As if bureaucracies weren’t complicated enough. The New York Times reports that beginning next year, New York City will give people the option of identifying themselves on their birth certificates not only as “male” or “female,” but also as “X.” New Yorkers such as Charlie Arrowood (who, we are told, “uses the pronoun ‘they’ and the courtesy title ‘Mx.,’ a gender-neutral alternative to Ms. and Mr.”) are evidently delighted by the change. So too is Mx. Furuya, one of the first people in the country to obtain a “nonbinary” birth certificate (in California), although he (sorry!) admits that “it often takes them a few tries to explain who they are.” When the Times reporter asked for just such an explanation of gender identity, Furuya responded with a diagram that included “four category umbrellas and nine subcategories.” In other words, X means: It’s complicated.
Setting aside the grammatical confusion spawned by the use of they in place of the pronouns he or she, this new option is likely to sow chaos among competing local, state, and federal government agencies when it comes to correctly identifying people on official documents. Many state agencies, as well as the Social Security administration and U.S. passport office, still recognize sex as either male or female on official forms. There is no “X”-box on your federal income tax return.
But there might be soon, if a new generation of gender-neutral parenting militants have their way. One transgender parent, the founder of a “gender-open playgroup” in Brooklyn, recently listed the sex of his (?) child as “****” on its birth certificate. He told the Times, “I wanted a designation that literally acknowledged that we don’t know if our kid is nonbinary, male or female.” These parents are raising their kids as “theybies,” refusing to reveal the child’s biological sex to anyone outside the family, and say their kids will choose their own gender “when they are ready.”
The goal of “theybie” parents, as a recent article in New York magazine described, is to “create an early childhood free of gendered ideas of how a child should dress, act, play, and be.” It’s perhaps not a coincidence that these same children have been saddled with names like “Sojourner Wildfire,” “Storm,” and “Zoomer.” (Zoomer’s parents even run a website, raisingzoomer.com, that offers information and articles about their “gender creative parenting approach.”)
Parenting is a challenge in the easiest of times, and bureaucracies are feared and hated for a reason—they tend to make life a great deal more complicated than it needs to be. Why do these woker-than-thou parents want to do the same for the sex of their children? Perhaps a better question to ask is: How will little Zoomer feel about his parents’ insistence on gender-neutrality when he reaches puberty? We’re guessing—and hoping—the next generation has more sense than ours.