Theybies: raising alienated babies

Theybies: raising alienated babies

Gender-neutral parenting turns children against society from earliest infancy.

Jan Macvarish


‘Hi I’m Hazel Dennis, I’m Ari’s daughter, well, demi-daughter… one of the most commonly asked questions is, do I have a mom? Well, I will say no. The person that gave birth to me was Ari, not a boy or a girl, they’re transgender. I wish that some people would just accept that I’m not a boy or a girl, I’m part-girl, but I also use they/them. Sometimes I would just wish that someone would ask my pronouns and they would accept it and they would call me a demi-girl and use the right pronouns. Well, It’s hard being a demi-girl but I live with it. Sometimes I think I should become a normal girl but that’s not who I am.’

These words were spoken to camera by eight-year-old Hazel, and broadcast on the Facebook page of her mother, Ari Dennis. Trying to write about Ari and Hazel is linguistically tortuous. It’s not clear whether Hazel is male or female, but I assume her name indicates she is a girl. Ari describes herself as ‘non-binary’, but appears to be a woman who has given birth to two children. The children are being raised in a ‘three-adult household’, which seems to comprise Ari, a large hairy man who sometimes wears a skirt, and a small young woman in a lumberjack shirt. They could be viewed simply as eccentrics, but for their willingness to court publicity and the fact their ideas are given a serious hearing. Ari is indeed setting herself up as the poster girl for ‘gender-neutral parenting’.

A self-proclaimed ‘educator’ in ‘gender creativity’, Ari made the news this year for publicising the fact that Hazel’s younger sibling Sparrow is being raised as a ‘theyby’ – a gender-neutral baby. This doesn’t just mean eschewing pink and blue or choosing a non-gendered name such as ‘Sparrow’ – it also means concealing the baby’s biological sex from other people, and not using gendered pronouns to refer to him or her.

Ari’s neologism ‘theyby’ reveals her nose for a headline rather than her sense of reality. (After all, we already refer to babies in gender-neutral terms, as, well, babies.) Hence while Ari keeps the rather banal fact of Sparrow’s biological sex a secret, even from his or her grandmother, she has allowed international film crews to broadcast herself and her children. There’s something intriguingly twisted about going to great lengths to conceal the sex of your baby while simultaneously exposing your family life to intense public scrutiny in pursuit of a cause which is bound to provoke some public hostility.

Yet the response to Ari is not always sceptical or critical. While Piers Morgan responded with pantomime incredulity, others have praised Ari’s progressive ‘parenting style’. This is not surprising. A Google search for ‘gender-neutral parenting’ generates links to mainstream publications advising how to do it.

Parents undertaking a gender-neutral approach usually aspire to ‘freeing’ their children from rigid gender stereotypes, so that they can ‘achieve their full potential’. But Hazel’s speech to camera serves as a warning of the dangers of raising a child without such a meaningful framework. It means the child is cut off from the frameworks which root him or her in a particular family, and connect him or her to the wider world.

Hazel might be parroting the words of the adults, but there is still something disturbing about her lexicon. She is a ‘demi-daughter’. She does not have a mother, but a ‘person that gave birth to me’. We don’t know if she has someone to call a father. She is not part of a family, but a ‘household’. Elsewhere, she says that she does not refer to Sparrow as her brother or sister, but as her ‘sibling’.

The stripping away of terms such as ‘baby’, ‘daughter’, ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’ and ‘family’ is done in the name of increasing individual choice and freedom. Yet it must make it very difficult for Hazel to have a sense of self which is rooted, rather than contingent. The words we use to describe our families are both personally and socially meaningful. ‘My mother’ is highly meaningful to me. It describes someone who is my mum. But ‘mother’ is also universally recognised as a highly meaningful status in general. Likewise, when children taken into care experience social workers referring to their brothers and sisters with the technical term ‘siblings’, they find it disturbingly impersonal. It fails to recognise the deep bonds between children, captured by phrases like ‘my brother’ or ‘my sister’.

