“Gender reveal parties”: a gross misnomer

June 22, 2019 • 12:15 pm

All of a sudden, “gender reveal parties” are all the rage. I read about them everywhere, but at first didn’t know what they were: I thought that they were affairs in which adults who had changed gender, or realized their gender, revealed this to their friends and family. But noooo, here’s what they are, as characterized by Wikipedia:

gender reveal party is a celebration where either the guests, the expecting parents, or both find out the sex of the baby. This has become possible with the increasing accuracy of various technologies of prenatal sex discernment. For example, less than half way through the normal pregnancy, an ultrasound technician can visually determine the sex. If the parents decide they want to have a gender reveal party they will notify the technician before hand so they won’t tell them during the appointment if they want to be surprised. There is also an early sex blood work exam that can be done as early as 7 weeks with 95 percent accuracy. Gender reveal parties will typically be held midterm so that the first trimester is surpassed and the chances of Miscarriage are low.

Nota bene: it is sex that is revealed.

Parents magazine even has a how-to guide on how to throw such parties (hints: no pink or blue themes before the reveal), and the Wall Street Journal, predictably, has decried the excesses of such parties.

But my point is not whether such parties are good or bad. It’s that they are completely misnamed. We all know—though three evolution societies apparently do not—that there’s a difference between sex and gender. Sex is a biological feature, based on sex-chromosome constitution (in humans, XX vs XY) and accompanied by characteristic traits such as genitalia, testes, and ovaries. It’s almost completely binary, with very few intermediate or undiagnosable cases (I’m talking to you, evolution societies).

In contrast, gender is, as they say, a “social construct”, and corresponds to a person’s sex “role” or self-identification. Thus, a biological male can be a self-identified female in gender, someone can identify with both genders, often using the pronoun “they”, or there can be people who assume genders that don’t involve either male, female, or a mixture. As I’ve repeatedly said, while biological sex is a binary, gender, while also fitting a bimodal distribution (most people identify as either male or female) is a bit less of a binary, since there are more self-identified intermediates. And there’s no reason not to respect people’s self-identification.

But let us have no nonsense about “gender reveal” parties. It is not the fetus’s gender that is revealed, but its sex. The parties are revelation of one prong of a binary: male or female. No hermaphrodites are revealed, nor any “genderqueers”, “neutrals”, “pangenders”, or any of the other 58 genders listed here.

Gender is a role or an identity that you adopt after you’re born, usually well after. It can’t be revealed before birth.

And so the parties should be called “sex reveal parties.” QED

Why do they use the “gender reveal” term? I have two theories, both of which which are mine:

1.) “Sex reveal parties” sound too much like parties in which people flash their genitalia.

2.) “Gender” is a more woke and trendy-sounding term than “sex”. Naming a party with “gender” shows that you’re cool. That, however, leads to the misnomer identified above.

If you’re gonna have one of these parties, for Ceiling Cat’s sake get it biologically correct!

76 thoughts on ““Gender reveal parties”: a gross misnomer

  1. I would have thought this sort of thing was falling out of fashion rather than becoming more common. People like parties, and I suspect this is one more way to celebrate/get presents (may be feeling cynical this AM). My SIL was considering having one of these and inviting people to fly in from not just he country, but around the world, ffs. I’ll wait till the baby is born to travel for that sort of thing, personally.

    For kiddo, we didn’t find out the sex. So many people would ask ‘what are you having?’ to which we’d respond, ‘a human! hopefully!’. They were not as amused as we were.

    1. I’m not sure we have baby showers in the UK. If we do, they are fairly recent.

      We celebrate ‘wetting the baby’s head’ but that’s after the baby has been born, and it’s usually held in a pub, a good distance from either baby or mother.

  2. In contrast, gender is, as they say, a “social construct”, …

    Some aspects of gender identity certainly are social constructs (such as blue/pink colour schemes), but surely vast swathes of gender identity is biological in origin.

    Thus, if a society tried to condition girls to be more interested than boys in playing with tractors and guns, and tried to condition boys to be more interested than girls in playing with dolls, then they would not succeed.

