Gender reveal party

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A round cake with a white base color decorated with edible circles and ribbons of both pink and blue coloration. An attached note says "Open Me".
An uncut gender-reveal cake decorated with pink and blue on a white base.
A gender reveal event using colored smoke bombs

A gender-reveal party is a party held during pregnancy to reveal the baby's sex to the expectant parents' family and friends, and sometimes to the parents themselves. Prenatal sex discernment technology furnishes the necessary information.[1][2] The practice originated in the United States during the late 2000s.[2]

It is distinct from, but sometimes combined with, a baby shower, where the primary activity is giving expecting parents gifts for their future child. The gender reveal party often involves gender stereotypes such as pink and blue denoting girls and boys, respectively.[1][2]

The practice is controversial and has been criticized for the use of elaborate and dangerous special effects, which have directly contributed to multiple deaths, injuries and large-scale forest fires including the 2017 Sawmill Fire and the 2020 El Dorado Fire.[3][4] The practice has also been criticized for reinforcing gender stereotypes, and binary gender essentialism.[1][2][5]

History and development[edit]

The gender reveal party developed in the late 2000s. An early example was recorded in the 2008 posts of then-pregnant Jenna Karvunidis on her ChicagoNow blog High Gloss and Sauce announcing the sex of her fetus via cake; she had previously had several miscarriages and wished to celebrate that her pregnancy had developed to the point that the sex of the fetus could be determined.[6][7] YouTube videos can be found as early as 2008 and 2009, becoming significant around 2011, after which the trend continued to grow through the 2010s.[8][2]

In 2019, Karvunidis observed an increase in extreme reveal events over the preceding five years, with parents "burning down forests and exploding cars, bringing alligators into the mix". She expressed regret at having helped start the trend, learning how the LGBT and intersex communities feel, and finally revealing the daughter they announced back in 2008 to be a gender-nonconforming individual who wears suits while still identifying as female.[6] After the 2020 El Dorado Fire was started by a malfunctioning pyrotechnical device at a gender reveal party, Karvunidis pleaded for people to stop staging such events.[9]

Comparison to baby showers[edit]

Baby showers, a traditional prenatal celebration, have some key differences with gender-reveal parties. Primarily, the focus on gender-reveal parties is fetal sex, while baby showers focus on the giving of supplies and items for the future infant to the expectant parent(s). Traditionally, baby showers are for women only, while gender-reveal parties have no inherently-associated gender restriction and attendee limitations (if any) are determined by the pregnant individual or couple.[citation needed] Some couples combine the two.[1][2]

Spread and mediatization[edit]

The trend was popularized on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest, although it originated before the latter two.[8][5] This mediatization has significantly boosted the likelihood of expectant parent(s) to have or take part in gender-reveal parties. Internet remix culture lends the practice great receptivity toward individual creativity, a factor in their growing popularity.[1][2] Demographic research shows the most gender-reveal parties are done by expecting parents that are middle-class, heterosexual White Americans who are married or partnered.[1]

Planning the event[edit]

The focus of gender-reveal parties being the fetal sex, such information is a prerequisite. This can be determined at or after the gestational age required by the method being used. For ultrasound, the most common method, the earliest this can be reliably done is approximately 65 days, but it is typically done at around 20 weeks.[a] Both the determination of fetal sex and the party are typically held during the second trimester.[1][10]

Post-examination knowledge of the fetal sex by the parents varies. Most commonly, a third party (sometimes called a "gender guardian") is entrusted with the information, and it remains a secret from the parents until the reveal. This person is responsible for making party arrangements to ensure the reveal happens without the prior knowledge of the parents. In other cases, it is already known to one or both parents, and the reveal is specifically for attendees.[1]

To help maintain the mystery, party decorations are typically heavily gendered, but ambiguous when taken as a whole.[1]

During the event[edit]

Room showing a multicolored scoreboard divided between "Team Pink" and "Team Blue" for a gender-reveal party.
American football-themed gender-reveal party featuring "Team Pink" vs "Team Blue".

While the focus remains on the fetal sex, the reveal is typically the climax of the party. Prior to the reveal, party games are common where attendees or expecting parents guess or assert the fetal sex.[1] This can also take the form of competition between a "Team Pink" and "Team Blue" which parents or participants may join.[1][2]

Sometimes the event includes features of a baby shower. If this is the case, gifts may be given or opened at a specific time.[1][2]

The reveal[edit]

A white frosted cake decorated with black question marks and Mars and Venus symbols; the cake has been cut open and a piece sits on its side on a paper plate to the right. There are three layers to cake; the top and the bottom layers are off-white and the middle layer is pink.
A gender-reveal cake sliced open with a pink middle layer suggesting a baby girl

