When I saw the news story that a gender reveal party started a massive wildfire, I assumed it was a recycled story from a few years ago when a wildfire in Arizona destroyed 47,000 acres and caused $8 million in damages. Nope. Silly assuming me. This was a brand new wildfire in El Dorado caused by a blue-smoke-generating pyrotechnic machine lit by gender assuming assholes who needed to announce to the entire world that the baby they were about to bring into this world has a penis. Congratulations on your gross negligence, news headline, and what I hope will be charges to hold you liable for the damage you caused—not just to the destroyed land and resources, but to the child you very publicly held to a heteronormative standard that could destroy them as well.
I have written about this topic ad nauseam. As much as people are sick of hearing folks like me tell them gender reveal parties are fucking stupid, I am sick of saying so. Lest you have never heard or read this before: Biological sex is not the same as gender. In other words, a baby born with a penis does not automatically mean they are male. This is science. This is fact. And if you disagree, you are too insecure to realize that what you thought you knew was wrong. I get it—it’s hard to learn new things. But it’s possible. As the folks in Q say, “Do your research.” However, research on this topic will give you actual proof.
Anyway, a child born with a penis will most likely be labeled male, and will be give male pronouns and be expected to live up to all of the male stereotypes our society perpetuates, and will be assumed to be straight and tough and not a girl. While most people born are cisgender and will agree with their gender assignment, there are roughly 1.4 million adults in the United States who identify as transgender and will tell you that their gender assignment at birth was wrong. I am one of them.
We will also tell you how lonely and awful it is to live in a house, attend a school, and live in a society that is constantly giving us very clear messages that we are the ones who are wrong and damaged. We can tell you about the discrimination, anxiety, depression, abuse, and suicidal thoughts we experience for being placed in a pink or blue box that looked black to us.
And you are not off the hook just because you don’t light something on fire, release balloons, or do some other over the top display of what you think your baby’s gender is; if you make any declaration of gender in the form of celebration or as a guide to raise your child before they are even born, you are just as much a part of society’s dangerous heteronormative narrative. It is possible to wait until our children tell us what gender they are before labeling them; however it’s not a realistic approach or an easy way to navigate all of the forms, institutions, and people who want boxes checked in order for them to allow their biases to form their thoughts and opinions. A better approach is to celebrate Baby, tread gently with the idea that Baby’s gender will match their sex, and be open minded and vocal with Baby that there are other gender options if the one assigned at birth doesn’t feel right.
Even Jenna Myers Karvunidis, the inventor of the gender reveal party, said this, “For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid’s penis. No one cares but you.” Seriously. Nobody fucking cares but you and Grandma and Aunt Karen so y’all know what clothing section to shop in.
Too many people can’t get it through their brains and shields of ignorance that gender reveal parties are harmful to the kids they are bringing into the world by setting up a lifetime of gender stereotypes. Nor do they seem to care about the people spectating or minding their own damn business before forced to evacuate their homes because thousands of acres of land are on fire. But perhaps people can dig around their swollen egos a bit to find shame or embarrassment that is powerful enough to make them realize throwing a gender reveal party is actually a reflection on their own selfish need for attention. Putting blue or pink in a cake, confetti gun, or fireworks has absolutely nothing good to do with the baby. Baby doesn’t need the world to know what’s between their legs. Baby doesn’t need to be told their gender in order to live and thrive. But the parents’ need for clicks, likes, and a chance to go viral based on Baby’s genitals is an abusive form of attention grabbing.
We teach kids not to touch their private parts in public, not to show others their private parts, and tell them not to look at or touch other people’s private parts. We drill this into our kids in order to keep them safe and to help them avoid tricky people who may want to hurt them. Yet before kids can consent to anything parents are holding up ultrasound pictures of their kids’ penis as if it’s a trophy. Not only are you taking away body autonomy but you are making the celebration about you and your self-declared title of Boy Mom or Girl Dad. Stop it, attention whores.
Gender reveal parties are stupid and unnecessary. Buying into them is literally lighting money on fire while destroying property and killing people. Even if you are popping a balloon filled with pink dust in the backyard with a few family members, you are making your child and their most private parts about you and your expectations.
Raising a child is often thankless and selfless, yet adamantly declaring your child’s gender for your entertainment and receipt of attention is one of the most selfish things you can do. You’re not off to a great start, parents. And you’re not giving your kid a great one either.