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The Orion

Gender reveals: harmful or celebratory?

Photo credit: Diego Ramirez

A concept: popping confetti to celebrate the genitalia of an undeveloped tiny human. Sounds weird to me, yet this is the new fad of our culture.

We’ve all seen the Facebook videos. Family and friends gather around a suburban backyard while an expecting couple throws darts at water balloons, or cuts into a pink and blue frosted cake. The “gender” of their fetus is revealed publicly to the party and everybody cheers, although it is obvious when the parents or other family members are disappointed by the results. Then, of course, all of this is relayed onto social media for everybody to witness.

All this excitement and money spent is over the gender of an unborn child. Sure, finding out small hints about who a baby might grow up to become is exciting. But these “gender reveals” are just plain problematic, especially when this misconception isn’t even gender at all.

Contrary to popular belief, sex and gender are not interchangeable. Sex is biological, which means that it is determined by your chromosomes that affect hormones and tissues that a body (or any living organism) has. Gender, on the other hand, is culturally, socially and personally influenced and defined. It’s how people see themselves, how others people perceive them, expect them to behave and the interactions had with others, according to Stanford Medicine.

When people reveal the “gender” of their baby, they really mean the biological sex. At this point in development, that means nothing more than a possible penis or vagina being shown in ultrasound. This switch-up of terms might not sound like too big of a deal, but having these elaborate reveal celebrations are already enforcing gender normative roles onto a human that isn’t even born yet. Why are we deciding the gender for somebody that hasn’t been able to feel it out for themselves?

All of this worsens when you consider that 1 in 100 people differ from standard male and female bodies, according to the Intersex Society of North America. The fact that so many people’s biological makings don’t adhere to the male and female molds proves that gender has little to do with your born sex. Everybody experiences biological sex and their gender identity differently. This culture of gendering unborn fetuses and children in general needs to end.

I realize that a gender reveal party could just be a fun way to receive gifts to help parents through the newborn and toddler days, while also spending time with family and friends while celebrating new life. But couldn’t that be done over a simple brunch or lunch event? Go ahead and celebrate new beginnings and an addition to your family, but let’s not add to the already harmful aspects of societal norms.

Rayanne Painter can be reached at [email protected] or @rayphenomenon on Twitter.

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