Typically, a person wouldn’t be able to eat cake at their own gender reveal party, due to the fact that they would still be in utero.
But a recent gender-reveal party in Akron, Ohio was a little different, because it was for a non-binary 17-year-old.
Photographer Love Gwaltney posted a beautiful photo series to Facebook in order to alert her friends and family to her child’s transition. The first few photos appear to be from a traditional gender reveal: she and her husband Brandon are wearing blue and pink, he’s caressing her pregnant belly, and they’re standing near a cake topped with a big question mark in pink and blue sprinkles.
But the surprise isn’t what’s in the cake, it’s who’s in the big cardboard box behind them. In the next photo, out jumps their 17-year-old, who’s ready to reintroduce himself to the world as a non-binary trans-masculine boy named Grey.
“We wanted to announce that we got it wrong 17 years ago when we told the world we were having a little girl,” Gwaltney wrote. “We’d like to introduce you to our SON, Grey.”
Grey, Gwaltney said, “is much like any other 17 year old nerdy boy” in that “he stays up way too late gaming, hates showering and eats too much junk food.”
She added: “No, we’re not buying him a lifted truck. Yes, we will be buying him some new clothes.”
Grey came out to his mom and stepdad Brandon a few months ago, Gwaltney told HuffPost Canada. The family wasn’t sure how they wanted to address his transition to the wider world and their friends. Grey seemed a little nervous, so his parents suggested a gender-reveal party to add some levity. When Love and Brandon floated the idea, Grey was excited, both parents said.
The timing just happened to coincide with Gwaltney’s latest pregnancy. “I’m in a few pregnancy groups and kept seeing gender reveals,” she said. “I knew this would be a fun tongue-in-cheek way to announce.”
Grey enjoyed a pink-and-blue cake, the colour of the transgender flag, in what looks like an incredibly wholesome family backyard party.
Before your baby is born, their sex is one of the only things you know about them — but focusing too much on it can be limiting, Gwaltney wrote in her post.
“Sometimes, we force these expected characteristics based off biological sex, and *gasp* we’ve gotten it wrong,” she said. “Sometimes that child disassociates who they are with the body they possess... Other times, that child grows up feeling like a completely different person, and if you’re really lucky, they open up and tell you the truth, no matter how scary or daunting that could be.”
Brandon Gwaltney, Love’s husband and Grey’s stepdad, explained that as parents, they don’t want everything in their kids’ lives to be dictated by their gender.
“One big reason we didn’t reveal the sex of our last was to avoid getting hyper masculine or overly feminine gifts,” he told HuffPost. They opted for clothing and decoration in greens, browns, and corals, and decorated with forest animals, which Brandon said are cute, but “didn’t scream boy or girl.”
Parenting has helped keep them informed about gender and identity in ways they might not have been otherwise, he also said.
“We’ve always been very open and supportive so they knew they could come to us with any feelings or insecurities they had regarding what they were going through,” Gwaltney said. “We never wanted them to feel alone.”
“Balancing support and guidance is a constant battle, as I’m sure any parent can say.”
They’ve encountered the odd troll here and there, they said, but the vast majority of the messages they’ve received from strangers have been positive.
“I’ve gotten so many messages from transgender people telling me their story,” Love told HuffPost. “Grey is happy that so many trans and LGBTQ+ youth and allies are seeing it.”
The coming-out process is still hard, even now, she said. “Grey had a few friends turn on him, and it was hard,” she said. “But he has the support of a loving family.”
She said she’d urge other parents of trans and non-binary kids not to look at their coming out as a loss.
“You’re not losing a daughter or a son, they’re just evolving into the best version of themselves,” she said.
She also said a parent’s job is to support and affirm their children.
“My husband and I have a saying: We’d rather support our kids no matter what, and they later change their mind, than to not support them, and have to spend the rest of our lives knowing we failed them,” she said.
And as for the baby she’s carrying — she and her husband have decided not to find out the sex. They haven’t done that for their other children, she said, and they don’t intend to start now.
WATCH: HOW TO BE AN AFFIRMING PARENT