Couple reveal they are raising child 'gender neutral' and haven't even told close family their baby's sex

Gabriella Swerling
After taking the decision to bring up Anoush as gender-neutral, Jake England-Johns and Hobbit Humphrey refer to their 17-month-old as “they”, rather than “him” or “her”. - ./.

A couple have decided to keep their baby’s sex a secret from close relatives in a bid to avoid gender bias.  Hobbit Humphrey, 38, and Jake England-Johns, 35, refer to their 17-month-old child, Anoush, with the pronoun, "they", and dress them in both girls' and boys' clothing.

The married couple, who are members of the climate action group, Extinction Rebellion, have been accused of “virtue signalling”. However, they are keen to let their child, Anoush, choose their own gender identity when they are old enough, because they wish for them to “grow into their own person”. 

Close family members have not been told the child’s sex and grandmother, Camille, only found out when she changed a nappy.  

The couple, who live on a houseboat in  Keynsham, Somerset, discussed the ways in which they could challenge gender bias after discovering Ms Humphrey was pregnant. 

Mr England-Johns told the BBC’s Inside Out: “The neutral in gender neutral refers to us trying to behave neutrally towards our child rather than trying to make them neutral.” 

“Eventually, we decided that we wouldn’t tell people whether they were a boy or a girl … in order to create this little bubble for our baby to be who they are,” Ms Humphrey said. 

However their decision has sparked some controversy. Rosa Freedman, Professor of law conflict and global development at the University of Reading, said: “While this is an individual case the worry would be that in the unlikely event many parents took up this way of parenting, that the NHS,  government, and service providers would not know what to plan for in the future as they would not know how many boys or girls exist.”

“Parents concerned about gendered social construct would do better to fight patriarchy, homophobia and transphobia rather and try to virtue signal to their friends and communities so they can get praise.”

The couple have said that the reaction to their decision has been mixed. However Mr England-Johns said: “But over a year in, it’s clear that we are serious and gradually people have got used to it. 

“Although, that still doesn’t stop some pretty confused looks from old ladies in the park when they come up to us and ask if they’re a boy or a girl. It can take a bit of explaining.

“We are quite good now at holding space for people’s discomfort in us going, ‘Oh well, actually we don’t tell anyone, we’re not telling anyone for now.”