Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

I just learned a new term the other day: "theyby." Instead of saying boy or girl baby and referring to them as he or she, a few newly minted parents are calling their offspring "theybies" which is a gender-neutral term employed to shield the child from gender stereotypes in order to allow them to choose their gender instead of having it "imposed" on them.

NBC News recently gave us a glimpse into the thinking of Nathan and Julia Sharpe who are raising their twins – Kadyn and Zyler, as "theybies." The parents don't want to push certain colors, dress or toys on their child for fear of biasing their child's gender choice. In fact, they're keeping Kadyn's and Zyler's gender a secret from friends and co-workers until whatever age the twins decide which gender to identify with. So the only acceptable pronoun reference to the Sharpe children is "they."

"As a result of raising our kids as theybies I hope that they'll be supportive of other people, and who they are and how they feel and really confident and happy in who they are themselves," Julia Sharpe told NBC News. "In raising them as theybies, they'll grow up to be confident and happy as to who they are."

When asked if they're a normal family, Nathan thought so. “In many ways, we hit the normal stereotypes. We’re raising them with gender-neutral pronouns. They can decide if, when and how they want to identify as a gender.”

So is it freeing to raise a child to be gender non-conforming until age four—the age psychologists believe children identify with gender? Or is it troubling? Then answer tells us more about ourselves and our view of the world than it does about the wisdom of allowing pre-school children to choose their own gender.

It's ironic the Sharpes allow their twins to make such profound life-altering decisions when these same parents undoubtedly insist upon making lesser but equally important decisions on a daily basis. From breakfast cereal to basic hygiene like brushing their teeth, good parents make everyday decisions for children who'd rather eat Lucky Charms all day and go to bed whenever they feel like it.

If toddlers aren't equipped to make daily decisions about health and hygiene can we really expect them to make responsible life-impacting decisions about which gender to identify with? At age four? Pre-schoolers don't have an inkling of what gender means, unless adults prematurely make it an issue. After all, their little brains are still working on toilet training and regulating bodily functions.

In a recent article in World Magazine, Michelle Cretella, executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, warned against imposing gender ideology upon children. “These parents are sabotaging the cognitive and psychological development of their children,” Cretala said. “Our bodies declare our sex and tell us who we are at the most fundamental level.” Biological gender is a deep part of personhood. And part of good parenting recognizes that nurturing children according to their gender is necessary for healthy well-being and development.

But what about kids suffering from gender dysphoria? It's a real issue for parents. It's even tougher for kids struggling with this. They deserve our empathy and help. But should they be encouraged to purse a psychological identity at odds with their biology?

Former Chief Psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University Paul McHugh reported on the transient nature of gender dysphoria in a column he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in 2014. "When children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London's Portman Clinic, 70-80 percent of them spontaneously lost those feelings."

So if the majority of children eventually embrace and identify with their biological gender as they move into adulthood why confuse them with such overwhelming decisions about gender when they're preschoolers? Why introduce the idea that it's alright to identify as the opposite gender at such an early age?

Cretella criticized the imposition of transgender ideology upon children because they are cognitively and psychologically immature: “If children cannot trust the reality of their physical bodies, who or what can they trust? To tell children the lie that they can choose their sex undermines their reality testing before they even know that there is a reality to be understood.”