Cisgender people are taking their efforts to enforce the gender binary to new heights. Desperate to ensure friends and family members that their future child will most definitely be a GIRL (pink!) or BOY (blue!), they are creating and detonating actual explosives to announce this information. Store-bought and homemade devices— such as the “Tannerite gender reveal boom box kit” pictured above — have thus far resulted in a forest fire and at least one death.
And they call us trans people crazy and dangerous? These genital reveal parties are getting seriously out of hand.
Surely that was a typo; I meant “gender” reveal, right? No, I did not.
The sonogram shown to expectant parents — or whoever the parents entrust with this information — typically indicates the presence or absence of a penis. This blurry image reveals nothing about the future baby’s gender. More to the point, these minuscule, prenatal genitals reveal nothing about what cis people typically associate with gender:
- What clothing and hairstyles their future child will prefer to wear
- What toys they will like playing with
- What hobbies they will enjoy
- What sexual orientation they will have
- What academic subjects they will be best at
- What career path they will be interested in pursuing
All of the above, and more, are assumptions that the kinds of people who throw these kinds of parties coercively assign to their future children, based on nothing more than the external appearance of their sex organs. This is why trans, non-binary, and intersex people, and our allies, prefer to use the term “assigned sex”. We are not defined by our genitals.
Should we abandon referring to children with gendered words altogether, then? Some parents have chosen to do just that. As one who is childless by choice I am no expert on parenting, but I certainly don’t oppose this practice.
However, I don’t believe using strictly gender-neutral terms after the baby is born is necessary to avoid reinforcing binary gender roles. I simply want parents to realize that when they announce “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!”, they are revealing nothing about their future child’s personality or preferences.
Without the explosives, celebrating with a festive display of blue or pink might seem like harmless fun. But linking these colors to an infant’s penis or vulva reinforces the idea that there are two and only two genders, which determine the course of our lives even before we are born. We need to move beyond this biological essentialism and celebrate our children’s authentic genders — whatever they turn out to be.