Two mothers on how they're raising their child free of the gender binary

Whitneé and J. Garrett-Walker are mothers who have decided to raise their child free of the gender binary. Married since 2016, the couple decided to start a family in 2019, which deepened their talks about possible parenting styles.

“We had all these conversations about how we would parent or how we wouldn't parent and what types of things we wanted to do differently that maybe our parents did or didn't do,” J tells Yahoo Life. “The conversation about gender didn't happen until much later in the pregnancy. And then I kind of sprung it on her and I was like, ‘Hey, I don't think we should tell anyone the sex of the baby.’”

The couple had already decided to be surprised by the baby's sex at birth, but Whitneé was initially thrown by J’s suggestion. She was excited to share the baby’s sex with her family, and the two had deep discussions about how this would work. “We had to figure out how we come to a balance of what was comfortable for me and what was comfortable for her,” says Whitneé.

For J, her suggestion that they take the emphasis off of gender was inspired by her own experiences.

“As a person who's gender non-conforming, I think that did influence my decision to have this conversation with my wife before the baby was born, because people put so many gendered expectations on children. There were a lot of gendered expectations placed on me as a young child,” says J. “Even as I went into adulthood, and at the juncture which I started to deviate from the expected gender expectations, people had a lot of thoughts and feelings about that. For me, I felt like I didn't want my child to have to go through that.”

Video transcript

WHITNEE GARRETT WALKER: Looking at a child's asshole not based on their gender, then sex assigned at birth has been mind blowing for me. Cadence might be a girl. Cadence might be a boy. Cadence might be transgender. We don't know, and we're going to respect our child however they identify. [MUSIC PLAYING]

BRITTANY JONES COOPER: Hey, everyone. I'm Brittany Jones-Cooper and welcome to UNMUTED. We live in a world where gender reveal parties go viral every week. But today, I'm joined by mothers Whitney and Jay, who have made the decision to raise their child free of the gender binary. What did some of those conversations look like before the baby about what your parenting philosophy would be?

J.GARRETT WALKER: We had all these conversations about how we will parent, what types of things we wanted to do differently that maybe our parents did or didn't do. The conversation about gender didn't happen until much later in the pregnancy. People put so many gendered expectations on children. And there were a lot of gender expectations placed on me as a young child, and even as I went into adulthood. For me, I felt like I didn't want my child to have to go through that. I didn't want other people's thoughts and feelings about them to be predicated on their sex assigned at birth.

Part of my gender nonconforming experiences did have an impact on my desire to make sure Cadence felt free to navigate themselves along gender. A lot of our family knows sex assigned at birth, but for the most part, we police they/them pronouns.

WHITNEE GARRETT WALKER: Children actually learn to define their gender for themselves as early as two. We don't limit them at all. Their toys, and the way that Cadence is dressed colours or whatever. It's been really interesting to watch Cadence gravitate towards certain things and just be free to be whatever they want.

BRITTANY JONES COOPER: Have you met any real resistance or people who were defiant in your choice?

WHITNEE GARRETT WALKER: At Cadence's baby shower, Jay made this really cute poster to talk about why we they/them pronouns. And so, we tried to do our best to educate folks ahead of time, and it still didn't keep us from interesting responses. For the folks that do not use they/them pronouns or cadence, and they're part of our family. It's not that big of a deal to us, but what is a big deal is when they try to box Cadence in and say, because you were born assigned x at birth. Oh, you're going to be a ballerina, or you're going to be whatever. No, Cadence can do whatever they want to do. However, they want to do it.

J.GARRETT WALKER: One person on Instagram is like, well, it's obvious that Cadence is a girl. As a person who teaches gender and sexuality. I want to challenge you to answer the question of what markers have been shown to you that make me think that Cadence as a girl? Can you maybe learn from this moment, and it's not for you.

WHITNEE GARRETT WALKER: To have something to say about somebody else's child. Sit down the baby's cute. We won.

BRITTANY JONES COOPER: I think what else matters? There is a lot of pressure to fit into boxes. How are you preparing Cadence to deal with what other people might think?

J.GARRETT WALKER: We are going to raise Cadence to know that sex is assigned at birth. These are the expectations to people who have sex assigned at birth. You do not need to fit into that very limited box. You are free to be who you want to be. Just make sure that you are honest and true to yourself because gender really is a spectrum. It's not like binary that we like to think that it is.

WHITNEE GARRETT WALKER: To parent and child in this way. It really is parenting liberation.

BRITTANY JONES COOPER: Hi Cadence.

[LAUGHTER]

BRITTANY JONES COOPER: I want a thank you both for educating some folks today and for sharing your story with us. I think it is so beautiful.

- Thank you.