Some parenting approaches transcend species.
Raising kids to be gender-neutral has been growing in popularity, with more and more millennial parents choosing clothes and toys that don’t ascribe to gender stereotypes, and some not assigning their children genders at all. One study found that 63 per cent of Canadian millennial parents are raising gender-neutral kids!
And now a wee penguin chick being raised by two penguin moms at a U.K. aquarium is joining the movement. The four-month-old adopted gentoo penguin will be will be the first ever at Sea Life London not to be characterized as male or female.
“While the decision may ruffle a few feathers, gender neutrality in humans has only recently become a widespread topic of conversation, however, it is completely natural for penguins to develop genderless identities as they grow into mature adults,” Graham McGrath, General Manager at Sea Life London, said in a news release.
Penguin parents Rocky and Marama are raising the chick. The same-sex couple were given an egg— one of two laid by the birth mother — to relieve her of the pressure of raising two chicks, the aquarium noted.
Same-sex penguin couples in captivity are quite common. There’s the famous U.K. couple, Humboldt penguins Ronnie and Reggie, who adopted an egg in 2014 and raised Kyton until he flew the nest (well ... not quite flew, but you get it). Australia has Magic and Sphen, who welcomed an adopted chick last October. And the Berlin zoo has Skipper and Ping, who became dads in August.
Two male king penguins at the Calgary Zoo just welcomed a new arrival two weeks ago. Four-year-old Arthur and 17-year-old Nero have been sharing the responsibilities of incubating, feeding and protecting the zoo’s new chick. Malu Celli, a curator at the zoo, says the male couple are close and are taking parenting duties seriously.
There’s even a best-selling children’s book, And Tango Makes Three, which tells the heart-warming story of two male penguins raising a chick at the Central Park Zoo.
WATCH: Skipper and Ping welcome baby penguin. Story continues below.
Even though newborn penguins are traditionally given a gendered name at zoos and aquariums, it’s normal for penguins in the wild to be raised genderless until they mature, London Sea Life noted in the news release.
Is it possible that penguins are the most woke species of all?
To help identify the chick for safety purposes, staff tagged it with a purple band.
“What makes us really proud at the aquarium is the success of Sea Life London’s Gentoo breeding program and the amazing job of same-sex penguins Rocky and Marama, who took the chick under their wing and raised it as their own,” McGrath said.
There are benefits to raising kids without gender, and without gender stereotypes.
A widely-cited 2017 study found that strict gender expectations can increase the risk for physical and mental issues in kids around the world. A Swedish study found that kids who attended a gender-neutral preschool were less likely to gender stereotype, which researchers noted “could widen the opportunities available to them.” And a recent U.S. study found that transgender kids who were allowed to “socially transition” (ie. present as their preferred gender) had better mental health outcomes.
Experts have also said that marketing items to “boys” or “girls” reinforces harmful stereotypes.
Hmm ... it’s almost as if the penguins are onto something.
— with a file from the Canadian Press