Royce and Jessica James were a mixed-race couple keen to shake up the status quo. They believed in equality, social justice, and defying stereotypes. When Jessica became pregnant, they decided to raise their baby gender-neutral.
The Jameses didn’t subscribe to the school of thought that blue was for boys and pink was for girls. They believed a baby should be free to develop without the influence of gender stereotypes. They decided to dress their child in gender-neutral colors such as yellow and white. They felt enforced gender roles would limit their child’s potential.
Their baby was born two months premature. They named their daughter Isis. One day the nurses in the newborn intensive care unit dressed Isis up in pink. They also tied her hair with frilly ribbons. One of the nurses commented that the Jameses’ bundle of joy looked precious, dainty, and delicate.
Her parents were horrified. They believed gender stereotypes were already harming their daughter. They needed their daughter to be strong if she was to leave the hospital. It hardened their resolve to raise Isis their way.
As she grew Isis’s parents gave her toys like blocks and animals to play with. Baby dolls and Barbies were definitely not allowed. When family members sent Isis dresses to wear, her parents Royce and Jessica chucked them out. This didn’t go over well with their families. Many took it as a personal insult.
Jessica explained, “They were doubtful if they could have a relationship with our daughter. They didn’t think they were going to be able to understand how to relate to her.”
The Jameses were keen to stress to their family that they were not judging their way of doing things in the past. They just needed to try something new for Isis’s sake.
It wasn’t always easy on Isis. She went to school with short hair and dressed in primary colors. One day a boy wanted her to undress and prove she was a girl. Her parents were angry. Yet they accepted it was always going to be difficult growing up gender-neutral.
Isis is now a teenager and admits it was “sometimes painful to be raised in a gender-neutral way.” She doesn’t blame her parents for any painful experiences their decision may have caused. She believes they gave her the freedom to be herself. She stressed they never stopped her from wearing what she wanted.
Isis now identifies as a bisexual and has blossomed into a confident and bright young woman. She believes her identity is not only a result of her upbringing, but also who she is as a person. She explained, “I believe that everyone has something that is totally your own. I say I got one third from my dad, one third from my mom and one third is all me.”