The couple who has not told family whether their child is a boy or a girl

Photo: BBC/Inside Out
Photo: BBC/Inside Out 

It's usually the first thing people ask when you announce the birth of your baby - is it a boy or a girl? But a UK couple has decided to keep their child's sex a secret from friends and family in a bid to avoid gender bias. 

Hobbit Humphrey, 38, and Jake England-Johns, 35, refer to their 17-month-old child, Anoush, as they instead of he or she.  They also dress the toddler in both girls' and boys' clothing.

They have told the BBC's Inside Out program that they will let Anoush choose their own gender identity when they are old enough. They say this will allow the child to  "grow into their own person".

The couple is so strict about keeping the information under wraps that the child's grandmother did not find out her grandchild's sex until the baby was almost a year old. She discovered the truth when she was needed to change the baby's nappy.

"The neutral in gender neutral refers to us trying to behave neutrally towards our child rather than trying to make them neutral," Mr England-Johns, who lives on a houseboat with his wife and child in  Keynsham, Somerset, told the BBC

"Eventually, we decided that we wouldn't tell people whether they were a boy or a girl … in order to create this little bubble for our baby to be who they are," Ms Humphrey added. 

The couple has received a mixed reaction to their decision, with some applauding their decision and other describing it as unnecessary.

"But over a year in, it's clear that we are serious and gradually people have got used to it," Mr England-Johns said. 

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"Although, that still doesn't stop some pretty confused looks from old ladies in the park when they come up to us and ask if they're a boy or a girl. It can take a bit of explaining.

"We are quite good now at holding space for people's discomfort in us going, 'Oh well, actually we don't tell anyone, we're not telling anyone for now.'"

The couple are not the first to choose to not define their child as either a boy or a girl. 

US dad Bobby McCullough lsat year told New Yorker magazine that he and wife Lesley Fleishman agreed they were going to raise their child as a "theyby".

Mr McCullough first came across the concept when he saw a news article about how a Canadian baby being issued a genderless birth certificate.  The dad-to-be then joined a Facebook group that was dedicated to the "theyby" movement.

"This specific group really empowered the hell out of us to do this," he told New Yorker. "(The Facebook page) was my favourite place to go on the internet. It was just like, 'Wow, there's something that we can do parenting-wise that completely goes with our value system.'"

Although Ms Fleishman was skeptical at first, she eventually agreed to raise their child Sojourner Wildfire, without a set gender.

The idea of raising a child as gender-neutral is a relatively new phenomenon, but more and more parents throughout the western world are adopting the belief gender is a social construct rather than a biological necessity.