Elon Musk and Grimes will practice gender-neutral parenting with their baby. Here's what that means.

Elon Musk and Grimes will practice gender-neutral parenting with their baby. Here's what that means.
Elon Musk and Grimes at the Met Gala 2018Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
  • Singer Grimes and Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently gave birth to their first child together, and said they will use a gender-neutral parenting style.
  • Gender-neutral parenting refers to raising a child without subjecting them to specific cues or items assumed to be for girls or boys, like the toys they play with, skills they learn, or clothes they wear.
  • Raising a child in a genderless way can allow them to decide their own gender identity rather than feeling like they must fit into the one their parents gave them at birth.
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On May 5, Grimes and Elon Musk welcomed their first child, X Æ A-12, into the world.

The internet was quick to offer speculation about the meaning and pronunciation of the symbol-heavy name, which lends itself to Grimes' and Musk's planned gender-neutral parenting style.

"I don't want to gender them in case that's not how they feel in their life," Grimes previously said during a YouTube livestream.

Gender-neutral parenting, or a raising a child without assigning them specific "boy" or "girl" labels, clothes, toys, or other gendered cues, is still a fairly new concept in a world where gender-reveal parties and pink and blue baby clothes abound.

But like Grimes and Musk, more and more parent are adopting the style to let their children develop identities outside of perceived social norms.


A person's gender is often assumed based on societal norms

Elon Musk and Grimes will practice gender-neutral parenting with their baby. Here's what that means.
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Social norms have created a world where we assume a person's gender based on their outward appearance. But gender isn't static and isn't necessarily appearance-based. Rather, it's rooted in characteristics society has decided are for women or men, like wearing makeup, preferring certain types of clothes, or having a certain type of voice.

People use these characteristics to assume gender, but that doesn't mean they match a person's gender identity.

Many children who are assigned a gender at birth later realize they don't identify with that gender, but were raised to fit into it. A person could also decide they don't identify with any gender or a mix of gender. That means they're gender non-conforming.

Research suggests that kids as young as two years old pick up on cues that suggest their gender is one thing or another, according to Harriet Tenenbaum, a gender identity researcher at the University of Surrey in England.


Though kids that age might not get the concept of genitalia, they see people with different hair lengths, styles of dress, and other gender markers and start to form their own assumptions, Tenenbaum told the New York Times.

For that reason, creating a vibrant gender-neutral space with plants, books, and play tents can be a way to prevent toddlers from learning traditional gender roles and instead form their own identities.

Gender-neutral parenting can take on many different forms

There's no one way to take a gender-neutral approach to parenting, and different parents will try different methods.

Parents Elizabeth and Sean Scotten named their baby Elliot Claire to encapsulate both genders.

"We loved the juxtaposition of a name that's more traditionally masculine and a name that's more feminine," Scotten told the New York Times. Though assigned female at birth, the Scottens said the baby can use any combination of those two names to fit their gender identity as they get older.


They also created a gender-neutral nursery. Instead of sticking to just a blue or pink color scheme to signify "boy" or "girl," the Scottens decided to go for a genderless books theme that focused more on their family values.

Elon Musk and Grimes will practice gender-neutral parenting with their baby. Here's what that means.
A family go for a walk taking their hands along a street of the old city, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Sunday, April 27, 2020. On Sunday, children under 14 years old will be allowed to take walks with a parent for up to one hour and within one kilometer from home, ending six weeks of compete seclusion. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)Associated Press

Some parents don't refer to their child as a specific gender to other people. Some are careful about the language they use with their children and opt for more gender-neutral phrases when referring to their kids.

"With my daughters, I don't say, 'Come on girls, let's get in the car.' I don't use labels in my language unless it's really specifically needed," Christia Spears Brown, Ph.D., associate chair of the department of psychology at the University of Kentucky, told Parents.com.

Brown said that another way to implement gender-neutral parenting is to teach kids, regardless of their gender, skills you perceive to be helpful. For example, you can teach both your son and daughter basic cooking, cleaning, and yard work skills instead of only teaching your daughter how to clean and only your son how to mow the lawn.


Gender-neutral parenting can be difficult because it isn't widely practiced

Only a few US states allow parents to use the gender-neutral label "X" to signify they don't want to assign their babies a specific gender at birth.

Everywhere else, parents must choose a gender for their child's birth certificate, Parents.com previously reported.

The outside world is also filled with gendered cues, including bathrooms designated for men or women only, male and female sections in clothing stores, and toy aisles that designate which toys are for boys and girls based on color scheme.

It's impossible to avoid these cues completely, but parents say starting with a gender-neutral foundation at home can help children decide what they prefer on their own.

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