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Transgender Men Announce They're Raising a Gender-Neutral Child

Zo is an adorable 22-month-old baby whose gender is a mystery. Well, not a mystery exactly. Zo’s parents know what sex Zo is (meaning, what genitalia he/she has) but they refuse to reveal it. This is because they have chosen to raise Zo “gender neutral.” Zo is referred to as “they” and, when asked if Zo is a boy or a girl, Zo’s parents reply, “We don’t know yet. We’re waiting for Zo to tell us.”

Zo’s parents are both transgender men, meaning they were born women but identify as men. So it seems fairly clear (to me at least) that their decision stems from their own feelings of being “assigned” the wrong gender. But with fewer than one percent of the American population identifying as transgender, the likelihood that Zo will face the same issues his/her parents did is highly unlikely. Assuming that Zo will grow up to identify with the gender that matches his/her genitalia, surely raising her “gender-neutral” is just as damaging or confusing for Zo as being raised as the “wrong” gender was for his/her parents.

In a video for TicToc by Bloomberg, Nathan Levitt, one of Zo’s parents, explains his decision to raise Zo “gender-neutral” by saying, “We felt like there are so many gender stereotypes that get put on kids... and then so many decisions are made from that.” Levitt and his husband are waiting for Zo “to identify as whatever gender they want to whenever they feel that’s right for them” and they are open to the idea that “that might change at some point.”

The conundrum here is that Zo’s parents clearly believe that there is such a thing as gender — as evidenced by the fact that they both chose to change theirs. If there was no such thing as gender, then surely they would both have been content to live in the female bodies they were born with. So, they believe that gender is real, they just don’t believe it necessarily corresponds with genitalia. But, given the reality of gender, surely raising Zo without any awareness of gender at all is a harmful and neglectful thing to do. It doesn’t make logical sense to dismiss gender differences as “stereotypes,” and to insist you were born in the wrong body and want to be a different gender. Either there is gender — in which case we should be honest about that with our children — or there isn’t.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Aron Janssen, director of the NYU Gender and Sexuality Service, is in favor of the choice parents like Zo’s are making. “I think people see parents who are raising their kids as gender-neutral as experimenting on their children,” Dr. Janson says. "I think that’s incredibly, incredibly wrong... I mean, every decision we make as parents we are experimenting on our children.”