A British married couple are hiding their baby’s gender to protect the child from “unconscious bias,” they told the BBC Monday.
In an appearance on BBC One, Hobbit Humphrey, 38, and Jake England-Johns, 35, said they are asking friends and family to address their 17-month-old, Anoush, by the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them.” They said they also dress the toddler in both boy’s and girl’s clothing.
According to Humphrey and England-Johns, their genderless approach to parenting is the only way to stop people treating Anoush differently based on gender.
“So much of gender bias is unconscious,” Humphrey said. “When I got pregnant, we then were having a discussion about how we were going to mitigate the unconscious bias. And we figured that the only way we could do that was just not to tell people. To use the they/them pronoun for as long as we can, and create this little bubble for our baby to be who they are.”
She said Anoush had grown into “the most lovely little human,” calling the child “just a delight.”
“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,” she said.
England-Johns said keeping the child’s gender a secret was difficult at first, and angered some people. But he said “it has proven to be a really beautiful thing and we’ve had a lot of important conversations from it.”
“We are quite good now at holding space for people’s discomfort in us saying, ‘Actually, we don’t tell anyone, we’re not telling anyone for now,” he said. “We’re not trying to make them be anything. We just want them to be themselves.”
Despite the efforts of the couple, both of whom are circus performers, the child’s maternal grandmother discovered the baby’s sex after 11 months when changing a diaper.
In the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere, gender neutrality is a growing trend ― including when it comes to raising children. Last week, a London aquarium announced it was raising a gentoo penguin chick gender neutral, saying it was more “natural” that way.