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Theyby (plural theybies) and non-binary baby are neologisms for a baby or child raised in a way that is gender-neutral, allowing children to choose their own gender, and also referring to the accompanying parenting style. The terms and movement were initially popularized in 2018,[1][2] preceding several reports of babies in 2017 being born without being assigned a gender.[3][4][5] The practice of raising babies as gender neutral has been reported as early as 2009[6] and 2011,[7] however the term "theybie" was first used in 2017. The term is a portmanteau of the pronoun 'they' and 'baby'. Until children raised as theybies choose their gender and pronouns, they are referred to by the parents using they/them pronouns.[1][8]

Origins and motivations[edit]

In many modern civilizations, a binary gender classification exists and is generally assigned from birth.[9] In recent years, there has been increasing scrutiny of gendered socialization in parenting communities, with some questioning the extent to which the gender binary is innate versus just being the only option presented.[10] Parents of theybies' motivations for choosing to raise their child this way include supporting gender diversity, improving self-determination of gender, reducing sexism, and reducing the developmental effects of gender stereotypes on children.[1][9][11] Additionally, many assert that "what their child has 'between their legs'" is not relevant to their gender presentation and is, simply, "nobody's business".[12]

Many parents of children who are LGBT subscribe to a "born this way" view on sexual orientation and gender identity, contrasting the belief that parenting choices can "make" children non-heterosexual.[10] This argument has been echoed by parents who practice gender-neutral parenting, they use this view to emphasize their children may or may not necessarily identify as LGBT when they are old enough to decide on their own who they are, as they believe identity is innate and not changed by their upbringing.[10]

The varying degrees to which parents attempt to reduce the effects of gendered socialization can depend on how hostile their community is when confronted with those who choose to parent outside the gender binary. LGBT parents report higher levels of anxiety when making the decision to raise their child as a theybie or to allow them to explore gender from a young age.[10] This is due to the higher scrutiny these parents face from critics who believe that being raised by two parents who are the same gender will "make" a child gay.[10] These parents have also acknowledged that in some situations they even go against their personal beliefs about gender-neutrality for their children or are inconsistent with their resistance of stereotypes due to their feeling of higher scrutinization.[10]

Associated parenting style[edit]

Aside from not disclosing their child's biological sex at birth (the most literal practice of raising a theybie), there are a variety of approaches of differing severity that parents have adopted when introducing gender neutrality into their parenting. The majority of parents who have shared their experiences with gender-neutral parenting or raising a theybie report that they believe in a child-centered approach to parenting.[1]

One of the most common ways gender-neutral parenting has been practiced is through varying children's toy options.[10] The vast majority of children's toys are strictly separated by gender, with different skills being prioritized between the two. Toys marketed as "for girls" tend to focus on encouraging domesticity, vanity, and general emotional awareness.[13] Alternatively, toys "for boys" most often focus on increasing spatial reasoning skills, encouraging physicality, and normalizing aggression.[13] By encouraging only specific skillsets for each gender, they both end up having gaps in life skills that make their options later in life more limited. This has contributed to the current societal norm of men working and generally being in positions of more power, and women taking care of their children and handling domestic duties.[10][13] To combat these gaps, parents have started offering their children some toy options that are gender-neutral and some toys geared towards each gender, all framed as equally preferable choices.[10] This variety of options is often offered in other important aspects of childhood development such as clothing and extracurricular activities.[10]

Legal recognition[edit]

In the United States, various states have passed legislation allowing for gender-neutral identifiers on birth certificates, including:

California[14] Gender neutral designation permitted at birth
Colorado[15] Initial birth certificates must say "Male" or "Female".[16] However, an amended birth certificate can be issued to change the "sex designation" to "X". For minors, a sex designation change request must be endorsed by "a professional medical or mental health care provider licensed in good standing" stating that the person has undergone appropriate treatment "for the purpose of gender transition" or that the person "has an intersex condition".[16]
Connecticut[17][18] Requires some documentation of treatment clinically appropriate for the purpose of gender transition (surgery is not required)
D.C.[19] Requires some documentation of treatment clinically appropriate for the purpose of gender transition (surgery is not required)
Illinois[20][21] Requires some documentation of treatment clinically appropriate for the purpose of gender transition (surgery is not required)
Maine[22] Gender neutral designation permitted at birth
Michigan[23][24] No gender-neutral option is provided on the form for birth registration.[23] However, the "sex designation" can later be requested to be changed to "X". For minors, younger than 14, a parent or a legal guardian must consent to the change.
New Jersey[26]
New Mexico[27]
New York[28]
Ohio[29] Court order required to initiate change
Rhode Island[31]
Utah[32] Court order required to initiate change
Washington[34] No gender-neutral option is provided on the form for birth registration.[35] However, the "sex designation" can later be requested to be changed to "X". For minors, a sex designation change request must be endorsed by a "licensed health care provider or licensed mental health care provider, whose scope of practice allows them to determine that the requested change is consistent with the minor's identity".[36]

It is also possible to receive a "U" gender marker for babies in Canada.[9]


There has been criticism towards the concept of theybies,[37][38] including from Christian organizations.[39][40] Common criticisms include that it is a selfish choice on the part of the parent, equating a choice on gender to be a choice of anatomy, that it is harmful to keep the gender "secret" from other people, and the possibility of increased child bullying.[41][42]

