5 Things to Have Instead of a Gender Reveal Party

One of the first questions when someone announces that they’re having a baby is: “Is it a boy or a girl?”

That question has given rise to the gender reveal party, a trend that’s really picked up steam in 2018, with increasingly elaborate staged events during which expecting parents surprise friends and family (and sometimes themselves) with a gender announcement.

One recent such party went massively awry when pyrotechnics set off a 47,000-acre wildfire, so this seems as good a time as any to talk about the problems with gender reveal parties, and some alternate celebrations to consider.

Many criticisms of gender reveal parties come from feminists, who worry that they may entrench sexist divides between girls and boys; it’s common for parties to include gendered themes as part of the reveal, assigning very outdated beliefs about gender roles to a fetus on the basis of what its genitals look like.

But for the trans community, gender reveals are also frustrating and upsetting because they’re actually about revealing a baby’s presumed biological sex on the basis of secondary physical characteristics — whether a fetus appears to have a penis or vagina. Sex isn’t gender; someone with a penis isn’t necessarily a man. And biological sex is actually more complicated than genitals; someone could be born with internal genitals but a y chromosome, for example!

Both camps would rather see people celebrating the excitement of a new baby, not lingering on thoughts of what said baby’s genitals look like. But with gender reveal parties getting so popular, new parents may be under pressure to hold one, or be subjected to one by well-meaning friends and families.

If you don’t want to have a gender reveal party and you’re getting repeat questions, here are some things you can say: “Thanks for your interest, my/our focus is on having a pregnancy that’s as safe and healthy as possible.” “We’ll learn the baby’s sex when they’re born, thanks!” “We prefer to keep this information private. You’ll learn more in the baby announcement!”

And here are five alternatives to consider:

1. A Good Old-Fashioned Baby Shower

Baby showers are a classic for a reason! They allow expecting parents to celebrate an incoming arrival with friends and family — and in some cases, to get some much-needed baby supplies as well. If you’re already well-equipped, consider flipping the script and using your new baby celebration as an excuse to hold a diaper and basic supplies drive for a local food bank or shelter.

Think about making your baby shower gender-inclusive, too, so people of all genders can join in the fun. (And yes, no one actually likes awkward baby shower games, so feel free to drop those from the agenda.)

2. A Low-Key Party

If you want to skip the baggage of a shower, consider just having a mellow event with close friends and family to celebrate the pregnancy. It’s a big life change, and it’s natural to want to mark this rite of passage in some way, whether you hold the party during the pregnancy or after the baby is born.

You can keep the focus on your excitement about the baby—whoever they turn out to be—and not on speculation about what the baby’s genitals look like. One reason people ask about gender is because they’re not sure what else to say and this question has become customary, so come up with some things to talk about that open up the conversation.

3. Be A Troll With a Different Reveal

Tell everyone you’ve got some exciting news to share about the baby and cut into a cake that reveals…a zodiac sign! A routing number for a college fund! The keys to your new house! A pennant for the sports team everyone hates! Another cake!

4. A Love-In for New Parents

New parents tend to be unilaterally exhausted, and help around the house can be incredibly valuable. If you’re expecting, consider preemptively paying the help forward by throwing a party to cook a bunch of food and take it to some new parents, or arranging with them for a group to come over and help with household chores, cooking, and looking after the baby so they can get some sleep. If doing other people’s laundry doesn’t sound particularly celebratory, it does help build community!

5. A Fundraiser for Intersex and Trans Causes

Approximately one percent of children are born intersex, which may be apparent at birth or later in life. Intersex people can have a variety of chromosomal arrangements and may have genitals that differ from expected. Historically, they were subjected to forcible surgery and sometimes medication to assign a gender, a practice that has been widely condemned.

Current prenatal screening makes it increasingly unlikely that an intersex infant will be a surprise, but be proactive: Make sure you have included a plan that excludes discussions of surgery or hormones until the child is old enough to make their own decision, and while you’re making that plan, think about what you’ll do if the baby you think is a boy turns out to be a girl later in life, or if your beloved baby girl is actually genderqueer.

Take that conversation out into the community with a fundraiser or awareness event to get people thinking about trans and intersex issues. Throw a dinner party, but ask people to consider bringing donations to support an organization you love. Or tell people that for every time they ask you about the fetus’s presumed gender, they owe a trans and intersex cause $5.

Photo credit: Ilian Studios/Creative Commons

59 comments

Mike R
Mike R2 months ago

Thanks

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Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins4 months ago

You can guess which Hogwarts House you think the child will be.

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Gino C
Past Member 4 months ago

Thank you

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Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins4 months ago

*comes home from the animal shelter* We're having a (insert dog or cat or rabbit).

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Dave fleming
Past Member 5 months ago

Signed .

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill5 months ago

thanks

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Louise R
Past Member 5 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Janis K
Janis K5 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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mmmm w
mmmm w5 months ago

groan

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Ingrid A
Past Member 5 months ago

Thanks

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