The Controversy of Gender Reveal Parties

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A popular phenomenon, gender reveal celebrations have become controversial for a host of reasons. Not only is there a debate over gender binary and the difference between sex and gender, but many have also made fun of these gender reveal acknowledgments and parties. Some have gone so far as to use pyrotechnics at a gender reveal party that started a California wildfire (caused by a cheap gender reveal product that didn’t meet minimum safety regulations). With all the swirling controversy, let’s take a look into what a gender-reveal celebration is and why it symbolizes the changing times in the United States.

What is a Gender Reveal Party?

A gender reveal party is a gathering in which family and friends come together to find out the sex of a couple’s baby. Once the parents have been told the sex of the baby, they want to announce it to their loved ones in a unique way. Some have used smoke bombs and pyrotechnics to take a step further while others simply use gender reveal confetti poppers to symbolize the sex of the baby with a particular color. It’s a lot of fun for the parents and attendees. After all, as humans, we are always looking for reasons to throw a party. Many families have been unable to see parents, grandparents, and cousins for the last 16 months. This can be a happy occasion to get together outside, celebrate the growth of the family, and celebrate the future. 

Sex vs. Gender

Sex and gender are different. There are two biological sexes in human beings—male and female. Yet gender is on a spectrum. This means that gender isn’t as simple as the black-and-white, binary view of male and female. There are a variety of traits and characteristics that make up a person’s gender. It also has to do with their identity and how they feel about themselves. People describe themselves as “non-binary” when they don’t feel they fit into either binary.

Essentially, just because you were assigned one of the two sexes at birth doesn’t mean that you fit entirely into that gender binary. This is when people describe themselves as non-binary. Furthermore, when a person is transgender, they feel as though they were born as the wrong sex and want to take every step necessary to become the sex of their gender identity. It is all very complicated and with no clear answers, which has led to a lot of debate on the topic.

The Debate: How Should We Raise Our Children?

The gender reveal debate represents a greater argument in our society—how should we raise our children? The traditional way was to rear children within a gender normative social construct that categorizes kids into boys and girls. But as we change our understanding of sex and gender, do we want to change the way we deal with this topic? Should we allow our children to express their gender as they see fit?

While this subject is much too complex for children to understand, most people believe that we should be open to whatever our children are. The truth is that the vast majority of children will identify their sex with their gender. Still, there are others who won’t fit into this binary and will be confused about their identity. It can also go the other way. If you choose to raise your children without binary gender constructs, it can confuse them if they identify as the sex they were born.

How Do We Go Forward?

The right thing to do seems to exist somewhere in between. While children shouldn’t be forced to fit their gender into their assigned sex at birth, the topic shouldn’t even be discussed until they are old enough to understand it. Silence is key. Allow your children to express themselves in any way they see fit and they will find their own way naturally. Let them choose colors without gender norms. Don’t discourage them from playing with dolls if they are a boy or trucks if they are a girl. With an open attitude, it shouldn’t matter anyway.

Still, it is pivotal not to push these philosophical ideas surrounding the gender spectrum onto children who aren’t developed enough to understand it. As the child gets older, you will be able to explain these complicated ideas to them. They will decide on their own what their gender identity is, but it is also crucial to understand that we have been functioning in human society with a gender binary for as long as anyone can remember.

It’s obvious why some people view gender reveal celebrations as a controversial way to think about the sex of the baby, but as all celebrations held responsibly and with intention, this type of party can be a great way to look past the events of the past year and honor the optimism of the future.