The term “gender neutral” has become quite the topic of conversations lately. While gender-neutral bathrooms have made their way to public places, there is still a way to go when it comes to tearing away the labels when it comes to clothing and hobbies. Just ask one Indiana family.
On a mission to teach their kids to live a gender-free lifestyle, where labels are tossed aside, Christina Hise-Johnson and her husband decided to raise their children who they want to be, without gender labels. For the most part, the three Johnson children are content living this way, however; Christina has found herself fighting off harsh comments from critics.
Their two oldest children went through brief phases where they decided to dress less gender-specific, but for the most part, they were free from criticism. Their youngest son, five-year-old Chandler, is the one who has been causing quite a stir. Chandler, who was born loving ‘girly’ things, begged his parents for a pair of pink shoes when he was just two-years-old, and of course, they happily obliged. The little boy has continued to admire girl clothing and they happily shop in the girl section of stores, but Christina has had to face some mean remarks. She recalled one person asking her if she was afraid that he would end up gay. Others have questioned why she lets her son dress like a girl.
Some have gone so far to say that this style of parenting is going to harm Chandler in the long run.
Christina shared that the ones who are most concerned about how her children are raised are the same ones that throw the harshest comments out there…
“I have had people tell me how beautiful our little girl is and when they find out he’s a boy they shake their heads and walk away.”
She went on to describe how some discuss Chandler’s sexual orientation even though he is only five-years-old…
“When taking Chan to a birthday party, he was called a girl, and he was told that he was gay even though he is only five. I don’t understand how people associate sexual orientation with a five-year-old, but that’s the way of the world.”
She also shared that the majority of the judgment comes from adults and not children…
“There have been times at the park when he’s been called mean names. Really most of the comments and looks come from adults.”
It doesn’t help that the family lives in a small conservative town in Indiana, where people aren’t quite as open to change as they are in other places in the country.
“We live in a little town in Indiana that is very conservative. There have been a few people that support what we are doing and embrace it and we do love those people for it,” said Christina, who hopes that others will start to understand.
Christina has learned to navigate through the questions and comments, however; it’s usually laced with judgment when a parent makes a comment. When children ask questions, Christina simply explains that clothes are just clothes and colors are just colors and everyone has unique tastes.
“We do not limit those interests based on what the media says is “boy” or “girl” related,” said Christina.”We teach that clothes, colors, and activities are not gender-related.”