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These Parents Won't Say If Their Toddler Is a Boy or Girl

Photograph by Twenty20

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.

raisingzoomer

We've gotten lots of new followers and we just wanted to take a moment and say, THANKS Y'ALL, FOR BEING SO NICE! If we could buy you each an ice cream cone, we sure would! 🍦

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.

raisingzoomer

Hi! We've made quite a few new friends since Alex Morris' #THEYBY article came out in @NYmag and @TheCut this week. We want to introduce ourselves to you and welcome you into our world! I'm Kyl, Zoomer's mom, Brent is Zoomer's dad, and Zoomer is our incredible little toddler. Brent and I practice gender creative parenting. We didn't assign a gender to Zoomer, we don't disclose their sex to people who don't need to know, and we use gender-neutral pronouns for Zoomer (they/them/their). We actively work to provide Zoomer with an environment that celebrates their individuality. We expose them to all kinds of toys, clothes, colors and activities and we encourage their interests and self-expression. Parenting this way has certainly reduced Zoomer's experiences with gendered micro-aggressions and stereotypes. Additionally, we actively strive to teach Zoomer about diversity, inclusion, equality, autonomy, and social justice. We are able to do this with an amazing network of supportive and loving family members, friends, and caretakers. We are very proud and confident about our decision to raise Zoomer this way and we felt a responsibility to be a resource for people who are interested in learning more about gender creative parenting. As you'll see, there is virtually NO negativity on our account. We are proud of the community we have cultivated here and we intentionally created a space that is accessible, respectful, kind and fun. We're happy you're here. Check out our website RaisingZoomer.com and my TEDx talk (google "Kyl Myers TED talk"). We hope you find what you're looking for. Feel free to DM us with your questions. And if you feel so inclined, we'd love to know more about you! ⭐️ What's your name, where are you from, and what brought you here? ⭐️ 💕 - The Courtney-Myers Family

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.

raisingzoomer

The gender creative kids are alright. Zoomer is happy and healthy and kind, curious, and clever. We are so proud to be Z's parents and very confident in our parenting decisions. Every parent does what they think is best for their kids. People are uncomfortable with change, that's ok. But change is coming! Buckle up and enjoy the ride! ❤️

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.

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