    1. I’m wondering, Coel being a Brit IIRC, to what extent ‘gender’ in British vocabulary has now replaced ‘sex’ just about completely, when it refers to human individuals. We Canucks tend to be totally at the mercy of the USians when it comes to these language changes, and I realize that resistance is hopeless anyway. Though I did just notice that the word ‘sex’ is still used on forms from my drivers/motor vehicle bureaucracy. Perhaps that’s just in case the cops want you to pull your pants down if they stop you and begin to suspect a fake driver’s licence!

      I’m quite sure that a certain prissiness, plus the word ‘sex’ coming to have a new extra meaning as short for ‘sexual intercourse’, is the strongest reason over here for the change. I also realize that there are various ‘thinkers’ who like to keep both words and assign highly technical contrasting meanings, probably well over 100 variations.

    2. “tried to condition boys to be more interested than girls in playing with dolls”

      Other, of course, than ‘superhero action figures’ 😉


    3. Thus, if a society tried to condition girls to be more interested than boys in playing with tractors and guns, and tried to condition boys to be more interested than girls in playing with dolls, then they would not succeed.

      I’m not sure about that.

  3. Something much worse: Sex non-reveal on birth certificates …

    Any birth certificate that has thrown away the “sex” indication in favor of “gender,” is bad enough, for reasons parallel to those stated by Professor Coyne above.

    But now it is legal in some states for parents to insist on officially leaving “gender” blank, or putting an “X.”

    This is child abuse.

  4. It’s really a party of two isn’t it. Does grandma and grandpa really care? Do the neighbors care. It’s about as much fun as looking at pictures of someone’s kids. I hope they enjoy it though, because they have to live with it for a long time. Often, longer than they think.

    1. Yes, this all really seems to be just attention-seeking on the parents’ part, and, frankly, mainly on the part of one parent.

    2. Any excuse for a party is valid, I’d say. As long as they treat their guests well, with good noms and wine, I’m all for it, gender, sex or other; you may invite me.

  5. A great thing about one of these parties is you can start looking for cloths in the appropriate color (traditional pink vs blue), gifts of the appropriate gender (truck for a boy, doll for a girl). Otherwise, what would be the point?…said he, sarcastically.

    1. In Brabant in Belgium, -as illustrated by the colour of the file covers in St Pieters Hospital in Brussels, light red (nearly pink) was the colour for boys, while the girls’ was light blue-, the colour scheme was the other way round.
      I also gather that in the Far East the reddish colour is considered male, while blue is considered female.
      The point is attracting attention to yourself by way of your important future kid, and, of course, more importantly for everybody else, an excuse for throwing a party.

  6. Sadly Alice Roberts, President if the UK Humanist Society and Professor of the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, has gone al Genderist. After retweeting some moronic posts about ‘Queer’ animals put out by the National History Museum she reposted some nonsense from The Guardian about there being nine sexes. After being challenged on this, not least by intersex people sick and tired of being characterised as something other than male or female, she quit Twitter claiming to be the victim of misogyny. She has been backed up by Adam Rutherford and James Wong.

    I think what we are seeing is partly a renewed attack on evolution but this time from the Lwft. The creationists/intelligent design lobby have never had much purchase on this side of the Atlantic, and those citing epigenetic inheritance are losing ground because the theory doesn’t deliver what is promised.

    But a denying sexual dimorphism under the guise of ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’ for transgender people, even at the cost of insulting people with disorders of sexual differentiation, leaves a woke-friendly opening for those who wish to undermine sexual selection.

        1. Yes, it is disappointing to see the usually excellent Professor Roberts getting caught up in this trendy gender pseudoscience.

          I see that they use evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden to convey the message that “animals often fail to fall into neat boxes”. This is the Joan Roughgarden who was formerly known as Jonathan Roughgarden – and therefore has a vested interest in pushing this idea.

          1. A lot of those examples of ‘homosexuality’ in the animal kingdom are dominance displays. If we want to get anthropomorphic, they are the animal equivalent of prison rape. They are fuck all to do with the relationship between two consenting adult human beings.

            1. I’ve been told by a few ‘genderists’ that there are “gay giraffes” (always giraffes — it must be a meme). But I’ve spoken with the owners of a private animal preserve who keep giraffes. Turns out zoos prefer to keep only males, as things can get a bit out of hand with mixed groups or all females. So, of course, you’ll get some sexual-social interactions not found in the wild.

    1. Seems to me like a dispute over the difference between binary and bimodal.

      NHM and AR: “Sex are gender are not binary” (agreed, a minority are intersex or non-binary gender).

