Thursday, May 26, 2011

Can you hide your child's gender?

A Toronto couple has decided not to reveal the gender of their baby.

Kathy Witterick and David Stocker are intentionally raising a genderless child in hopes of freeing them from social norms, so that they can choose to be whoever they would like to be.

Storm, born on New Year's Day, has two older brothers — Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2 — whose genders are known, but who have been encouraged by their parents to feel free to make their own choices, gender irrelevant. Both boys wear clothing that is traditional associated with girls — sparkly pants, tutus — and Jazz chose to be home-schooled when he was uncomfortable the traditional school atmosphere (and its reaction to his female clothing).

“What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious,” says Stocker. I find this quote a little ironic, because it seems as though these parents have made a pretty critical choice about their child's identity.

I appreciate where the parents' heads are at, but I don't agree with their decision. I think that they are imposing their own political values and social goals on their child in a way that may make life more difficult, unfairly so. Like Diane Ehrensaft, a California-based psychologist, I worry that they will unintentionally marginalize Storm.

Depending on how long Storm's gender is kept a secret, they may be subjected to unfair treatment at school by their peers. While even the most "normal" child can get bullied, intentionally creating a situation in which they are different from other children may be unfair. If the child grows up on wants to reject standard gender identifiers, that's one thing, but to impose that value on a baby seems a bit unreasonable.

As Jezebel rightly points out, Witterick and Stock made the gender of their child more of an issue, not less. If they really wanted their child to be who they really are, why don't they disclose the gender and let them be free to dress however they like, like the older boys? Why this need to keep it a secret?

At the end of the day, it's really not our business and much of the media's reaction to this story is out of fear for the "other," for people who don't identify as male or female. It's trumped up and reactionary.

If the child decides on their own that they want to be gender neutral, then that is fine by me. In the mean time, our society is not nearly as progressive as we like to think it is and that's quite a statement to put on such a young person.