A tale of parental child abuse in today’s Times:
A couple are bringing up a gender-neutral child by keeping its sex a secret even from close family.
Hobbit Humphrey, 38, and Jake England-Johns, 35, call their 17-month-old by the pronoun “they” and dress them in both girls’ and boys’ clothing.
They admit that the approach has resulted in “some pretty confused looks from old ladies in the park”. Even the child’s grandmother discovered their sex only at 11 months when she changed a nappy.
The pair, who are circus performers and members of the climate action group Extinction Rebellion, say that they hope the decision will enable the child to “grow into their own person”.
Ms Humphrey, who lives with her husband on a houseboat in Keynsham, Somerset, said: “When I found out I was pregnant we spent those nine months discussing ways by which we could try and mitigate the gender bias that society places on children. Eventually, we decided that we wouldn’t tell people whether they were boy or girl.”
The couple plan to allow the child, whom they have asked not to be named, to choose their gender when they are old enough. The decision has largely been met with bemusement.
“The response was pretty mixed when we first told our friends and family and most people didn’t get it, with some people wanting just to ignore it,” Ms Humphrey said.
“I don’t think people really took us seriously initially because what you say you’re going to do when you’re pregnant can often be very different later when you are faced with bringing up a crying, screaming baby.
“But over a year in it’s clear that we are serious and gradually people have got used to it. Although, that still doesn’t stop some pretty confused looks from old ladies in the park when they come up to us and ask if they’re a boy or a girl. It can take a bit of explaining.”
So dedicated to their child-rearing plan were the couple that they initially refused to tell Ms Humphrey’s mother, Camille, 64, the sex of her grandchild, revealing it only when they asked her to change the youngster’s nappy at 11 months.
Although Ms Humphrey and Mr England-Johns have slowly begun to enlighten a handful of others — not wanting to deny the child “the joy of playing naked” — they stand by their original decision. “It was tricky at first when not only were we new parents but also new parents who had the problem of people getting upset about our baby being gender neutral,” Ms Humphrey said.
“But in the end it has proven to be a really beautiful thing and we’ve had a lot of important conversations from it.
“It has had the effect we wanted of letting our baby develop its own interests regardless of gender. So, for example, while they love having a dolls’ tea party every morning, they also are really fascinated by motorbikes and big machinery.
“Eventually, once our baby is old enough, they can obviously decide for themselves what gender they want to be, but for now we just want them to be able to grow up in their own little bubble.”
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