Couple choosing to keep baby's gender secret to protect them from 'unconscious bias'

Couple choosing to keep baby's gender secret to protect them from 'unconscious bias'

A couple has chosen to keep the gender of their baby a secret from family and friends to protect their child from "unconscious bias".

Hobbit Humphrey and Jake England-Johns revealed their decision on BBC One's Inside Out last night. The couple, who are both circus performers from Bath, said that the child's grandmother only found out their sex while changing their diaper.

A couple discussing raising their child gender-neutral. Credit: BBC Inside Out / Screenshot

Jake, 35, said: "Gender-neutral refers to us trying to behave neutrally towards the child, rather than trying to make them neutral."

"We're not trying to make them be anything. We just want them to be themselves."

Hobbit, the child's mother, 38, added: "So much of gender bias is unconscious. When I got pregnant we then were having a discussion about how we were going to mitigate the unconscious bias."

"And we figured that the only way we could do that was just not to tell people."

While raising their child Anoush, who is 17 months old, gender-neutral, the couple will be dressing them in male and female clothing.

A woman breastfeeding her gender-neutral baby. Credit: BBC Inside Out / Screenshot

Hobbit said they are aiming "to use the they/them pronoun for as long as we can, and create this little bubble for our baby to be who they are."

"Eventually they will get told by somebody that pink is only for girls and blue is only for boys, and you can't play with that because you are a particular sex.

That's still a thing that happens these days. We're just trying to protect Anoush from that."

A man playing with his gender-neutral baby. Credit: BBC Inside Out / Screenshot

But while Hobbit and Jake are happy with their decision to raise their child gender-neutral, it has not been without barriers for Anoush's extended family.

Hobbit's mother, Camile, 64, said that she struggled to get used to Anoush's pronouns. She only discovered the child's sex when they were 11 months old while changing a diaper.

She said: "It was a struggle... but as with any learning over time it became embedded and they became 'they'."

A baby laughing. Credit: BBC Inside Out / Screenshot

Jake added: "We are quite good now at holding space for people's discomfort in us saying, ''Actually, we don't tell anyone, we're not telling anyone for now'. We're just letting Anoush be a baby."

"Anoush is the most lovely little human. They're into everything, they're really active - just a delight."

A baby looking curious. Credit: BBC Inside Out / Screenshot

Hobbit said: "It was tricky at first when not only were we new parents, but also new parents who had the problem of people getting upset about our baby being gender-neutral."

"But in the end, it has proven to be a really beautiful thing and we've had a lot of important conversations from it."

It has had the effect we wanted, of letting our baby develop its own interests regardless of gender. So, for example, while they love having a doll's tea party every morning, they also are really fascinated by motorbikes and machinery.

A couple discussing raising their child gender-neutral. Credit: BBC Inside Out / Screenshot

The couple explained that their child won't remain gender-neutral forever, and they will be allowed to chose their gender once they are older.

"Eventually once our baby is old enough, they can obviously decide for themselves what gender they want to be, but for now we just want them to be able to grow up in their own little bubble," Hobbit said.

A family. Credit: BBC Inside Out / Screenshot

This story comes in the wake of British singer-songwriter Sam Smith announcing that they are non-binary, and want to be referred to in a gender neutral manner.