The Hub How gender-creative parenting supports child gender health

How gender-creative parenting supports child gender health

AU 2023 Three Minute Thesis winner studies how gendercreative parenting can support children’s gender health

An Athabasca University (AU) Master of Counselling student is studying gender-creative parenting as a way to better support children’s gender health and reduce stigma or expectations around gender norms. 

Skyler Todd’s thesis focuses on the experiences of 8 parents raising children using gender-creative parenting—an approach that does not assign a baby’s gender or sex at birth. Todd’s presentation, “What are you having?”: The lived experiences of gender creative parents,” recently won AU’s 2023 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. 

Todd spent the bulk of their studies learning how to best support gender non-conforming people in counselling. But when Todd became pregnant, they started questioning whether there were proactive practices to better support their child’s gender health—meaning living in the gender that feels most comfortable, and freely expressing that gender. 

“How can I parent a child knowing they can be any number of gender identities?” Todd said.  

“How can I parent a child knowing they can be any number of gender identities?”

– AU Master of Counselling student and 3MT winner Skyler Todd

Gender-creative parenting

Their solution was gender-creative parenting. That’s where parents don’t assign a gender to their baby at birth and use gender-neutral pronouns like they/them from birth. Gender-creative parents sometimes use she/her and he/him pronouns interchangeably as well and do this until their child chooses how they want to be identified. 

After realizing there wasn’t a lot of research available on gender-creative parenting, Todd decided to focus their research on this area.  

Their aim was to share the experiences of other parents, but also to raise awareness about the impact of stigma associated with gender norms.

Two children having an adventure, climbing and stepping in a river exploring a beautiful natural area.

Understanding the impact on gender health

Todd’s 3MT presentation title refers to the 1st question expecting parents are often asked after announcing a pregnancy. It is also the 1st moment on a fetus’s gender-socialization journey.

I want people to understand that these conversations around gender socialization and gender health impact all of us and not just transgender and gender non-conforming people,” said Todd.

“I want people to understand that these conversations around gender socialization and gender health impact all of us and not just transgender and gender non-conforming people.”

Gender-creative parenting

Todd explained there are many actions gender-creative parents can take to allow their child to express themselves outside of gender stereotypes, a term called gender expansiveness. This includes removing gender from things like clothes, toys, and the child’s nursery.

Gender-creative parenting allows children to express themselves without stigma or expectations around gender norms, said Todd.

“Children can play with all the toys, wear all the clothes, use all the colours.”

Todd hopes their research, influenced by the work of Kyl Myers, author of Raising Them,” will shine a light on the implicit ways people socialize their children with gender. 

They explained this presents itself in ways like overestimating a male child’s crawling ability or encouraging more emotions in a female child.

Todd will share their work further when they compete in-person at the Western Regional 3MT competition on May 25, 2023, at the University of Saskatchewan. 

“Children can play with all the toys, wear all the clothes, use all the colours.”

Children painting a doll house

Socializing their research

Todd said that winning AU’s 2023 3MT competition and advancing to the Western Regionals helped them affirm that more people would be willing to listen and learn about their work.  

When asked if they had any advice for future student competitors, Todd said “just take the plunge.” 

“Whether you win or not, it’s really useful to be able to plainly summarize your research in 3 minutes. And it was also really fun to listen to other people’s research!”  

Todd is currently an elementary school teacher but hopes to pivot to counselling full-time once they complete their master’s degree.  

“I’d love to continue to expand the conversation of gender health not just being a conversation for transgender and gender non-conforming people, but for all of us,” they said.  

Todd was also recently nominated to join the Athabasca University Graduate Student Association (AUGSA).  

“I’d love to continue to expand the conversation of gender health not just being a conversation for transgender and gender non-conforming people, but for all of us.”

Congratulations 2nd- and 3rd-place 3MT winners

Jasmine Sheikh, a Master of Counselling student, won second at AU’s 3MT competition. Sheikh presented on Counselling view and the medical model: An exploration of the tension 

Danica Nolette, a Master of Nursing student, won third for presenting Transition shock and self-efficacy amongst new graduate nurses post pandemic. 

Learn more about the 3MT competition at AU.  

 

 

Published:
  • May 8, 2023