Most reveal methods utilize gender-associated colors, most typically blue and pink representing male and female respectively, decorated with other gender-associated items. The method of reveal varies; common methods involve cutting special cakes, launching or popping balloons, confetti/streamers, piñatas, colored smoke, and Silly String. Other seasonally-related items such as Easter eggs, Jack-o'-lanterns, Christmas presents, or Fourth of July or New Year's fireworks may also be incorporated depending on time of pregnancy.[1][2]

Once these colors are revealed, both the expecting parent(s) and onlookers are made aware of the fetus's sex, typically to great celebration and comment by attendees. The announcement of a predetermined, sex-dependent baby name may also take place.[1]


The sex and gender distinction underlies many criticisms of gender-reveal parties.[2] The term "gender-reveal" is considered a misnomer by those who believe in a distinction. Gender is a social construct in this view, not definitively determined by biological characteristics, with an individual gender identity impossible to determine medically. Thus, when a reveal of a fetus's genitals is made, it is the sex and not the gender that is being revealed, according to this view.[2][8][11][12]

Furthermore, gender-reveal parties rely heavily on the male-female gender binary, which assumes the child will not be intersex, which occurs in an estimated 1 in 4500–5500 births.[13][14] Gender-reveal parties have been argued to reinforce gender essentialism, precluding and minimizing transgender identification.[8][13] Some parents have rejected gender-reveal events because of a greater belief in gender identity.[5]

Overall the practice reinforces stereotypical gender roles, often utilizing polarizing gender dichotomies in party materials such as "Guns or Glitter", "Pistols or Pearls", or "Wheels or Heels".[1][2] Critics say that there is no reason to assume a neat fit into the essentialist dichotomy even in the case of a cisgender, non-intersex child.[5][12][13]

In 2019, Jenna Karvunidis, considered one of the pioneers of gender reveal parties, called for re-evaluation of the practice due to how it might affect transgender and non-binary individuals, writing about her own daughter's gender nonconformity.[6][15] After the El Dorado Fire in 2020, Karvunidis decried the parties and pleaded for people to stop having them.[9]

Incidents and injuries[edit]

Some instances of attempted spectacular special effects at gender-reveals have caused injury, death, and even large-scale damage:

  • The 2017 Sawmill Fire in Arizona was caused by a gender-reveal party that combined blue powder and Tannerite. Other dangerous stunts have involved fireworks and alligators.[16]
  • In 2018, "gender reveal burnouts", in which cars emit billowing clouds of pink or blue smoke, became a popular fad in Australia. The Queensland Police Service warns that this practice is dangerous, and that a number of attempted "burnouts" have resulted in flaming vehicles and arrests.[17]
  • In September 2019, a plane crashed in Turkey, Texas when a low-flying crop duster was attempting to drop 350 gallons of colored water for a reveal. The pilot was not injured and the passenger received minor injuries.[18]
  • In October 2019, a woman was killed in Knoxville, Iowa by flying shrapnel from the explosion of a homemade device meant to reveal her grandchild's gender. The device, made from a metal cylinder packed with gunpowder and colored baby powder, was intended to project a display vertically, but the tape covering its top caused it to instead explode in a manner similar to a pipe bomb.[19]
  • In September 2020, a gender-reveal pyrotechnic device started the El Dorado Fire near Yucaipa, California, destroying homes, prompting evacuations, burning thousands of acres,[20][21] and causing the death of one firefighter.[22]
  • On February 21, 2021, the accidental explosion of an in-development gender reveal device in Liberty, New York killed the father-to-be and injured his younger brother.[23][24]
  • On March 29, 2021, two people were killed when a plane crashed in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Mexico while carrying a trailing sign that read "It's a girl!"[25]
  • On April 20, 2021, 80 pounds of Tannerite were detonated during a gender reveal party near Kingston, New Hampshire, causing mild to moderate damage to buildings surrounding the radius of the explosion.[26]
  • On May 31, 2021, a gender reveal party near Fort McMurray, Alberta burned half a hectare of forest after shooting an exploding target. The organizers were fined $600 under the province's Forest and Prairie Protection Act.[27]

Parties for transgender people[edit]

Some families of transgender individuals host gender-reveal parties for transgender family members who come out during these parties.[28][29]


