Just a tad kooky.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Three-year-old twins Zyler and Kadyn Sharpe scurried around the boys and girls clothing racks of a narrow consignment store filled with toys. Zyler, wearing rainbow leggings, scrutinized a pair of hot-pink-and-purple sneakers. Kadyn, in a T-Rex shirt, fixated on a musical cube that flashed colorful lights. At a glance, the only discernible difference between these fraternal twins is their hair — Zyler’s is brown and Kadyn’s is blond.
Is Zyler a boy or a girl? How about Kadyn? That’s a question their parents, Nate and Julia Sharpe, say only the twins can decide. The Cambridge, Mass., couple represent a small group of parents raising “theybies” — children being brought up without gender designation from birth. A Facebook community for these parents currently claims about 220 members across the U.S.
“A theyby is, I think, different things to different people,” Nate Sharpe told NBC News. “For us, it means raising our kids with gender-neutral pronouns — so, ‘they,’ ‘them,’ ‘their,’ rather than assigning ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘him,’ ‘her’ from birth based on their anatomy.”
Parents in the U.S. are increasingly raising children outside traditional gender norms — allowing boys and girls to play with the same toys and wear the same clothes — though experts say this is happening mostly in progressive, well-to-do enclaves. But what makes this “gender-open” style of parenting stand out, and even controversial in some circles, is that the parents do not reveal the sex of their children to anyone — including the children themselves. If no one knows a child’s sex, these parents theorize, the child can’t be pigeonholed into gender stereotypes.