My son chooses his clothing and shoes, as do his sisters. Years ago we went to the shoe store and he chose Dora the Explorer shoes that were brown and pink with some sparkles. The shoes came from the “girl” section, but children’s shoes are for all children so I purchased them. A week after the Dora shoe purchase, I was at a store looking at mattresses when a salesman told my, then, three year old son that he should stop wearing Dora shoes because they have some pink and he will be made fun of once he is in school. I responded by saying, “Oh we homeschool so that is not an issue. Our group has parents who teach children to be kind and respectful instead of bullying others because they do not go along with social norms.” I got a weird look, but the man needed information. That was the kindest and quickest way to give the information and move on with the conversation.
Not long ago, a friend told a story about a son and father she observed while shopping. She said the little boy wanted a water bottle that had flowers on it. The father said no and told the boy it was because the water bottle was for girls only. My friend was upset because she feels men tend to be repressed due to situations like this one. I have to agree. Gender roles are a societal constraint, not an innate necessity.
Gender neutral parenting is parenting that focuses on the child as an individual rather than on societal norms. If a child wants to wear a pink tutu, that is fine. If a child prefers to wear pants and build forts, then that is okay, too. It does not matter if the child is a boy or girl, the individual is honored. To deny children the opportunity to be themselves is to deny basic human rights. Are we really saying to our children that their brains will be harmed by playing with toys that are for children? What a ridiculous concept.
Part of gender neutral parenting is realizing that genitals do not determine clothing, toy, and activity choices. Another part of gender neutral parenting is being aware of, and explaining to our children, that society tries to label us from birth and we may be pressured to choose an activity or clothing option because we feel we must. Opening up this dialog helps both children and adults to think critically about why we make the choices we make. Gender neutral parents encourage their children to ignore societal limits regarding who they are and give children permission to be individuals who are true to themselves.
I have not discussed gender versus sex or the fact that both are on a continuum, but you may want to research these topics further. Several helpful and informative links are below. These topics are extremely important with regard to autonomy and peaceful parenting.