Over 200 parents around the country are raising "theybies" in a "gender-open" style that keeps the sex of their kids a secret — even from the children themselves, NBC News reported.
"A theyby is, I think, different things to different people," Nate Sharpe, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, father of twins Zyler and Kadyn, told NBC News.
"For us, it means raising our kids with gender-neutral pronouns — so, 'they,' 'them,' 'their,' rather than assigning 'he,' 'she,' 'him,' 'her' from birth based on their anatomy."
The movement is happening mostly in progressive, well-to-do enclaves, NBC News reported. A Facebook community currently claims about 220 members across the U.S.
But what makes the movement stand out — and controversial — is the parents do not reveal the sex of their children to anyone, NBC News reported.
Though the children are aware of their body parts and how they may differ from others, they are not taught to associate those body parts with being a boy or girl. And if no one knows a child's sex, the theory goes, the child cannot be pigeonholed into gender stereotypes.
Some experts think the goal is noble, but say it will be tested once the kids move into the larger community.
"Once your child meets the outer world, which may be daycare, or preschool, or grandparents — it's pretty much impossible to maintain a gender-free state," Lise Eliot, professor of neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School, told the news outlet. "And depending on how conventional your community is, you could be setting your child up for bullying or exclusion."
At birth, reproductive organs reveal a baby's assigned sex. Gender, however, comes later, around age 4, when children begin to identify as masculine, feminine, or somewhere along that spectrum, experts say, NBC News reported.
Though there is a low chance any particular "theyby" will be transgender — just 0.6 percent U.S. adults identify as transgender, according to a 2016 UCLA report — raising children in a less gendered environment could help those who need the support, Dr. John Steever, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York, told NBC News.
"When a child is told their entire life, 'You are a boy, you are going to grow up to be a man, you are going to like women, you are going to be a father' . . . when they start to feel, at a young age, or maybe in their adolescence that isn't right, that doesn't fit me, that creates that gender dysphoria," he told the news outlet.
Nate Sharpe and his wife Julia believe the twins will know their gender preferences by the time they reach elementary school — and will embrace their decisions and not worry about whether they will be bullied.
"I'd rather have a kid that experiences adversity and deals with it and comes out stronger, than a kid who is a bully," Nate Sharpe told NBC News.
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