Disclaimer: This is a personal reflection on why I am not finding out the sex of my baby. Parenting is not a one-size fits all and we’re all out here trying to do best by our child. There’s too much bashing and judgment of parenting and is not my intent to pass judgment on others parenting or to incur judgment on my own parenting.
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“Are you going to find out the gender?”
Or my person favorite: “do you know what you’re going to have?” (um, a human infant or you know, a thing like in the movie Alien based on the present kicking/movement)
I’ve been asked these questions and variations of these questions a lot. My answer is an emphatic ‘No’. And the simple explanations I give go along the lines of ‘We’d like it to be a surprise’ or ‘I don’t love pink or blue and don’t want people getting us a lot of either’. But the truth is my reasons are a lot more complex and are rooted in my feminist understanding of the world.
First, we gender children enough once they are out of the womb, so why start before the baby has even finished gestating in the womb.
As a feminist, I am concerned with all the ways that children get socialized into gender roles through clothing, toys, media, and activities. Just look at what gets labeled as a ‘girl’ toy and you’ll see, often in a plethora of pink or purple, princesses galore, dolls, cooking stations, tea party sets, and Barbies with endless outfits, shoes, and accessories. These toys emphasize the importance of looks, nurturing, cooking, and cleaning. And in a ‘boy’ toy aisle, in hues of blues and greens, are super hero figurines, guns, cars, dump trucks, train sets, tool sets emphasizing physical labor, action, and violence.
For people that are comfortable with traditional gender roles and think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, this might not be a problem. But for a 21st century feminist, I think it’s important to think critically about the messages children are receiving that suggest how their gender informs their identity and role in society. And as a parent, I would like to foster an environment that first shields from these messages and than encourages my child to critique them.
To address my second reason for not wanting to find out, let’s start with a basic, simplified lesson on sex and gender. (disclaimer: I’m a cisgender person trying to simplify a very complicated topic that I’m still learning more and more about.) Sex is not the same as gender. Sex refers to the biological – i.e. organs/chromosomes – including male, female, and intersex. Gender refers to how an individual identities and expresses their gender identity. Someone’s biological sex might not always match up with their gender identity and expression and they might identify transgender. Further, someone may not identify with the binary gender system (male or female) and identify on an expansive continuum of non-binary or genderqueer identities.
So when someone asks me if I am going to find out the gender of my baby, I can’t help but think that there is no medical test or professional that can tell me the gender of my baby. Only my child will be able to discover and reveal, over the course of years, their gender identity and expression.