After fighting with their own gender Identity for over thirty years, a non-binary Melbourne Handel has revealed how they raise their child “gendered” to avoid the “gender indoctrination” they see as common in our society.
Sommer, 37, and her wife Stephanie welcomed their child Juno, who was assigned female at birth, seven months ago.
As a new parent, Sommer is determined that her daughter will not be constrained by the same gender boundaries and rules as before.
Instead, she and Stephanie want to raise Juno to be “gender specific,” with the baby calling her “PomPom” instead of mom or dad because it’s a neutral term that’s still fun.
Sommer (above) began identifying as non-binary two years ago after feeling like he’s been living in a “costume” his entire life
The baby was identified as female at birth, but parents will raise her to be “gender-segregated.” Pictured is an archive image of a baby.
“We use the words gender specific rather than gender neutral because I feel like the word neutral makes it seem like she only wears beige and has no color in her life,” Sommer said.
“So we say gendered, where there are no boundaries and no restrictions on how our baby can express themselves, regardless of what gender they were assigned at birth.
Sommer (left) and her wife Stephanie (right) are now raising their daughter Juno “gender-specific.”
“I think people think there’s a lot of pressure involved, but we’re not putting any pressure on her and who she wants to be.”
The couple had originally discussed raising Juno gender neutral but thought they would instead teach her that gender doesn’t define her until she’s old enough to decide what she wants to identify as.
Sommer and Stephanie’s version of gender parenting means that Juno plays with female and male toys, dresses in clothing for each gender, and exhibits positive role models of both genders.
WHAT IS GENDER EXPANSIVE
Cross-gender means that a person is not bound by traditional gender roles.
Instead, they live “out of the box” and identify with themselves rather than with a gender identity.
People in this category may or may not identify as their birth gender, but do not abide by the “gender rules” associated with that gender.
One hurdle the couple recently overcame was finding a daycare center that would include their family.
Sommer said that despite living in an “awake” neighborhood, the couple struggled to find a center that was actually inclusive rather than rainbow-washing to attract more clients.
“We’ve been looking at childcare places recently and we’re always asking, ‘Are you inclusive? Do you have queer books?” and all that stuff,” Sommer said.
“Many will say they don’t, but we can bring them and that they include everyone.
“But I just don’t think that’s a good enough answer. I want a place my baby can go and doesn’t feel left out.
“We found a rainbow playgroup. So every month they have a rainbow family reunion where all the parents get together.’
Sommer said they also struggled to tell their family about their new gender identity and parenting method.
“They buy Juno all these feminine clothes and call them beautiful,” Sommer said.
Luckily, Sommer said the couple was able to balance the girly gifts with used stuff from Stephanie’s nephew, ensuring Juno still has a variety of clothes to choose from.
Sommer said they began identifying as non-binary two years ago after Stephanie realized they suffered from “gender issues.”
Sommer had her breasts removed to help with dysphoria/dysmorphia, with Stephanie by her side to help them through the process.
She said her puberty was awful because she was constantly uncomfortable with her body and “hated” the way it was changing. “I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I felt like I was just living my life but all these female expectations were being pushed on me,” Sommer told Daily Mail Australia.
Sommer (left) and Stephanie (right) want to raise their daughter to defy gender roles and to live without restrictions
“It really depressed me. I went to an all-girls school and I had to wear a dress and I felt like I was wearing a costume.
“I wasn’t myself. I just felt like a madman in a dress. It was a costume I had to put on to go out into the world.’
Sommer, who works as a handyman, says her workplace did everything it could to show acceptance of her identity.
“They were fantastic. They actually had a meeting about my pronouns before I started,” Sommer said.
“They updated my email to include my pronouns even though it’s automated, they figured out how to do it.
“It was a priority and that was really great.”