Kate Hudson made headlines recently when, in an interview with Aol.com, she said she would be taking a “genderless” approach when raising her daughter, Rani.
“I think you just raise your kids individually regardless—like a genderless [approach]. We still don’t know what she’s going to identify as. I will say that, right now, she is incredibly feminine in her energy, her sounds and her way. It’s very different from the boys.”
Hudson wasn’t thrilled with how news outlets reported on her interview. She has since said on Instagram that her words have been used as click bait, and she clarified that her intention was to reframe the conversation away from an “antiquated” discussion about male and female stereotypes. Rather, she simply wants to support her kids, whatever their decisions are.
A Growing Trend?
Hudson might not be taking an aggressively gender-neutral approach with her parenting, but her perspective still aligns with that of an increasing number of parents who are rejecting traditional gender norms as they raise their kids. Alex Morris, a contributing editor to New York Magazine, reports that there is a small but growing trend of parents who are refusing to assign gender labels to their children. They’re not revealing their children’s sexuality at birth, and they don’t use male or female pronouns when referring to their kids. The children of these parents are known as “theybies.”
In an interview with WBUR’s Budd Mishkin of On Point, Morris says that the idea is not to eliminate gender, but rather “to let the child come to their understanding of gender in…as much of a vacuum as you can create, so that their experience of gender is authentic to them.” Morris says that when writing a recent story on theybies, she was surprised to discover that it’s not just parents in New York or San Francisco who are jumping on the gender neutral bandwagon. It’s also parents in smaller towns across the U.S.
While it’s difficult to find exact numbers on how many parents are adopting this approach to parenting, one study that surveyed men and women internationally found that 61 percent of women and 46 percent of men think children “should be raised in as gender-neutral a way as possible.”
It’s easy to look at the the gender neutral trend and decry it as dangerous and absurd. But it’s important to recognize that ideas never occur in a vacuum—there are always reasons why people have the beliefs they do. Morris notes that beliefs about gender have a significant impact on how a person’s life plays out. Recognizing that gender stereotypes can hurt people and that some people use their sexuality to harm others (as we’ve seen with the #metoo movement), some young parents see gender neutrality as a reasonable solution. And if there isn’t a God who created us in His image as male and female, it is arguably a logical one.
With Millennials, there has been a notable shift in how people view gender norms. For example, Pew Research Center states that “since they first entered adulthood, Millennials have been at the leading edge of changing views on same-sex marriage.” Today’s young adults are far more accepting of non-traditional views of gender and sexuality, so it should not be too surprising that as they are becoming parents, some want to redefine what gender looks like for their children.
This should be a wake up call for the church, not to condemn those who are making these decisions, but to compassionately call them to something greater: parenting according to the beauty of sexuality as God designed it.