      Others: “But they are bimodal” (which they indeed are).

      AR: {flounce} (hopefully only temporarily).

      1. If you follow the thread down you may come to the tweet where she says:

        ”How I feel in myself has no bearing on what someone feels. If someone who looks like a man and has XY chromosomes tells me he feels female – I cannot tell her she is ‘wrong’. Would you?”

        She’s not even talking about intersex conditions by that stage, she’s talking about transgender people with no sexual ambiguity at all.

        She also loses it entirely when she says ‘You are all sounding a bit mad now’. This is somebody whose job is to communicate science – telling people who believe that sex is binary that they are ‘mad’?

        1. “If someone who looks like a man and has XY chromosomes tells me he feels female – I cannot tell her she is ‘wrong’. Would you?”

          This question is ambiguous over whether they feel they are the female sex or feel they are the female gender.

          1. It’s in the context of a thread on sex.

            I notice some of her supporters use ‘social sex’ instead of ‘gender’ to deliberately blur the distinction between biological sex and the social markers of sex.

        2. “If someone who looks like a man and has XY chromosomes tells me he feels female – I cannot tell her she is ‘wrong’. Would you?”

          I feel pretty. Oh so pretty.

      1. There is the claim that there are 58 genders. Of course I don’t understand most of them, but many seem to be splitting hairs. For example, Cisgender Female vs Cisgender Woman.
        And Cisgender Male
        vs Cisgender Man. Nine might be a more accurate #.

  7. I can’t help but think of Julia Sweeney ‘s portrayal of “What’s that? It’s Pat!” on SNL. Particularly the big revelation of “Pat’s Special Friend” “Chris”.

  8. I actually think woke types would object to the use of the word ‘gender’, but, as these parties are often the purview of middle class suburban moms (not exclusively, very diverse groups of people do gender reveal parties, but I suspect that is the largest demographic,) who generally just ignore wokeness and pretend no such thing exists, it’s seen as a more polite word than ‘sex’. A cutesy invitation saying you’re having a ‘sex reveal party’ could sound like some kind of weird orgy situation.

    My personal theory is that these (and engagement parties in addition to bridal showers,) are becoming bigger because traditionally you can’t throw your own baby shower, but you can throw your own gender reveal party, so moms can create their own dream party to celebrate becoming a parent. I think, like maternity photo shoots, it’s a way for people to spend more time crafting, Pinterest-ing, and generally extending the event. I can’t say it’s an instinct I understand – pregnancy has seriously made me want to crawl into a hole for the next few months, where I can sleep, be nauseated, and not have anyone notice I appear to have a small beluga whale under my shirt. (Second trimester is better my *ss. Lies, all lies.) It mystifies me that some people want more to do (like you’re not tired enough already), or have more center of attention time (like you don’t already feel gawked at wherever you go), but, if it makes moms-to-be happy, I guess it’s a positive thing. I mean, unless you burn down Arizon. Then maybe not so much. But otherwise, whatever brings people a smile I guess.

    1. I like that! I think I’m going to have gender tonight, or I had some great gender last night! Gender appeal! Commercial gender workers! Registered gender offenders, there are nearly unlimited possibilities.

      1. Did you mean ‘genderual intercourse’ in the first sentence? Or maybe I’m missing something obvious!

    2. The most ‘woke’ people I know actually were offended when their parents asked them if they knew the gender of their soon to be baby. Because obviously, a fetus in the womb doesn’t yet have a gender, only a sex.

      Just because most ‘woke’ people are millennials and Gen Z doesn’t mean that most of the millennials and Gen Z are woke. Most millennials and Gen Z folks I know in real life aren’t nearly as uptight about politically correct terms as the loudest voices online.

  9. Shouldn’t the party be at six or seven when the precocious child determines its own gender? Seems like this is awfully patriarchal.

  10. Despite the fact that using “gender” in that context is incorrect. I sincerely doubt they’d change the name to “Sex Reveal” parties, for any number of salacious reasons.

  11. Maybe just rebrand them as “It’s a …” parties? On a slight tangent, I can’t recall whether employers used “sex” or “gender” on recruitment application forms back in the day, when they were allowed to ask about such things.

