Stephen: So I think this one is a relatable struggle for a lot of people listening to this, including me. I've been in this situation. It's hard, right? On the one hand, you can have your personal reservations about gender reveals and the sort of toxic, outdated, limited view of gender that they represent. And then, on the other hand, sometimes people you love decide to do a gender reveal, and they're really excited about it. And you know their heart well enough to know that they're not trying to enforce that toxic, outdated, limited view of gender — they may just be excited to learn everything they can learn about their baby. And unfortunately, and very weirdly, the baby's genitalia is just one of the very few data points that new parents get about their kid before birth.
I don't personally endorse gender reveals as a concept, but I also know that for many new parents, the gender reveal is less about forcing their kid into some very restrictive gender box and more about eating cake, having a party, and getting the chance to celebrate their new baby. So it's kind of hard when you're in that position of being invited to one to know what to do. I think for you, there are a few ways that you can go about this. First of all, you see that you and your friends share similar values around gender and that you've had extensive conversations around these issues in the past. So I don't think it's particularly out of bounds or unreasonable for you to check in with your friend about this. As long as you can approach the conversation gently and respectfully and without any sort of accusation about the purity of her values around gender, I think it's OK to say something in the vein of like, "Hey, I was actually sort of surprised that you wanted to do a gender reveal at the shower. Here are some reasons why gender reveals give me pause. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts about this, too."
Maybe after having that conversation with her, she would decide that actually, after hashing it out, she realizes she doesn't want to do a gender reveal. Or maybe she says she does want to do it, but maybe after having that conversation, you would walk away feeling a little more confident that she hasn't completely abandoned the values that you share.
Another option is to let the gender reveal happen as planned, but try to make it as gender-inclusive and non-stereotypical as possible. For example, maybe you just have to accept that that cake is going to be pink or blue inside, but you push for a larger party theme that's gender-neutral. I love jungle animals, and maybe you can specifically steer your friend away from any decor that would seek to define their child's future by their gender. So, if there's going to be basketballs on the boy cake, fight for there to be basketballs on the girl cake. And if there's going to be ballet slippers on the girl cake, there should be ballet slippers on the boy cake. Obviously, this is still a very reductive, simplistic way to look at gender. It's not the way that I would endorse looking at gender, but it is at least a step in the right direction that steers the parents into a more inclusive place.
By the way, I think you should also advocate for this moment of the baby shower to be called a sex reveal instead of a gender reveal. It just gets a little bit more accurate about what is maybe being revealed that day, and I'll just take this moment to plug my own personal idea that I think parents should do, which is instead of doing a gender reveal or sex reveal or whatever, I think more parents should do an ultrasound reveal, where you get to see that black and white scan of the baby for the first time and everyone can "ooh and ah" and be like, "Oh my god, there it is." Maybe somewhere on the ultrasound, there is that M or F so that the great-grandma in the back of the room, who's inevitably going to ask the question, can be "Male" or "Female." Then the focus is on the ultrasound and you're celebrating, like, "Look at that little baby that's going to be born someday." That's my personal plug.
And then there's a third and final option here, which is that if you want to and this is only if you want to, you could simply bite your tongue, saying nothing, and let the gender reveal happen exactly as planned right now. That's the path of least resistance. And if choosing that path is the most comfortable option for you, let me assure you that that is OK. That's understandable. It does not make you some terrible human who has abandoned your own progressive values. It really helps for my assessment that this event is actually a baby shower, not a full-blown gender reveal party. Because there is a distinction there, right? It's a baby shower where this gender reveal thing is a moment. It's not an entire party based around, "Is it a boy or girl?"
It also helps that this whole thing is happening on Zoom, which means it would be pretty easy for you to just kind of sit there, put on a fake smile, play solitaire on your computer, and not say much. I have been at a virtual baby shower where there was a gender reveal moment and it lasted all of three minutes. Ultimately, this day is just one in the kid's life. Also, it's not even really in the kid's life, it's before the kid's life. And the good news is this child is going to have zero recollection of it even happening. What's more important is that the kid is raised in a home that is accepting and inclusive of whatever gender journey they may take in life. So make sure your friend provides that for their child, and I think you'll have done your job.