-neutral pronouns and don’t disclose Z’s sex, people don't say 'he's such a boy!' or 'she's such a diva!' and that's because they don't have the pronoun information that people use to reduce children down to a gendered stereotype," Kyl wrote in an interview outtake with New York Magazine, which recently published the article on theybies that pushed the Courtney-Myers family into the spotlight.
Experts say that the brain is most malleable up until around the age of 7, which is why they believe gender neutrality matters. What children play with, see on TV and hear can affect what they're interested in and who they want as playmates.
In a society where people are still keen on finding out if their baby's a boy or a girl in elaborate pink or blue gender reveals, it's not surprising that the Courtney-Meyers family has been getting strong criticism (though the parents seem to be brushing them off and living their life positively). Ironically, even though the parents are trying to give Zoomer options by providing an open environment, critics are seeing the decision to be gender-neutral as restricting and dangerous.
Commenters have gone so far as to shame them for "abusing" their toddler, causing "irreversible psychological harm," using their child to get famous, and making choices for a child who shouldn't be an "experiment."
But Kyl acknowledges that along with the backlash, they also have a ton of support from others who see they are raising a loved and happy child. The parents have also been praised for inspiring more people to rethink gender in their homes.
Kyl and Brent think that Zoomer will let their (that is, in gender-neutral language) parents know their gender identity by the time they're 3 or 4, though they also know that identity can change or be fluid as they grow. Whatever happens, the couple will ensure Zoomer has the freedom, confidence and space to express themselves along the way.