    1. I’ve recently had to complete a staff survey at work. I get to chose my ‘gender identity’ but apparently my sex was ‘assigned at birth’. My dad’s sperm apparently had nothing to do with it, it was some bureaucrat who magicked my genitals into existence by ticking a box.

      1. Instead of ticking a box, they should do it on the new born using tattoo ink: ass signed at birth.

  12. If you’re gonna have one of these parties, for Ceiling Cat’s sake get it biologically correct!

    Heck, most of them can’t get ‘lose’ and ‘loose’ right.

    1. Fortunately the London Fire Brigade now deliver transgender lessons to schools so they can solve your fire and gender issues at the same time.

      And no, I’m not shitting you. I won’t do another Twitter link but search @Abby_Crawford. The fire service is massively underfunded in the UK but they can still afford to send fire persons out to schools to tell them they can change sex.

  13. Describing sex as “biological” and gender as a “social construct” seems a bit misleading to me. Our mental states have just the same objective physical reality as any other part of our body – a neuron configuration. (Although, of course, an important difference is that the only way we can usually discern someone’s neuron configuration is by talking to them.) Transgender people are generally persistent and insistent about their gender identity DESPITE strong social pressure to adopt a cisgender identity. It seems to me that the best model is that we have a somatic sexual phenotype (everything except our brains, i.e. “biological sex”) and a mental sexual phenotype (“gender identity”), and that these are sometimes not in accord in transgender people. But the evidence appears to be that the mental phenotype (gender identity) may often/usually be determined by genetics and very early (perhaps intrauterine) environment just as much as the somatic phenotype (biological sex). Describing the mental phenotype as a “social construct” seems to carry an incorrect implication that it’s highly malleable according to later environmental factors – and the evidence of most transgender people suggests that this is not the case. It seems to me that the best model is that we have a somatic sexual phenotype and a mental/behavioral sexual phenotype (called gender identity), both involving genetic and environmental contributions, and that the two aspects of sexual phenotype may sometimes end up on different developmental pathways in transgender people for reasons that we don’t yet understand.

    1. @ Ralph,

      Biological sex has observable, objectively identified components. Gender is one of many internal states. Which gender identification “wins out” over another is a matter of choice. (Yes, I know that claim is anathema for most commenting on this website.) Stipulated: that choice is non-dualistic.

      Sometimes the choice is driven by a strong and persistent call, but sometimes by drift, trauma in the family, and other pressures, and the choice might shift, perhaps more than once. I think you are wrong to say that “Transgender people are generally persistent and insistent about their gender identity …” when there is ample evidence that desistence is high if transition behaviors, chemicals, and operations are not administered, and pressure to transition is avoided.

      1. Care to cite some of that ample evidence? It’s extremely difficult to untangle confounding factors here, but given the extreme persecution of transgender people throughout history, and the extreme social pressure to conform to cisgender expectations, it seems no more plausible that gender identity is a choice than that sexual orientation is a choice.

        1. @ Ralph,

          Per the rules, I won’t argue back and forth or start a link exchange. I’ll just say that there are valid studies and data collection of high desistence, and a community of regrets.

          Here’s is the distinction aside from sexual orientation. For a gay person to persist, no apparel-choice, hormonal, or surgical transition is required.

          I intend no diminishment of the difficulty and pain for either transgender or homosexual to persist.

      2. John, I believe you are referring to studies that found 80% of gender-questioning /dysphoric prepubescents spontaneously desist by puberty.

        For the other 20%, the gender dysphoria is truly persistent, and may well have an embryological etiology.

        1. @Matt,

          I agree that there is true persistence for transgender of a certain percentage. It is real. I have an anecdotal example in my extended family.

          If dysphoria is rooted physically, and the damage cannot be soothed by therapy, then despite if the structure was caused in embryo, gestation, childhood, or adolescence, and the person persists, that is transgender, period.

          My concern is about administering serious, irreversible transition to the majority of children who would desist in puberty.

          1. My concern as well; it amounts to child abuse.

            Transition can be an effective treatment for extreme dysphoria. But it is no panacea for the mental disorders which are highly comorbid with GD. And there is a growing body of evidence of widespread transition regret — which the trans radicals vigorously try to suppress.

