Gender neutrality, also known nonbinary gender, seems to be a new concept for a lot of people. It gained widespread attention just a few years ago, but on the contrary, it’s reportedly been around since the Age of Antiquity. Nonbinary Wiki noted that earliest Mesopotamian records didn’t refer to people as neither men nor women.
Fast forward to the 17th and 18th centuries, scholars have assigned the pronoun “they” to people who don’t fit in the gender binary. This was more humanizing than referring to them as “it.” Merriam-Webster also noted the gender-neutral word “thon”(short for “that one”) was believed to have been first used in 1858.
Still, this concept has left many confused as to how it works—mainly, the part about un-learning gender roles and not being confined within your biological pronoun. This became more controversial when parents started talking about raising their kids genderless—aptly calling them, “theybies.”
Although there are skeptics of this, parents still try to practice gender-neutrality with their kids. While others don’t necessarily use “they/them” to refer to their children, the parent/s still make sure they learn 1) that gender is a construct and 2) “traditional” heteronormative standards shouldn’t be imposed. This is a mindset blogger Kaycee Enerva (popularly known as “The Macho Mom“) follows when raising her son, Geof.
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"My mom is strong.. she can… " "My mom is smart.. she taught me… " Brag na kung brag. Pero sobrang pumapalakpak tenga ko kapag dinedescribe ako ni jop sa ibang tao ng ganyan. Yung puso ko sobrang taba. Im not the perfect mom. I don't know how to cook, maglaba. I hate household chores. Mainitin ulo ko. Pero I try my best. Kanina nagkaron sya temper tantrum sa art class nya kasi hindi perfect pagkakagupit nya ng bug. Sabi ko, it's okay to make mistakes. Don't aim to be perfect. Aim to be better. Sana matandaan nya. Thank you kay mommy @artsyava for updating me habang nasa gym ako kanina 😙 #iShine7 #Promil4iShine7 #mommybloggerph #machokidxmachomom
As a single mom, it’s important for Kaycee to show Geof that not one gender should be solely stuck in the kitchen or working in the office. “It’s inevitable that media and television depicts stereotypes for different gender roles,” she says. “He sees me as an example that women can do both. I work, I take care of him, and show him that anyone can do anything.”
Society has created this dichotomy that boys should like blue and grow up tough, while girls love pink and are meek. When they don’t “act like their gender,” they are immediately tagged as “too masculine or feminine” in the negative sense. Kaycee takes it upon herself to “talk to him like an adult [and explain that] gender stereotypes are made by people to assign certain roles.”
“People can wear any color they want. A guy can love ponies and pink. A woman can like comic books and computers. Both can appreciate anything,” she says. “I taught him gender is a socially made construct and it shouldn’t hinder anyone from pursuing what they want in life,” she adds.
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Kaycee also admits that she rarely opens up about her parenting style to others. At the same time, she also doesn’t care if people judge her because it was her choice to raise her son with these teachings. Instead, she’s more focused on preparing Geof for the real world. “It’s a challenge to raise someone in this deteriorating world. Humans are evil. Our planet is dying. It’s tough to prepare him for what’s ahead; to teach him grit and resilience. But also, there’s still some good left in the world.”
It’s true that gender-neutral parenting can be difficult. Some are concerned about their children not knowing what to refer to themselves when they grow up. There are studies believing that a kid is likely choose to identify based on biological gender during the early years (unless they’re transgender at a young age). And no one should fault anyone for not raising a theyby because it’s ultimately their choice to do so.
For Kaycee, she hopes other parents would “at least teach their children to look at people in equal terms despite of their race, religion, or gender.” Additionally, let your child choose what gender or sexual orientation they identify with as they grow older—same with how Kaycee let Geof decide that he is a boy.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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