By Sydney Flem & Ryn Montgomery
In our class deliberation about Gender Reveal Parties, we began by discussing what these parties are and whether or not they are harmful. Most of the class initially agreed that the parties themselves are not harmful and should be left up to the discretion of the couple. As we progressed in our conversation, however, it became clear that the relevance of these parties is small when compared to the, at times restrictive and harmful, gender ideologies that are deeply entrenched within our society.
We asked questions such as: “Do gender reveal parties decide a child’s gender identity before they’re able to have a say?” and “What age should a child be when it becomes appropriate for a parent to acknowledge and embrace a child’s gender identity as something other than their gender assigned at birth?” In response to the first question, it was noted that the ideas about gender behind these parties can create a limiting mindset in parents when it comes to embracing gender fluidity. Once a gender has not only been decided, but also publicly celebrated, it can create confusion and difficulty in the future if a child decides that they do not identify with what they were assigned. The second question was left somewhat open ended by the class as there did not seem to be an agreed upon age at which one can solidly identify their gender. Instead, the class discussed how furthering the need for a label on one’s gender throughout childhood and adolescence can create more pressure and uncertainty than is needed. Parents should be open to their child’s expression of self regardless of how it looks on the spectrum of gender. There should be open communication on both ends as parent and child work to create an environment that is accepting and welcoming of how one chooses to identify and express themselves.
There was also a point at which the conversation turned to questions of safety and visibility for those who choose to go against “gender-norms” and the implications that tightly held ideals about boys and girls can have on the development of children. While gender can be seemingly harmless in many ways, there is real cause for concern over how those who have stepped away from it have been treated and discriminated against. How do we protect these people? And how do we begin to break down the ideas that lead others to believe who they are is wrong? At the end of our discussion, we asked the question “does gender have any real value in society: yes or no?” Through a show of hands, the class unanimously agreed that it does not, which lends itself to further discussion of how we, not only as a class, but as members of a larger society can begin to adopt more fluid ideas and actions that promote this belief.