        2. I’d agree about genuine gender dysphoria having a possible biological etiology but the 2,000% increase in teenage girls in the UK being referred to gender clinics suggest that there’s some kind of social contagion. If the cause is embryological, what happened between 10 and 15 years ago that produced a massive increase in transgender girls a decade and a half later?

          A lot of these girls are on the autistic spectrum. I suspect that many of the supposed signs of gender dysphoria are autistic traits being misdiagnosed. Your daughter doesn’t like playing with dolls? Gender dysphoria. She lacks the social skills expected of a girl? Gender dysphoria. She doesn’t feel at home in her body? Gender dysphoria.

          All those traits are typical of autism but autism isn’t trendy any more.

          1. Every indication is that ROGD is a social contagion, spurred in no small part by trans radical dogma indoctrination in schools.

          2. In the DSM, gender dysphoria can only be diagnosed (IIRC) if the genitals (or secondary sex characteristics)-gender identity mismatch *causes distress*.

            I checked up on this at the request of a transgender activist I met once, who said she was sick of being “medicalized”.

            1. So if one has male genitals and thinks of oneself as female, that’s not gender dysphoria *unless* one is distressed about it. The person in question was perfectly happy with herself (dressing as a woman, etc. was the way she wanted to live, etc.), so no, she was not gender dysphoric.

            2. Only 5% of adult transwomen in the UK have any medical intervention at all, never mind surgery. They are quite happy with their ‘girlcocks’, and many sport full beards. Unhappiness with the body is no longer necessary; it’s about forcing others to acknowledge their gender.

              And not I said ‘adult’ transwomen. Although most wont have surgery themselves they are adamant that children be medically transitioned at as early an age as possible.

  14. I should clarify – of course I’m not disputing that many aspects of our norms for gender-specific behavior are social constructs.

    My point is that gender IDENTITY, our mental sexual phenotype, appears in most people to be no more a social construct than our somatic sexual phenotype. And I think it’s important as biologists to make this point in support of transgender people – to counter the oft-stated misconception that our chromosomes and what’s between our legs are “biological reality” but that what’s in our brains is somehow less objectively real; to counter the ignorant notion that a transgender person is someone who is (say) “really” a man because they are XY with a penis, but just woke up one day and decided on a whim to be a woman.

  15. As a biologist, if I were going to throw one of these parties, I’d call it a “sex chromosome reveal party”. Full disclosure: I’m a long retired biologist and there is no probability that I’ll be throwing one. But if a acquaintance wants to have one, I’ll bring some good Scotch.

  16. I will always, always, always call it a gender reveal party. Male and female.. that’s all there is. Nothing more. The end! God made us to be male and female, not to be born male or female and have someone be confused and thing they are the opposite… or an alien. Ridiculous.
    *let’s see if this gets posted…

    1. What evidence do you have that God made us to begin with? None, I suspect. Yes, your comment got posted, as it was good for a one-time laugh. If you have convincing evidence that “God made us”, then submit it.

      1. It’s called The Bible, you moron. Read it sometime.

        REST OF COMMENT EDITED BY JAC FOR ACCURACY: “Actually, I, Benjamin D. Harding, am the moron, as I believe in unsubstantiated superstition that makes me feel better. And I like to be rude on this site because I am a thoughtless moron who isn’t civil and hasn’t read the Roolz. I deserve to be banned. LOL LOL WOO WOO, off to church I go, toting my beloved Bible.

  17. Recently teachers at an elementary school received in their mailboxes a small flyer entitled:


    Then it said:

    “Respecting people’s self-identification means using the gender pronoun that they most identify with. How do you know what someone prefers?

    Politely ask them!

    Type Name

    Feminine she, her, hers

    Masculine he, him his

    Gender neutral they, them, their

    **These are not the only pronouns; new ones continue to emerge in our language.


    Apparently one is required to so ask of anyone one happens upon.

    I say rather, politely and daily wear a name tag clearly stating ones preference(s), as opposed to requiring others to memorize Zeus knows how many preferences.

  18. I went to what was termed a “Gender Reveal Party” just last week. My son and his wife and my grandson put on white t-shirts and used squirt guns to spray each other at a piece of property on which they are to break ground and build their house.

    Out of the squirt guns came a baby blue paint that stained their white t-shirts and indicated another boy on the way!

    A fun time was had by all present without anyone, including myself, doing an “Ackshually…” regarding gender v. sex. 🙂

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