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

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

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

Channel 9's Karen Parks sat down with a local 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 told Channel 9 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, is gender open, but too young to choose, so Sparrow uses "theybe" as a pronoun.

Their parents, Ari and Brynnifer, have decided to allow their children to have the freedom to be themselves whichever gender, pronouns, or gender expression they may be. They 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.

Ari said their 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 said. "If a stranger asks me 'Oh is it a boy or a girl?' I say we don't know yet."

Therapist Cherlette McCullough told Channel 9 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."

Have questions about a gender-neutral upbringing? You can contact Ari Dennis here

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Karen Parks

Karen Parks, WFTV.com

Karen Parks is a reporter at WFTV.