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Three parents who are raising one child together have spoken out about their choice to raise their kid as genderless.
Markus Harwood-Jones, 32, calls himself ‘Dad’ and is raising 21-month-old River with his 33-year-old husband, Andrew McAllister, who is ‘Papa,’ and their 33-year-old co-parent, Hannah Dees, known as ‘Momo.’
Markus and Andrew met in 2012, and a year later they moved in with their friend, Hannah, in Toronto, Canada, who was looking for roommates.
Hannah was hoping to become a single mom by choice and the trio had a conversation about one day co-parenting a baby together.
Three parents who are raising one child together have spoken out about their choice to raise their kid as genderless
Markus Harwood-Jones, 32, is raising 21-month-old River with his 33-year-old husband, Andrew McAllister (pictured), and their 33-year-old co-parent, Hannah Dees
To make it a reality, they spent eight years planning how their unusual set-up might look and even drew up a ‘parenting agreement,’ which covered their feelings on housing, religion and education.
Hannah underwent IVF and fell pregnant in April 2021. All three attended each scan and were present for River’s birth in January 2022 and each parent is written on the tot’s birth certificate.
The family decided to raise River as genderless and refuse to share their child’s biological sex – other than on their birth certificate for medical purposes.
They permanently live together and have regular meetings to discuss things like chores and childcare — with Markus doing the bulk of the cooking, Andrew taking on cleaning and Hannah’s strength in child-rearing.
They trio say River will be able to choose whatever gender identity they want when they’re old enough – but for now, they go by they/them pronouns.
Despite each of their families accepting the decision, they often encounter ‘blank stares’ and ‘silly questions.’
‘We’re choosing to raise River genderless to allow them to explore their options as they grow,’ Markus, an author, from Toronto, Canada, said.
‘Co-parenting them as a three was one of the best choices we’ve ever made.
Markus (pictured) and Andrew met in 2012, and a year later they moved in with their friend, Hannah, in Toronto, Canada, who was looking for roommates
Hannah (pictured) was hoping to become a single mom by choice and the trio had a conversation about one day co-parenting a baby together
‘If there weren’t three of us, we probably wouldn’t be able to afford having a car, and we’d probably also have to pay for things like daycare.
‘All three of us have had complicated relationships with gender throughout our lifetime.
‘We believe that enforced, binary gender stereotypes can have a negative impact on children and adults.’
Markus, Andrew and Hannah grew close as housemates before discussing the idea of having a child together.
‘We spent about eight years planning this set up before even trying for a baby,’ Markus said.
‘We read many baby books, went to workshops on co-parenting, took classes about child-rearing, drafted a “parenting agreement” — which covered things like each of our feelings on housing, religion and education.
‘We still try to have regular family check-ins to talk through all the different things that come up when you’re living together and raising a baby together.’
River was born in January 2022 and Markus says the family chose to allow their sex to be recorded for medical reasons, but say they’ll never disclose it in public.
With three parents in the house, Markus, Andrew and Hannah don’t feel the need to send River to nursery and are able to give them lots of attention.
Markus, Andrew and Hannah grew close as housemates before discussing the idea of having a child together. Pictured are Markus and Andrew walking with River
‘We spent about eight years planning this set up before even trying for a baby,’ Markus said. Pictured is River
‘Because we’re doing things a bit differently, this actually allows for more space for intentional conversation,’ Markus added.
‘We’re questioning norms around who is responsible for domestic labor and childcare at home.
‘This dynamic allows River to have more direct attention than they might otherwise.’
Andrew said Markus was the most vocal about raising River genderless after coming out to his family as trans at 16.
They believe you shouldn’t assume a baby’s gender at birth — just like you wouldn’t assume their sexuality — and wanted to use gender-neutral language to refer to River so not to ‘project their own biases’ onto them.
River’s wardrobe is kitted out with skirts, dresses and dungarees, and they play with dolls and toy trains.
‘Markus brought this concept to Hannah and I, and we all spoke about it over the course of several years,’ Andrew said.
‘When River was born, we did briefly consider gendering them but returned to using fully neutral language whenever possible.
‘A metaphor we like is introducing your baby to gender like you would to solids.’
Markus, Andrew and Hannah acknowledge River’s biological sex and have taught them their own anatomy, despite keeping it private from everyone else.
‘We’d like people to know that our child’s sex is not a secret, it’s just not public information,’ Hannah said.
‘We’re teaching River the anatomically correct words for their own body – and we have the knowledge that they can always change their legal gender later if needed.
‘But in the short term, having a legal binary sex designation is easier and safer — like for medical emergencies and travel.’
None of the three co-parents have experienced major ‘backlash’ from friends or family – and say they’re not phased by the ‘blank stares’ and ‘silly questions’ from others.
‘We do get a fair amount of people who just don’t understand what we’re doing,’ Markus added.
‘Grocery store clerks and coworkers, among other people, often give us blank stares, end conversations abruptly or ask silly questions — like, “Does your baby have a gender yet?”
‘But we also have plenty who surprise us — and some who just don’t care either way.
‘Given that we’re three loud and proud queers who came together to raise a baby, we were always going to stand out anyway.’
Markus says he and Andrew are keen to live with Hannah indefinitely and would consider inviting a stepparent into the family home if she meets someone.
‘If Hannah met someone, and they were together for a significant period of time, and this partner wanted to move in and take on a stepparent type of role, we would talk about it as a group,’ he said.
‘If we decide it’s the right choice for our family, we’d figure out a way to have them move in and join us as a family unit.
‘We hope to continue to live together indefinitely, and at bare minimum want to stick together as we raise our child.’