A couple from Keynsham in the United Kingdom are refusing to tell friends and family the gender of their baby to protect them from "unconscious gender bias." Mother Hobbit Humphrey, 38, and father Jake England-Johns, 35, live on a houseboat near the city of Bath alongside 17-month-old Anoush.
The married couple are both circus performers and members of the Extinction Rebellion climate action group, which staged a series of protests that closed down much of London earlier this year. Protestors from the group tied themselves to fences and glued themselves to trains and buses to compel government action on the climate crisis.
Hobbit and Jake revealed to the BBC that they are currently dressing their baby in both boys and girls clothes and have asked friends and family to address the toddler using the gender-neutral pronouns, "they" and "them." According to the couple, one of the child's grandparents only discovered the baby's biological gender after 11 months, when changing a diaper.
The couple appeared on an episode of BBC One's Inside Out last night, according to the Daily Mail. They explained that their decision was the only way to stop people from unconsciously treating their child differently based on gender.
The baby, whose name was changed to Charlie in the episode, will be able to choose their gender and preferred pronoun at an older age.
Jake said: "Gender neutral refers to us trying to behave neutrally towards the child, rather than trying to make them neutral."
"We're not trying to make them be anything. We just want them to be themselves."
Mom Hobbit Humphrey went on to add: "So much of gender bias is unconscious. When I got pregnant we then were having a discussion about how we were going to mitigate the unconscious bias."
"And we figured that the only way we could do that was just not to tell people."
"To use the they/them pronoun for as long as we can, and create this little bubble for our baby to be who they are."
"Eventually they will get told by somebody that pink is only for girls and blue is only for boys, and you can't play with that because you are a particular sex."
"That's still a thing that happens these days. We're just trying to protect Anoush from that."
The couple said that their decision to dress the baby in both boys and girls clothes has led to "some pretty confused looks from old ladies in the park."
Grandmother Camille, 64, revealed during the episode that even she did not know the child's biological gender until they were 11 months old, when she had to change a diaper.
"It was a struggle... but as with any learning over time it became embedded and they became 'they.'"
Jake says that not telling people the baby's biological gender has gotten easier with time: "We are quite good now at holding space for people's discomfort in us saying, ''Actually, we don't tell anyone, we're not telling anyone for now'.' We're just letting Anoush be a baby."
"Anoush is the most lovely little human. They're into everything, they're really active — just a delight."
Hobbit added: "It was tricky at first when not only were we new parents, but also new parents who had the problem of people getting upset about our baby being gender neutral."
"But in the end it has proven to be a really beautiful thing and we've had a lot of important conversations from it."
"It has had the effect we wanted, of letting our baby develop its own interests regardless of gender. So, for example, while they love having a doll's tea party every morning, they also are really fascinated by motorbikes and machinery."
"Eventually once our baby is old enough, they can obviously decide for themselves what gender they want to be, but for now we just want them to be able to grow up in their own little bubble."