Although the principle and reports do not set an age limit before children can decide their gender, some critics consider an age limit before children can choose their gender a key component of theybies, and suggest that such an age limit is unethical.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Compton, Julie (July 20, 2018). "'Boy or girl?' Parents raising 'theybies' let kids decide". NBC News. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  2. ^ Morris, Alex (2018-04-03). "Is It Possible to Raise Your Child Entirely Without Gender From Birth?". The Cut. Retrieved 2022-05-04.
  3. ^ Gann, Jen (2017-07-06). "A Canadian Baby Might Be the First Without a Gender Assigned at Birth". The Cut. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  4. ^ "Transgender Parent Gives Birth To First Baby Without An Assigned Gender". True Activist. 2017-07-13. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  5. ^ "A Newborn's Gender Was Declared Non-Binary For the First Time". Kveller. 2017-07-05. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  6. ^ "Swedish parents keep 2-year-old's gender secret". The Local Sweden. 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  7. ^ "Baby Storm five years later: Preschooler on top of the world". The Toronto Star. 2016-07-11. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2022-05-04.
  8. ^ "Five Ways To Show Up For Theybies and Their Parents - Ms. Magazine". Retrieved 2022-05-04.
  9. ^ a b c Matei, Adrienne (2020-07-08). "Raising a theybie: the parent who wants their child to grow up gender-free". The Guardian. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Averett, K. H. (2016). The Gender Buffet: LGBTQ Parents Resisting Heteronormativity. Gender & Society, 30(2), 189–212. doi:10.1177/0891243215611370
  11. ^ "Theybies: Some parents raising their babies gender-neutral". FOX 11 Los Angeles. 2019-03-03. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  12. ^ Rahilly, E. P. (2015). The Gender Binary Meets the Gender-Variant Child: Parents’ Negotiations with Childhood Gender Variance. Gender & Society, 29(3), 338–361. doi:10.1177/0891243214563069
  13. ^ a b c Long, C. (2020, June 24). "Raising baby grey" explores the world of gender-neutral parenting. The New Yorker. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
  14. ^ "California Gender Recognition Act (SB 179)". LGBT Resource Center. Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  15. ^ "Identity Documents & Birth Certificates". One Colorado. Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  16. ^ a b "Colorado House Bill 19-1039" (PDF).
  17. ^ "Connecticut". National Center for Transgender Equality. Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  18. ^ "State Vital Records Office FAQs". - Connecticut's Official State Website. Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  19. ^ "D.C. Law 20-37. JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013. | D.C. Law Library". Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  20. ^ "Gender Reassignment". Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  21. ^ "Gender Neutral Designation on Illinois Birth Certificates – Equality Illinois". Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  22. ^ "Rule Chapters for the Department of Health and Human Services". Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  23. ^ a b "Michigan". National Center for Transgender Equality. Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  24. ^ "CORRECT A BIRTH RECORD - FAQ's". Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  25. ^ "Nevada". National Center for Transgender Equality. Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  26. ^ "Department of Health | Vital Statistics | Amend Sex Designation to Reflect Gender Identity on a Birth Certificate". Retrieved 2022-10-09.
  27. ^ "Gender Designation Change". Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  28. ^ "Changing Your Name or Gender Marker Under the Gender Recognition Act". New York Civil Liberties Union. 2021-06-25. Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  29. ^ "Legal Name and Gender Marker Changes". LGBTQ at Ohio State. Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  30. ^ "Oregon Health Authority : House Bill 2673 : Vital Records and Certificates : State of Oregon". Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  31. ^ "Changes to Sex Field on Birth Certificate: Department of Health". Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  32. ^ "Utah among growing number of states issuing gender-neutral IDs". NBC News. Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  33. ^ "Bill Status H.628 (Act 88)". Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  34. ^ "Sex Designation Change on a Birth Certificate". Washington State Department of Health. Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  35. ^ "Washington State Birth Filing Form" (PDF). Washington State Department of Health. January 2019. Retrieved November 14, 2022.
  36. ^ "Request to Change Sex Designation on a Birth Certificate for a Minor" (PDF). Washington State Department of Health. July 2022. Retrieved November 14, 2022.
  37. ^ Pappas, Stephanie (2011-05-25). "The Truth About Genderless Babies". Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  38. ^ Larsen, Jessica (2017-07-21). "15 Opinions On Not Assigning A Baby's Gender At Birth". BabyGaga. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  39. ^ Showalter, Brandon (2018-07-24). "Raising Kids as 'Theybies' Assaults Reality, God's Creation; Harms Children, Scholars Say". The Christian Post. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  40. ^ Hawkins, John (2020-01-26). "'Woke' Parents Are Now Raising Gender Neutral 'Theybies'". Brass Pills. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  41. ^ Meckler, Mark (2018-07-26). "Dangerous Trend Alert: Parents Raising 'Theybies' - Keeping Gender Secret". Citizens for Self-Governance. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  42. ^ a b "'This Is Straight-Up Child Abuse': Parents Raising 'Theybies' Not 'Babies,' Letting Kids Choose Their Gender". CBN News. 2018-07-26. Retrieved 2022-05-04.