How do you raise a child as gender neutral?
BY FELICITAS SOPHIE VAN LAAK
Louisa Rechenbach’s short documentary They accompanies a young family who chose to keep the biological sex of their baby a secret in order to prevent people from having preconceived notions about their gender.
The film has been selected to be shown at two major film festivals and starts a much-needed conversation about non-binary parenting. Set around Anoush’s first birthday, the couple reflects on what the last year has been like.
When they meet new people, Hobbit, Anoush’s mother, always wonders, “How long until they ask?” Her partner Jake says that reactions have been mixed, varying from delighted to deeply uncomfortable.
The idea is to raise their kid in a gender open way, meaning that Anoush wears pink and blue and plays with both male- and female-coded toys. “It’s a celebration of gender,” Hobbit stresses. But in what way does Anoush’s gender change the way in which they are perceived?
“Every time I refer to Anoush as ‘they/them’, I think of Anoush as Anoush,” Hobbit explains. “And every time I think of them as the sex I know them to be, my whole idea of them changes, and that’s my unconscious bias.”
Thus, Jake is especially grateful for the work that the LGBTQI community has put into awareness for non-binary gender expression as gender open parenting would be unthinkable without it.
While Anoush’s grandmother has become comfortable with using they/them pronouns for their grandchild, most of her friends are not. According to Hobbit, a lot of people simply assume to know their gender based on how they look or the way they behave – and most of the time, it’s wrong.
But what will happen as Anoush grows older? In the future, Hobbit believes that Anoush might decide on a pronoun themselves and if they don’t, their parents are aware of the difficult conversations that will come up.
Eventually, the couple wants “to create a world for Anoush where they feel free, and heard, and able to express themselves.”
Luisa Rechenbach’s documentary beautifully captures Hobbit and Jake’s family dynamics and shows all the thought and consideration that goes into raising a child regardless of their gender.
You can watch the film at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, at the Aesthetica Film Festival, as well as the at the Encounters Short Film Festival.
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