Should You Rethink the Gender Reveal Party?
Should we be rethinking the gender reveal party?
When you’re pregnant, you spend so much time dreaming about your little one, wondering what they’re going to look like and how they’re going to act. Nine months is a long time of wondering, with almost no information. So it’s understandable that many families want to find out the sex of their fetus, during pregnancy, and to celebrate with a “gender reveal party.”
Maybe you used the words “gender reveal party” and someone asked you to rephrase your language. Maybe you didn’t understand what the big deal was.
The issue is the difference between the words sex and gender. Sex, in this context, means biological, physical sex characteristics—chromosomes and body parts. Gender, on the other hand, is how people continually define themselves, how they think of and present themselves.
Many of us grew up thinking that sex and gender were the same things, so this can take an adjustment in perspective.
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We all want children to have options to become whoever they are, to safely experiment with identities and interests and find what feels right for them. This can start by recognizing that, while we may know the sex of a baby or fetus, we can’t know their gender.
Calling something a gender reveal party can appear like an announcement that you are making these choices for your child-to-be, putting gender expectations on them before they’re even born. Cakes with slogans like, “Ruffles or Rifles?” and, “Guns or Glitter?” at gender reveal parties further this appearance that the parents are planning to push a violent idea of masculinity if their child has a penis, or an appearance-focused idea of femininity if their child has a vulva.
So gender reveals parties can look like closed doors, forbidden opportunities, stifled dreams. For those who were pushed into ill-fitting gender boxes themselves, a gender reveal party can appear especially harmful, bringing up feelings of shame, of failing to meet their parents’ and culture’s expectations. Getting rid of gender reveal parties could be a step toward breaking the cycle, giving the next generation the freedom to figure out who they are without constraints.
Gender for a child can be boy, girl, both, or neither. A child might feel sure of it, they might play around with it for a while to see what feels right, or their gender might remain fluid for their entire lives. When your child is 2 or 3, check out the book Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity (by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, illustrated by Naomi Bardoff). It’s a fun, kid-friendly way to start these conversations, to give children space to tell you who they are and what they like.
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More and more young people are telling us they don’t fit in the binary. New research shows, for example, that 27% of teens in California are gender nonconforming. Some of these teens consider themselves trans; others just say they feel/appear androgynous, that their gender expression doesn’t correlate to what a gender reveal party would have revealed.
So should you still have the party/announcement, but just call it a sex reveal party instead? Of course, it’s up to you, but even sex is not completely binary. About 1% of people are born with a difference of sex development (DSD), known commonly as intersex. When we recognize that at least one in a hundred people don’t fit neatly into male or female sex, we can see why scientists are now talking about sex as a spectrum as well.
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Tags: gender, gender reveal party, getting ready for birth, parties, pregnancy questions, sex