People get angry that they don’t know the genital configurations of our children.

My husband and I are parents to three wonderful young humans.

My husband and I are parents to three wonderful young humans. We are both cisgender, heterosexual people who had never really spent much time wondering about the sex of our children and how we would go on this wild journey!

When our first child was born, we let the world know their assigned sex by using pronouns that correlate with their sex assignment. Their name, Ashley, was gender neutral. Not through any particular thought process, it’s just a name my husband and I agreed on. We received an absurd amount of “gendered” clothing and toys for Ashley. Visitors would treat Ashley in a way that one typically treats a child of that sex. We didn’t really think much of it and we had fallen into the same trap ourselves. We used a certain tone of voice, played certain games, redirected from an “unsuitable” activity to something more suitable.

Family members would tell us that Sam couldn’t wear certain items of clothing

Our second child was the opposite sex. We named them Sam. Again, no conscious thought on the name, just something we both agreed on. Again, we let the world know their assigned sex but asked that people refrain from sending us things as we still had everything from our first and we were simply going to reuse it all. This is where things started to get weird.

Family members would tell us that Sam couldn’t wear certain items of clothing because society would think they were same sex attracted “or something” – keeping in mind that Sam was 3 months old at the time! I brushed this off but my husband started to notice how people would behave around our baby. The treatment was vastly different than for our first. Quite literally the opposite. As Sam grew, they continued to wear everything Ashley had worn. Played with the same toys. Slept under the same bedding. It just made sense to us. Everything was in excellent condition still and children’s clothes are expensive! Sam was happy. Ashley was happy. That was all that mattered.

Everyone was projecting a sex onto my baby and it started to feel overwhelming.

I fell pregnant with my third child, Alex, when Sam was 2 years old. Ashley was 5. This time, we had no intention of revealing our child’s sex and choosing a neutral name was intentional. We once again brought out the clothing our first two had worn. We were at a festive family gathering with Alex dressed in the same clothing their siblings had worn before them. Yellow leggings, a green vest and a yellow cardigan. My aunt complemented me on Alex’s looks and made weird predictions about their dating future as such an “attractive child”. My mother complemented her “beautiful granddaughter” and kissed her gently on the top of her head. My uncle told me my “son would grow up to be very handsome” and gave “his” tummy a shake. Everyone was projecting a sex onto my baby and it started to feel overwhelming.

Eventually, the adults sat down to lunch. Our youngest was napping in a travel cot and our eldest two were playing in the garden with their cousins. My mum was the first to pipe up. “So, is Alex a boy or a girl?” I asked her why it mattered and she told me she didn’t want her grandchild to grow up confused. I informed her that Alex will be raised in the same way that their siblings had been raised. Same clothes, same toys, same soft furnishings. My brother chimed in saying we were “pushing an agenda” onto our “barely sentient baby”. When I asked him to elaborate on this agenda, he told me that I would soon see. When Alex woke up, I took them to the bedroom to change their nappy and to feed them. Mid changing, my cousin came into the room and declared she “just wanted to see” if Alex was male or female. This felt quite disturbing to me.

Following the festive gathering, whenever we visited family and friends, people would demand to know whether Alex was a boy or a girl. I became so fiercely protective of them. I wouldn’t let anyone but my husband change their nappy. I didn’t want them to be alone in a room with anyone else – just in case.

Starting nursery: The staff were confused.

When Alex eventually started nursery – the same nursery both of their siblings had attended – I explained to the staff there that Alex was not being assigned a gender and they were free to use any pronouns. The staff were confused. The more I tried to elaborate, the more confused they seemed to be. I finished with “it doesn’t matter their gender, let them play with whatever and whomever they want”. By the end of the first term, I could tell that all the staff had either checked Alex’s genitals or asked another staff member about Alex’s genitals because everyone was using the same pronouns. Alex was grouped with children of the same sex and was more steered towards toys typically associated with that sex. My husband decided that he wanted to remove Alex from the nursery.

Eventually, we hired a nanny to look after Alex at home. We must have interviewed close to a hundred nannies before we actually found someone who we felt held the same views as us on sex/gender. When our nanny would take Alex to the park, people would assume their gender based on their clothing and would then redirect them to “appropriate” activities. During Gymboree sessions, the leader would ask for a “big strong boy” to move a bench or a “gentle girl” to look after the class mascot. Alex would volunteer for both and eventually, the leader asked our nanny whether Alex was a boy or a girl. At soft play, other parents would redirect Alex from areas they felt were inappropriate. It became endless.

Before deciding to have children, I hadn’t considered how focused on their genitals people would be

Alex is 5 now. They still use neutral pronouns. They tell us quite confidently how they identify and we believe them. They are of an age where they will now correct people on their pronouns themself but since they went through the no clothes phase as a toddler, most people will use pronouns associated with the genitals they will have seen. Ashley uses she/her pronouns and has proudly and boldly declared herself a girl and Sam “really doesn’t care”. All three children are well adjusted and happy. They now choose their own clothing. They are all home educated because schools wouldn’t respect our wishes as parents because it would “confuse staff and other children”. We have a wonderful home-ed group that is child focused and has absolutely no opinion on the genitals of our children or the names/pronouns they use.

Before deciding to have children, I hadn’t considered how focused on their genitals people would be and now, more than ever, I am committed to following the lead of my children when it comes to their identities. People will tell you that children don’t know but believe me, they do!

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The Queer Parenting Partnership was launched in 2020, in response to the shocking lack of birth and parenting support services for LGBTQ+ people in the UK.

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