As a parent, you know that finding out the sex of your baby is one of the biggest milestones of a pregnancy (or birth if you’re able to wait that long). Family and friends also eagerly await the announcement, and gender reveal parties are a growing trend around the world, with parents staging increasingly elaborate reveals.
Now imagine that instead of the doctor’s call of “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!”, parents are told “It’s a theybie!” and no gender is officially designated. Instead of the official M or F, a genderless X is assigned. Friends and family are asked to call the newborn baby ‘they’ and childminders are told to not share the baby's anatomy with anyone else.
While there is a growing shift towards parents aiming to offer kids a less gendered childhood, is this taking the concept too far?
In the case of children born intersex, this might be a good idea. A German court recently ruled that there must be the option to allow parents to “designate their intersex offspring as a third gender”. The category is set to be called either "inter" or "various" and will be used in cases where the baby is anatomically neither male nor female, or both.
In South Africa, parents and doctors must choose either male or female on the birth certificate at the time of the birth.
- How to register your newborn baby
- How to register your baby or child if you missed the 30-day deadline
Would you choose a gender-neutral birth certificate for your child if you could?
However, there is a small but rising movement to allow parents to officially assign no gender on the birth certificate, even when the gender is anatomically clearly male or female. The theory behind the movement is that by raising a child as gender neutral from birth, these ‘theybies’ will be able to choose their gender when they are ready to make a choice.
We asked some South African mothers if they would choose a non-binary option on the birth certificate if they had the choice, and the answer was a resounding no. While many mothers are not against the idea, the general consensus is that parenting is hard enough as it is without adding unnecessary confusion.
One mother summed it up: “What a load of nonsense. People can call it gender neutral all they want: it doesn't make the child any less a boy or girl.”
Another said that “everything is getting complicated these days. I have read about people raising their child to be genderless and it scared me a little. These new trends are too much for me.”
A few parents said they would if it wouldn’t be “too much admin”, and “wouldn't result in any particular admin consequences later on in life.”
Others agreed that their child would be welcome to change their birth certificate classification later in life if the need arose. In the case of “persons who have undergone a sex change operation or medical treatment resulting in their gender reassignment”, an adult is able to formally request this designation be changed, by submitting various required documents to the Department of Home Affairs. These requirements are laid out in the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act, 2003 (Act No.49 of 2003).
Some more progressive moms shared that in their opinion people are “not ready to understand that other ways of being exist. Society is uncomfortable with the concept and dispute it or call it the work of the devil”.
One mom shared that “it’s important that people have choices. It’s like when we have to choose our race groups – I hate those categories and would prefer if they reworded it to make sense in our current South African context, so I say having the choice is not a bad thing.”
Would you choose an “X” on a birth certificate and let your child decide what gender they want to identify with later in life? Do you think this option should be available to babies who are indeed born with both or no sex organs and no clear indication of either gender at birth? Send your stories and comments to email@example.com and we may publish them. Do let us know if you’d like to stay anonymous.