Of course lots of families come up with their own unique words for things. Children are given pet-names, which only their families understand, and grandparents are often named by their grandchildren in idiosyncratic ways. But these names are more intimate, more specific to the family, and they reflect the unique bonds between the people in that family. Being a ‘demi-daughter’ does not suggest a stable identity, but a worryingly fragmented one.

Moreover, for a child of eight to refer to herself as a ‘demi-girl’, ‘part-girl’ or ‘they/them’ is not spontaneous. It is a sign of adult influence, which belies the claim that gender-neutral parenting allows the child to discover his or her identity for him or herself. In encouraging Hazel to identify herself as such, she is pitched into battle against the conventions and norms of the social world. She is effectively alienated, not just from social existence, but also from her own body. That’s because the world will continue to relate to, and recognise, her bodily existence, as a non-plural gendered pronoun, in spite of her parents’ demands. She will find herself in an impossibly anti-social state of alienation, opposed to the very way in which others think of her.

Moreover, by being identified with a newly invented category, she is deprived of any sense of belonging to something other than herself, be it to the human race, or to the girls and women who have gone before her. A tribe of one is surely a lonely place to be.

But this is the point to the whole project of gender-neutrality. It isolates individuals from social conventions and frameworks of shared meaning. It is not a fight to expand the possibilities for either side of the gender binary. It wants to destroy distinctions altogether, by attacking our common language and ‘problematising’ the gendered distinctions through which we enter the world as actual people. This is a slash and burn approach to human culture. It is the exact opposite of the proper task of raising children, which involves teaching children the words and meanings they will share with their fellow humans.

Ironically, the gender-neutralisers do not actually want to do away with gender. While they see gender as an imposition harmful to individual self-expression, they also see ‘gender identity’ as somehow essential, arising inexplicably from within the individual. At a certain age, they believe the child will have their ‘gender identity’ revealed to them by their own self. In the meantime, adults must create a neutral ground on which to allow this authentic self-revelation to take place. ‘Gender identity’ is therefore both all-important, but utterly meaningless. How could it have meaning if it emanates entirely from within an individual, like a gas escaping from the earth? It really is the most irresponsible way of thinking about a developing child, and one that is even more mystifyingly essentialist than sex or gender.

In her statement, ‘sometimes I wish I could become a normal girl, but that’s not who I am’, Hazel reveals the extent to which she accepts her estrangement from ‘normal’. This is highly unusual for a child, most of whom wish, above all else, to fit in with their peers.

But then gender-neutrality actively encourages a profound rejection of everything that is seen as normal. As writer Josie Appleton notes:

‘Gender-neutral persons have no point of independence, no point apart from the world on which to stand. They are their identity box; they are their pronoun. And the content of this identity box is nothing but the violation of the commonly accepted category. It is an identity founded on the negation of the categories of social life, declaring them “binary” and null and void.’

In other words, were Hazel simply to be a girl, she could fit in among her peers, who would just accept her as ‘Hazel, the girl who doesn’t really like pink’. Unfortunately for children like Hazel, adults have weaponised them, sending them out into the world fighting battles from the word go, not against gender stereotypes but against the very concepts, categories and solidarities by which we live our lives. This is deeply damaging, not just to social solidarity, but also to children themselves.

Jan Macvarish is the author of Neuroparenting: The Expert Invasion of Family Life.

Jan will be speaking on Wednesday 20th November, in Dublin, as part of the Battle of Ideas Europe event, Nature, Nurture, Neither or Both? What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us.

Picture by: Getty.

