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Question #93243 posted on 08/04/2020 4:32 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

One of my family members have decided to let their baby decide what gender they identify as. How would you react if you got that same news from one of your family members? They are active in the Church.



Dear Speechless,

As I understand it, gender is a complex idea. There are some biological components to it, and some social components. In my personal view, most of our idea of what gender is is based in the social aspect. Gender is, at least in my field of study, a social manifestation. How do I know that I am a cis woman? Is it because I like 'cute' and 'feminine' things? Or do I just *feel* it instinctively? What about people who experience gender dysphoria? What about nonbinary folks? What about gender is purely biologically defined? Is any of it? 

Why is blue for boys and pink for girls? Does it actually make a difference? Why is it "girly" to paint your nails? Why is long hair more acceptable for women? What about my female body communicates that I'm better at cooking, cleaning, and household chores? Why is it manly to hide your feelings? Why do we dismiss young boys being rowdy while chiding young girls for the same behaviors? What about our differing genitalia defines those differences? Why does the fact that women menstruate and can birth children mean that they're weaker, more delicate, elegant, dainty?

All of these are questions that scholars, scientists, psychologists, sociologists, biologists, and probably every individual is still trying to figure out. I don't get it. I don't believe that 1950s gender roles are ~divinely inspired~ and I know for a fact that Western definitions of masculinity and feminity are not the Truth to end the conversation. Most of the time, I think the social aspects of binary gender are stuuuupid. There are NO good reasons behind most of it, and none of the "girly" things that I like are the reason that I know that I'm cis. It's far more complicated than that. This is all to say, gender can be confusing and difficult, even when you understand more of the elements that make up our "identities." 

I don't have any issue with parents giving their child a safe space to define themselves and develop their own identity without being squashed into boxes by societal expectations. I think that's really important! That can create strong, self-assured, confident kids. However, I think if you put a lot of pressure on a literal child to define their gender when they barely even understand the concept, it may cause a lot of stress if done 'improperly' (whatever that means). 

Mostly, I think it's the parents' business. Probably, they have good intentions and want their child to feel loved no matter what, and that's commendable. Their choice will likely bring about its own challenges that they will have to work out. Probably, it will be difficult for them to raise their child in a way that isn't catered to the child's birth sex, because that's the "normal" way to do things. 

If I were in your shoes, I would keep any negative feelings about it to myself and instead ask the parents questions about their plans, why they're doing it, what their goals are, etc. to better understand their position on it. 




Dear "                ",

I don't think it would impact me that much, and I would support them. I would want my sibling's kid to be able to make a well-educated decision, and so I'm sure there would be some things for their parent to consider, but honestly, if my family member thought that was the best for their kid, I would trust that it were the best for them. 

I would also make sure to talk with them so that I could understand how to support them and their kid.



Dear Speechless,

I would be slightly and pleasantly surprised, and refer to their baby in the way they ask me to.




Dear you,

I probably wouldn't think it was a big deal, but it would make me feel awkward getting the baby birthday presents as he/she got older for fear that I may come across as trying to sway the child into identifying as one gender over the other.

-Sunday Night Banter


Dear you,

I would feel slightly weird about it. Mainly because I think children don't really have a concept of gender anyways, so while it's totally to fine to not hold your child to gender norms (why should people care if a little boy loves pink and dressing up like a princess), it's not very meaningful to say your child is deciding their gender. I also feel like saying that gender is up to your child would introduce needless uncertainty in their life, and possibly have negative consequences for their development.

Overall, I think the best course is to use pronouns around your baby/child's biological gender (for that age group pretty much everything else is just social constructs), because statistically that is the gender they will identify as, but also be on the lookout for signs they do not identify as their biological gender so you can best support them in whatever gender they identify as. 


posted on 08/07/2020 7:48 a.m.
Gender is a politically charged topic in US society right now. Unfortunately, this means that we often hear more that is politically influenced than scientifically correct. Speechless seems to be on the more conservative side of the political spectrum, or at least believes that the Church's own The Family: A Proclamation to the World is correct that "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose" and is therefore concerned and shocked by a family member failing to see the potential negative consequences of letting a child choose its own gender. The writers' responses are decidedly less conservative and may not have provided the perspective and advice that Speechless was seeking.

I suggest you consider reading the book The End of Gender: Debunking the Myths about Sex and Identity in Our Society. I have not yet read the book myself (it only came out two days ago as of this writing), but based on my preliminary investigations into the book, it should dispense with the political baggage that normally accompanies these discussions and provide scientific, fact-based reasoning on the dangers of allowing children to choose their own gender or promoting the idea that gender is a spectrum.

Notably, the author is politically liberal but is a neuroscientist and professional sex researcher. As such, she apparently has no problem with transgender adults transitioning to their preferred gender and yet still maintains (as far as I can tell) that gender-neutral parenting is dangerous.

Hopefully this will allow you to have meaningful, non-heated, and fact-based discussions with your family, Speechless.