If you’re up to date on recent U.S. natural disaster news, you may have heard about the surge of wildfires across California this past week. Weirdly enough, even if you aren’t, you still may have heard about these fires because they’ve been a discussion topic among the transgender community recently.
The connection, bizarrely, is a gender reveal party.
Thrown by a couple who violated COVID-19 social distancing and quarantine protocol to launch fireworks into the dry countryside of California to announce their unborn child’s genitalia, the party quickly turned from weird and uncomfortable to outright disastrous as the fires ignited. At the time of this post, the fires have spread across more than 13,500 acres, causing tens of thousands of people to evacuate.
California’s wildfire warnings are plastered all over the state in an effort to reduce fire damage and prevent disasters like the one caused by this party. Astoundingly, this is the second time in the last three years that this type of incident, at the same type of party, occurred. In 2017, a wildfire was started by another couple throwing a gender reveal using pyrotechnics.
Following these incidents, many trans and non-binary individuals, other members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and allies expressed distaste for the concept of gender reveal parties. Not only do these parties subscribe to the binarist, cisgender social narrative that is imposed on our children from birth, but they also enforce sexist gender roles, and contribute to transphobic rhetoric that is so often weaponized against our community.
Some examples include:
- “Well you were BORN a boy/girl…”
This statement implies that genitalia is synonymous with gender identity—which is untrue.
- “Didn’t you used to be a boy/girl though?”
This question implies that because the trans or non-binary person on the other end may have been raised as a different gender, or that they used to identify differently, their current gender identity is invalid or untrue.
Again, this is false, and dismisses the trans person’s autonomy and selfhood. Additionally, not everyone wants to talk about what their lives looked prior to coming out. It is best just to be polite, and avoid this line of thinking.
- “Right but what parts do you have? Like biologically?”
This question is insensitive and invasive, and once again implies that the asker equates genitalia to gender. When a trans or non-binary person shares their pronouns, that is all you need to know. You probably wouldn’t ask a stranger you perceive as cisgender what their genitals look like, so don’t do it to queer folx either!
In the wake of these fires, the womxn who came up with the concept of gender reveal parties spoke out about how she feels regarding the situation now:
“Stop having these stupid parties. For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid’s penis. No one cares but you,” Jenna Karvunidis posted on Facebook.
She says she regrets the popularization of the parties, and also that her perspective on gender has since changed. Karvunidis feels that putting children in boxes limits their potential and talents “that have nothing to do with what’s between their legs.” Coincidentally, her own first-born now identifies as non-binary.
“There are plenty of reasons to eat cake,” Karvunidis said in a statement to The Guardian. “You can pick one that doesn’t reinforce an attitude of harm toward members of the LGBTQ community.”
Karvunidis’ insight and support for the LGBTQIA+ community is refreshing and valuable. It is also worth mentioning that when she held the first gender reveal party with her husband, it was to celebrate a healthy pregnancy following complications and miscarriages—gender had very little to do with it, other than marking the stage in which the sex of the baby could be determined.
Hopefully, these recent disasters will help more people understand the need to move away from the heavy emphasis on gender roles and binary sex characteristics. It is healthier and happier for everyone to let children grow into their gender identities naturally, rather than saddling them with expectations based on what’s between their legs.