  1. ^ Measured from the onset of pregnancy-induced amenorrhea


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Pasche Guignard, Florence (September 2015). "A Gendered Bun in the Oven. The Gender-reveal Party as a New Ritualization during Pregnancy". Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses. 44 (4): 479–500. doi:10.1177/0008429815599802. ISSN 0008-4298. S2CID 220373650.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Gieseler, Carly (February 9, 2017). "Gender-reveal parties: performing community identity in pink and blue". Journal of Gender Studies. 27 (6): 661–671. doi:10.1080/09589236.2017.1287066. ISSN 0958-9236. S2CID 151390917.
  3. ^ Diaz, Andrea (November 28, 2018). "Officials release video from gender reveal party that ignited a 47,000-acre wildfire". CNN. Archived from the original on July 28, 2021. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  4. ^ Blunt, Rosie (October 30, 2019). "The dangers – physical and psychological – of gender reveal parties". BBC News.
  5. ^ a b c d Severson, Kim (June 17, 2019). "It's a Girl! It's a Boy! And for the Gender-Reveal Cake, It May Be the End". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  6. ^ a b c Garcia-Navarro, Lulu. "Woman Who Popularized Gender-Reveal Parties Says Her Views On Gender Have Changed". Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  7. ^ Ho, Vivian (July 26, 2019). "Pioneer of gender-reveal party regrets sparking trend: 'Let kids be who they are'". The Guardian. Retrieved March 24, 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d Bologna, Caroline (August 16, 2018). "How Gender Reveals Became Such A Thing". HuffPost. Retrieved June 26, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ a b Asmelash, Leah (September 7, 2020). "Woman who popularized the gender reveal party says enough already after latest wildfire". CNN. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  10. ^ Mazza, V.; Falcinelli, C.; Paganelli, S.; Contu, G.; Mantuano, S. M.; Battafarano, S. D.; Forabosco, A.; Volpe, A. (2001). "Sonographic early fetal gender assignment: a longitudinal study in pregnancies after in vitro fertilization". Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology. 17 (6): 513–516. doi:10.1046/j.1469-0705.2001.00421.x. ISSN 1469-0705. PMID 11422974.
  11. ^ "Pink Or Blue, It's All Oversharing: Trendy Parents-To-Be Hold 'Gender Reveal' Parties". Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Hafner, Josh (March 12, 2017). "Gender reveals: Insanely popular – and also outdated?". USA Today.
  13. ^ a b c Nahata, Leena (November 24, 2017). "The Gender Reveal: Implications of a Cultural Tradition for Pediatric Health". Pediatrics. 140 (6): e20171834. doi:10.1542/peds.2017-1834. ISSN 0031-4005. PMID 29175971.
  14. ^ Sax, Leonard (August 2002). "How common is intersex? A response to Anne Fausto‐Sterling". Journal of Sex Research. 39 (3): 174–178. doi:10.1080/00224490209552139. PMID 12476264. S2CID 33795209.
  15. ^ Ho, Vivian (July 26, 2019). "Pioneer of gender-reveal party regrets sparking trend: 'Let kids be who they are'". The Guardian. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  16. ^ Sanchez, Hazel (October 16, 2018). "Are Gender Reveal Parties Getting Too Extreme?". Retrieved June 26, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Dixon, Emily (July 9, 2019). "Australian gender reveal party goes wrong as car bursts into flames". CNN. Retrieved September 24, 2022.
  18. ^ Vera, Amir (November 9, 2019). "Gender reveal stunt led to plane crash in Texas". CNN. Retrieved February 8, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ "Sheriff: Gender reveal party explosion was a stunt gone awry". La Crosse Tribune. October 29, 2019. Archived from the original on October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  20. ^ Colin Atagi and Nicole Hayden (September 6, 2020). "Fire officials: El Dorado blaze sparked during gender reveal party". The Desert Sun. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
  21. ^ "Homes Destroyed, Evacuations Remain For El Dorado Fire Sparked By Pyrotechnics". CBS Los Angeles. September 7, 2020. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
  22. ^ Rebecca Plevin (September 18, 2020). "Officials: Firefighter battling fire sparked by gender-reveal event dies". The Desert Sun.
  23. ^ "New York state father-to-be killed when gender reveal prop explodes". NBC News. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  24. ^ Yakin, Heather; Santistevan, Ryan (February 23, 2021). "Soon-to-be father killed planning gender reveal party as device explodes in New York". Des Moines Register. Times Herald-World. Retrieved February 23, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ Montgomery, Blake (March 31, 2021). "Two Killed After Plane Crashes During Gender Reveal". Daily Beast. Retrieved April 1, 2021.
  26. ^ "Explosion at gender reveal party rocks several towns". April 22, 2021. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  27. ^ Snowdon, Wallis (June 8, 2021). "Explosive gender reveal party ignites wildfire near Fort McMurray". CBC News. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  28. ^ Artavia, David (May 27, 2020). "Mother Hosts Gender Reveal Party For 6-Year-Old Trans Child". Out Magazine. Out Media. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  29. ^ Lee, Alicia. "A mom threw a belated gender reveal party for her transgender son 17 years after she 'got it wrong'". Cable News Network. Warner Media. Retrieved September 10, 2020.

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