Op-Ed: Gender Reveals Gone Wrong

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Photo illustration purchased from BigStock.com.

Zoe Kaplan

When someone is pregnant, the most frequent question they are asked is, “do you know the gender?” Obviously gender is a large part of someone’s identity, but why is it so important when a baby is first born?

Don’t all babies do the same things when they are born, regardless of gender? Babies eat, sleep, drink, and play. Gender doesn’t have much to do with any of these things—except for the toys sometimes given to children.

Many parents choose to give their kids toys based on their gender, like giving boys toy cars and dolls to girls. This is a choice parents make, but it is unlikely to change the way their child acts.

Through watching videos online, I have seen a significant increase in gender reveal parties over the years. What used to be a quick and private announcement to family members or a brief speech made at a baby shower has now blossomed into an entirely new genre of parties—the gender reveal.

The way that parents choose to reveal the gender varies from privately opening an envelope to throwing extravagant gatherings and popping balloons to reveal streamers associated with the color of the child’s gender. However, more extreme versions have also been seen.

One example of a reveal I found quite extreme was a celebration in Arizona in 2017. The woman—excited to make her announcement—set off fireworks to learn her baby’s gender.

Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a happy moment was ruined when the fireworks malfunctioned and started a forest fire, now known as the Sawmill Fire.

To me, it’s sad that such a tragedy resulted from learning a child’s gender. Gender is fluid. It is a part of humans, but it’s not everything we are.

It also concerns me because I’ve read stories about how an emphasis on gender from a young age can affect children later in life—especially when parents have extreme gender reveals or encourage their children to stay within the unwritten lines of their gender.

As children get older, it is often extremely difficult for those who identify as transgender to feel safe coming out and transitioning after a parent has had a gender reveal for them.

The reveals can make gender seem like it is set in stone before the child is even born. It also makes it seem like the parents care more about what the baby will be when it is born than who the child will grow up to become.

I hope when parents make these choices, they think about how their decision could affect their children in the future. The focus should be about having a healthy baby, and while it’s okay to be excited about learning the gender, it’s important to remember that gender isn’t everything.