Mum hits back at critics who call her gender neutral parenting 'disgusting'
Stay-at-home mum Shannon Walsh, 23, and her husband Jon, 28, have agreed to give their son the freedom to dress however he likes.
Two-year-old Logan regularly wears dresses and colourful hair bobbles, and is encouraged to wear what he likes without worrying about what gender a piece of clothing is designed for.
His parents’ choice to raise him without the constraints of gender has attracted criticism from people who say this style of parenting is ‘disgusting’, but Shannon and Jon refuse to be put off.
Shannon, from West Sussex, says Logan picked out his first dress, a My Little Pony outfit with a tutu, when he was a toddler.
Shannon says: ‘In its simplest form; we just let our son be who he is, without telling him ‘this is for girls’, ‘that is for boys’. So, for example, many people think dresses are only for girls, however, our son chose a dress in a charity shop and I bought it for him – he loves wearing dresses.
‘He’s also chosen clothes stereotypically associated with boys. We don’t assign genders to the clothes he wears – they’re just clothes. The same goes for toys, roleplay, hair, décor etc.
‘It’s not really something we think about – we just let him make his own choices with no persuasion from us or society.
‘Logan’s never been told by me or Jon that something is specifically for boys, because in our minds, nothing is only for one gender. We don’t create these imaginary boxes that everything must fit into.’
While family and friends have been supportive, Logan has been the focus of some rude comments.
One person told Shannon that Logan having a doll made him ‘a wussy’, while another said his pigtails and brightly coloured clothes made him look ‘like a gypsy’.
Shannon and Jon won’t let that push them off course. They believe that their approach to parenting will make Logan a more understanding and less judgmental person, and would recommend all parents ditch the gender stereotypes.
‘I think it’s important because it allows them to be themselves 100% It gives them the opportunity to explore the world without feeling embarrassed by what they like,’ explains Shannon.
‘They don’t have to hide or pretend not to be interested in something that’s ‘not meant for this gender’ like so many children do. We’ll do it exactly the same with our second baby, and any others that follow.
‘It means children don’t grow up feeling that they can’t be interested in certain things, they can be authentic without conforming to stereotypes that people have made up for them.
‘I feel it gives Logan more creative freedom; it allows him to have a huge range of interests and hobbies that some children wouldn’t necessarily experience if they’re being raised to think pink dollies are only for girls and big diggers are only for boys.
‘It gives him confidence to do what he wants to do. I believe it’ll help him grow up to be more open-minded, confident and supportive of other people.’
The children in Logan’s class aren’t at all bothered by his clothing choices and haven’t made any negative comments.
The mum believes that the lack of criticism from Logan’s peers shows that gender neutrality is the way forward.
‘It’s as we get older and have society and older people forcing their stereotypes on us that we start to believe them,’ Shannon says.
‘These children that are Logan’s age don’t care whether you’re a boy or a girl, they don’t care if you’re wearing a skirt or trousers, or if you like cars or princesses.
‘Online, I have had one woman messaging me telling me I am a disgusting parent for trying to force my son to be a girl because he had his hair in a ponytail and wasn’t wearing typical ‘boy colours’, i.e. he was wearing pink and yellow.
‘Most of the time, when I receive silly comments like these, I will either just delete the comment/message and move on, or if I feel like a comment needs a response, it tends to be a question as to why they feel the way they do?
‘Why do you think a sheet of fabric sewn a certain way is only for girls, or why do they feel like hair, which is natural on everyone’s head, is meant to be cut short to be considered okay for a boy?
‘I challenge their beliefs and will prompt them to do some research – people my age don’t tend to know that only about fifty years ago, pink was the colour for boys and was considered masculine, while blue was considered more delicate and feminine.
‘Also, that dresses were originally worn by both boys and girls, especially in childhood because it made nappy changes and potty training easier.
‘You had easier access to nappies, they were able to sit on the toilet without the additional pressure of pulling down trousers and everything.
‘Logan calls himself a boy; he knows he has a penis, he knows what he likes and dislikes, he knows that it is okay to want his face painted like a unicorn because why should it be only girls who can enjoy mystical creatures, pink or glitter.
‘He also knows, sadly, that some people are small minded, but he doesn’t care. When people mistake him for a girl because he is wearing something pink, or because he has a ponytail with a really cute bobble in, he doesn’t care.
‘He might do when he’s older, but I am hoping that the way I am raising Logan to be confident in himself, that he will continue to not care and know that Logan is Logan, and Logan is loved beyond measure.
‘Thankfully, those who have said nasty comments to me about the way I raise him are not heard by Logan himself, and when he has been present, he was far too young to know what was said at all.
‘I want to make people aware that gender neutral parenting isn’t an extreme method of parenting at all, it’s very simple and it’s something that just makes sense.
‘Let your child be happy, regardless of their hobbies and interests. It’s about being less judgmental and teaching your child to do the same.’
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