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Perverted Lesbian

19th November 2019 at 5:46 pm

Pandora’s Box is well and truly open
I have decided to take a much harder line than I did before, I am not going to engage in lies anymore, I am not a radical, I am not hateful, but I am not going to contribute to the condoning of child abuse and of ruining of childhoods. I am not going to engage in anti-facts to save someone’s feelings.
This was the mistake that was made in the first place when we decided to engage in anti-facts like, people can change their sex via a simple name change or surgery, this should have been dealt with as a mental illness/condition, and for the teeny tiny percentage that do have actual gender dysphoria and that surgery would be a good idea then that should have been the outcome, but to indulge such BS as gender fluidity non-binary etc has been a huge mistake. In my opinion, this upsurge in non-binary, etc, etc, etc is, for the most part, a combination of many factors such as attention seeking, mental illness, possibly autism, immaturity, coercion, peer pressure. So in reality what we have ended up doing is letting down huge swathes of society by giving this subject attention, when what we should have done is let it fizzle out as we do with other fads like Goths emo etc

Andrew Mawdsley

19th November 2019 at 1:21 pm

I’m slightly confused (despite not being a theyby). Why is it so horrendous to have a gender? Why is this seen as abhorrent by some people? If you wish to identify as something other than the gender into which you were born, then fair enough but why do wish to diminish and affect the people closest to you by enforcing your life choices upon them. Weird. Seems massively narcissistic to me, but then I am a fella and presumably not nuanced enough to understand the vagaries.

Ed Turnbull

19th November 2019 at 9:48 am

Deluded narcissism is fine if kept to oneself: I mean I’m fine if some hairy-arsed bloke wishes to don a dress and claim his name’s Cressida, as long as I’m not expected to agree with, endorse or celebrate that delusion. Oh, and as long as he keeps his ladyplums out of women’s toilets and changing rooms. And doesn’t compete in women’s sport. As long as those boundaries are observed I have no problem with the ‘trans’ thing.

However, when this trans / non-binary / gender-fluid horseshit is pushed onto children a line has been crossed and – reluctant though I am to say this (“the state is not your friend” being one of my mantras) – social services must intervene. They won’t, of course, these ‘parents’ are doubtless viewed as ‘courageous’ by those whose morals have been distilled from the fetid liquor of progressive thought. But if the parents were members of UKIP, or some other organisation deemed to be ‘far right’, social services would be on the doorstep tout suite. In the ‘current year’ the principle of equality before the law is soooo last century.

Tim Hare

19th November 2019 at 1:45 am

A gender-neutral child without female reproductive organs will never bear children. It does not matter what pronouns you or others use the reality cannot be changed. Thinking that you can change reality by just bullying others into calling you what you want is pure fantasy.

Apart from child bearing there are no rigid gender stereotypes. The best way to free children from ‘rigid gender stereotypes’ is to ensure that all their choices in life are free and not just their choice of gender. Gender stereotypes only exist in the mind of the person who feels constrained by them. Rather than analyse why they feel constrained when there is no good reason to be so these people try and change the language so that they do not have to confront their own insecurities which limit their capacity to try things not normally associated with their gender.

Zebedee Arboretum

18th November 2019 at 11:49 pm

Reminds me of Larkin:
“They fuck you up your person who gave birth to you and the two other non-gendered adults of the household,
They do not mean to but they do…”

Apocalyptic Reindeer

18th November 2019 at 8:32 pm

The death of the West can’t come soon enough at this rate.

Mister Joshua

19th November 2019 at 12:53 am

That no one in any positions of authority has the guts to take a stand against this is proof positive of how completely the far-left has taken over all our public institutions.

I’ll say it again: when madness is allowed to run unchecked in our universities society inevitably goes mad, too. The people who pushed this rot in our universities 10 years ago are now entrenched as our schoolteachers, lawyers, judges, journalists, bureaucrats, and yes, politicians.

They all learned in their formative days in academia that these people cannot be stopped. By the time so-called conservatives graduate they’re fully conscious that any criticism of anything the left does or says will result in waves of attack by incurably enraged party zealots, and the inevitable accusations of “racism”, “sexism”, “homophobia”, etc. etc. etc. all of which are career killers.

