Gender-neutral parenting: How it works for one Florida family

Gender-neutral parenting: How it works for one Florida family

"We don't give any guidance or restrictions when it comes to clothes, toys, colors or activities," said Ari Dennis. (WFTV.com)

Some parents are giving their children the freedom to choose their own gender.

It's a new concept for raising kids that is gaining popularity.

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WFTV met with an Orlando-area family to learn about the challenges they face living a life that most people don't understand.

Eight-year-old Hazel Dennis identifies as gender-neutral: not she, not he, but they.

"One day I was a boy, the next (day) a girl, the next (day) someone who didn't have a gender at all," Hazel said.

Hazel said that living a life most don't understand has its challenges, especially at school.

"One out of 18 students actually used they/them pronouns every time," Hazel said. "It was really annoying, so I just wasn't happy."

Hazel's sibling, Sparrow Dennis, is gender-open but too young to choose, so Sparrow uses "theybe" as a pronoun.

Their parents, Ari and Brenn Dennis, are two of nearly 400 parents across the country who have decided to allow their children to decide how and when they want to identify themselves.

"We don't give any guidance or restrictions when it comes to clothes, toys, colors or activities," said Ari Dennis.

She said her response would be simple if a stranger tried to identify Hazel or Sparrow by using pronouns like she or he.

"If a stranger in the grocery store says, 'Oh, he has beautiful eyes,' I say 'Thank you,' and I move on. If someone at the pediatrician office says, 'She's so cute,' I say 'Thank you' and move on," Ari Dennis said. "If a stranger asks me, 'Oh, is it a boy or a girl?', I say, 'We don't know yet.'"

Therapist Cherlette McCullough said that this type of upbringing lies within a gray area for others.

"We are normally black-and-white thinkers so it's very hard for us to accept that gray area," McCullough said. "It can be (a) very healthy thing for a family depending on if the parents are choosing to raise the child this way based on equality, opportunity (and) allowing the child to be themselves."

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