A married couple, both circus performers and members of the Extinction Rebellion climate protest group, have asked friends and family to address their child, Anoush, using the pronouns "they" and "them". Picture: YouTube.com

London - A couple are keeping the sex of their toddler secret – even from close family – in a bid to protect the child from "unconscious bias".

Chanti Humphrey, 38, and Jake England-Johns, 35, are raising 17-month-old Anoush as gender-neutral, dressing the infant in both boys’ and girls’ clothes.

Even the child’s grandmother only discovered the sex at 11 months when she changed a nappy. Camille Humphrey, 64, said: "It was a struggle... but as with any learning over time it became embedded."

The married couple, both circus performers and members of the Extinction Rebellion climate protest group, have asked friends and family to address Anoush using the pronouns "they" and "them".

The pair, who live on a houseboat, admitted it had led to "confused looks from old ladies in the park" but said they hoped their decision would allow the child to "grow into their own person".

England-Johns said: "Gender-neutral refers to us trying to behave neutrally towards the child, rather than trying to make them neutral. We’re not trying to make them be anything. We just want them to be themselves."

His wife, who is known as "Hobbit", added: "So much of gender bias is unconscious. When I got pregnant we were having a discussion about how we were going to mitigate the unconscious bias.

"And we figured that the only way we could do that was just not to tell people. To use the they/them pronoun for as long as we can, and create this little bubble for our baby to be who they are.

"Eventually they will get told that pink is only for girls and blue is only for boys. We’re just trying to protect Anoush from that."

The couple, from Keynsham, near Bath, revealed their decision on the BBC’s "Inside Out" programme.

Humphrey said: "I don’t think people really took us seriously initially because what you say you’re going to do when you’re pregnant can often be very different later when you are faced with bringing up a crying, screaming baby. But over a year in it’s clear that we are serious and gradually people have got used to it.

"Although, that still doesn’t stop some pretty confused looks from old ladies in the park when they come up to us and ask if they’re a boy or a girl. It can take a bit of explaining."

The couple said some people now knew their toddler’s gender as they did not want to deny the child "the joy of playing naked". "It has proven to be a really beautiful thing and we’ve had a lot of important conversations from it," Humphrey said.

"While they love having a dolls’ tea party every morning, they also are really fascinated by motorbikes and big machinery.

"Eventually, once our baby is old enough, they can obviously decide for themselves what gender they want to be, but for now we just want them to be able to grow up in their own little bubble."

Daily Mail