A couple in Brazil is currently under investigation after contaminating a city’s water by dyeing a waterfall blue for a gender reveal party.

Gender reveal parties have been a decades long practice in our cis-heteronormative society. They grew in popularity in the United States during the late 2000s and now it is almost like a trend to publicly disclose what was once deemed private. During pregnancy, couples – which are mostly cis and straight – throw a gender reveal party to disclose to family and friends what their baby’s sex is. To make matters even more gendered and binary, the reveal is done with either pink or blue colours to signify whether the baby is a ‘girl’ or a ‘boy’.

People have found extravagant ways to declare their future child’s sex publicly. However, these stunts are becoming more and more dangerous. In 2017, a fire was sparked in Arizona after a patrol agent ‘shot at an explosive that sent blue smoke into the air’ to reveal that his baby was a ‘boy’. Two influencers in Dubai also projected their baby’s sex onto the world’s tallest tower, costing around $140,000. The tower lit up in blue, revealing: ‘it’s a boy!’. Fortunately, these gender reveals did not lead to anyone’s death. However, the same cannot be said about other reveals.

Last year, a couple in California was charged with 30 crimes for sparking a deadly wildfire with their gender reveal party. The pair ignited the El Dorado wildfire after using a ‘pyrotechnic device’. The fire destroyed five homes and another 15 buildings, ultimately killing a firefighter.

The pair were indicted for 30 crimes, including the involuntary manslaughter of the firefighter, and three counts of ‘recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury’. The El Dorado fire burned for over three weeks and destroyed more than 20,000 acres of territory.

In March of last year, two people died in a plane crash during a gender reveal party in Mexico. The reveal incorporated a plane flying over a beach in Mexico, emitting a pink smoke, signifying that the baby is a ‘girl’. In the video, people can be heard cheering and screaming out ‘niña’ or translated from Spanish ‘girl’. The camera subsequently captures the small plane crashing into the water. The first person died during the plane crash and the second one after being rescued. Both deaths were connected to the gender reveal party.

This is not the first time that someone has died due to gender reveal parties gone wrong. Authorities reported that a man in New York was accidentally killed when his device, which he built for his child’s gender reveal, exploded. Two years prior, a woman in Iowa died because of a homemade ‘pipe bomb’ at a gender reveal party. The homemade device exploded like a bomb instead of releasing a coloured powder, hitting the guest on the head, leading to her death.

Last September a couple threw a gender reveal party dyeing a waterfall blue. They discharged blue dye into the falls, located along the Queima Pé river, to celebrate their baby’s sex. Essentially, a party for their genitalia. They also released blue-coloured smoke bombs. While the couple deleted the video of the gender reveal, the clips are still available online.

They are now being investigated by the Brazilian environmental authorities for contaminating the river. The Queima Pé is a primary water source for the nearby town of Tangará da Serra, located in the state Mato Grosso. Due to several periods of drought, there had been a keen need for the waterfall’s water supply.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Mato Grosso, told Brazilian news site G1 that the investigation will determine whether there was any environmental damage. One of the people involved in the incident stated that they did not use any chemical product to dye the waterfall.

These gender reveals celebrate an outdated idea of gender and keep reinforcing the gender binary. Intersex people, who are born with sexual characteristics which ‘do not align with the binary sex of male and female’, as well as non-binary and gender diverse people, are completely dismissed in these reveals. While statistically most people who experience a gender reveal in their infancy will prove to be cis, not all of them will, and the idea of a party for a gender that they never were will only be a source of discomfort. It is important to let children be children, to explore and tell the world who they are, not the other way round.

The desire to reveal your future baby’s sex and equate it to their gender only reveals how ingrained the cisgender binary and gender norms are within our society. Revealing a baby’s sex and equating it to their gender negates the existence of trans people, and points toward a more difficult journey for any trans and non-binary child that was subject to such a ritual. Sex and genitalia do not equal gender. Not everybody is binary male or female.

Genders assigned at birth often are incorrect, and it is important to focus on letting children develop as who they are, not who others have decided they are before they’ve even entered the world.

Gender reveal parties have become preposterous. The drive to ‘one-up’ others’ parties has led to reckless and extremely dangerous behaviour responsible for several deaths and significant environmental damage. They are disruptive to local communities, and harmful to trans people whose gender does not align with that assigned at birth.

Rather than celebrate an unknown characteristic, and engaging in anti-social behaviour, let us rather celebrate the baby themselves, their new life, and all the marvellous possibilities of their personhood.