A couple from Keynsham in southwest England has been keeping the gender of their baby Anoush secret from the outside world for 17 months. According to mother Hobbit Humphrey (38) and father Jake England-Johns (35), this is a conscious choice. “We want to protect our child against gender bias, whether or not unconscious, so that he or she has the opportunity to develop independently as a boy or girl.”
The parents told the BBC yesterday; they didn’t even tell Anoush’s grandparents about his or her gender. One of the grandmothers would have been aware by now because she had to change the diaper of the baby during babysitting. The couple then explicitly asked the grandmother to keep the gender of the little one to themselves. And she sticks to that.
When the parents go out into the street with their child, Anoush gets clothes from which the gender cannot be deduced. One day the baby wears cool boy clothes, then another cuddly girl outfit. “We are not waiting for those typical responses that are based on gender. That is why we consciously call him or her ‘It’,” according to the father. The couple goes even further. They prefer that their child addressed with ‘them’. “Then Anoush is approached as both boy and girl. This way, our son or daughter can grow up in their own ‘bubble’ and choose what he or she will eventually become without outside pressure.”
The boy or girl, who would not have been confused by the way he or she is approached, not only has boy and girl clothing at his or her disposal. The houseboat of the couple is also full of toys with which the little one can go in all directions. So a typical boy and girl things like cars or dolls. “It is up to our child to choose what he or she plays with,” says the mother, who primarily wants Anoush to be a happy person. “Anoush is our wonderful baby, whatever it is and will be.”
The couple, an active member of the Extinction Rebellion organization that wants to protect the earth against the effects of climate change, is also being criticized. The mother: “Almost everyone wants to know what Anoush is. The fact that we regard him or her as gender-neutral does not matter to many. But we stand firm. It is his or her life. Not that of the judgmental outside world. “
According to the father, he and his wife have had countless exciting and positive conversations in the street about the importance of gender-neutral education of children. “We have already achieved that,” said the father. “Our vision has a positive effect on the society around Anoush. There is more and more understanding.”
The parents do not yet know how long they will continue to call their son or daughter “it” or “them.” If their child is old enough and makes it clear which way it is going, they bring it out. Until then, Anoush may choose what he or she wants. The father: “One day he or she wants to play with dolls at a tea party and then in the blubber with motorcycles. He or she has not yet made a choice. We are curious about how he or she will develop in the future. Anyway, we respect every decision. Going through life as a boy, girl, or perhaps another form. It’s all fine.”
Anoush’s parents are not the first father and mother to raise their baby gender-neutral. In recent years, several couples around the world have done something similar. They gave their children names from which, like Anoush, no gender could be derived. Over time, they always came out with the truth.