So-called libertarians are likewise so terrified of this social reality that they, too, simply roll over. This has now completely trickled down into public life. This is also why it doesn’t matter whom you vote for. No one in the public eye dares challenge left-wing dogma, save for lip service, and even that’s watered down to the point of meaninglessness.

You were all wasting your time going to the polls and voting in meaningless elections when the real fight for control of the state happened on campus 60 years ago.

Brandy Cluster

19th November 2019 at 3:18 am

By god, you’ve got that right. It’s actually much simpler, though; DECADENCE is the problem. And, as in all things in decay, it will come to no good. As much as the Left has control of those institutions, we need leaders to push back and this is why the disrupters are appearing in the USA and why Brexit was voted for. In short, the Left is largely on the run in the political sphere in much of the democratic world.

I have a family of magical thinkers who have all been through their careers on the public purse; they, when confronted by sharp reality, resort to the talking points and cliches. Within a tiny window they have their own expertise but outside of that I’ve formed the view that they aren’t really very bright at all. Unwordly? Certainly.

Michael Lynch

18th November 2019 at 7:59 pm

O tempora o mores. How low can society possibly go before it see sense through the endless nonsense poured out by these self righteous morons? It’s very worrying that there seems to be quite a driving force behind all this crap. That it’s even being given a platform and that a fair few people even take it seriously is beyond belief. When I was a kid the older people used to look at us doing the pogo in our safety pin strewn garb and declare that we needed to be bring back National Service in order to sort us all out. I’m afraid I’m starting to take the same view. Without a disciplined focus and some sort of moral guiding force, society seems to be coming apart at the seams.

antoni orgill

18th November 2019 at 7:28 pm

This is a seriously thought-provoking article highlighting this specific case of alt.parenting. A couple of points didn’t really add up, though. A “three adult household” _ all called Ari: 1 a woman; the ‘Other Half’ being a ‘man’. Does being non-binary also mean being non-mathematically orthodox? And, the memorable name, Ari … Ari Up, of ‘Slits’ fame? There’s got to be a connection there … otherwise, I tend to agree with the sensibilities of the writer. This is self-publicity as much as anything … and, as such, a bit sordid.

Brandy Cluster

19th November 2019 at 3:20 am

Many of these idiotic parents are themselves the offspring of the dope-smoking hippies of the 1960s. At the time I observed to my spouse that this would have long-term social consequences. It is a circumstance where I don’t find myself at all happy about having been correct.

Dominic Straiton

18th November 2019 at 5:49 pm

If you cannot be bothered to read Dr Michelle Cretella on the subject because your dogma wont let you, you have no business bringing a human into this word. And you will be a failure at bringing up a successful happy person .Same goes for veganism and babies.

Ven Oods

18th November 2019 at 6:47 pm

I feel obliged to point out that vegans don’t eat babies.

antoni orgill

18th November 2019 at 7:21 pm

that’s setting the bar pretty high … well done.

Lord Anubis

19th November 2019 at 9:57 am

It is not uncommon however for them to starve them to death.

Ven Oods

18th November 2019 at 5:29 pm

There are many established ways in which ‘normal’ parents can act like morons. That we’ve reached the stage where we’re apparently in need of a completely new stratum of fuckwittery is extremely disheartening.

kejadi kejadi

18th November 2019 at 4:34 pm

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Jim Lawrie

18th November 2019 at 4:14 pm

Why use the term “the baby’s biological sex”? Is there a sex that is not biological?
Why play into the hands of the “gender” rubbish?

There is a girl and a boy, brother and sister, in that house. This is not changed by anything the three narcissists order them to think, say, feel or do. They are not doing anything illegal. The law now lauds and accommodates this kind of thing.

Brandy Cluster

19th November 2019 at 3:21 am

They’ve all gone off the leash since the DSM (look it up) removed Narcissistic Personality Disorder as on the psychological spectrum. Big mistake. Big.

Jim Lawrie

19th November 2019 at 8:53 am

No Brandy, I won’t look it up. It is bad manners to use TLA’s in the knowledge that others do not know their meaning.

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