You’re pregnant and can’t wait for the ultrasound that will finally reveal the sex of your child. You have a desire to bond with your baby and to prepare for the arrival of your bundle of joy. You look through baby-name books and make a list of the ones you like for boys and girls, depending on the sex, or…..wait a minute… you don’t believe in gender identity?
I’m not talking about choosing Michael for a boy or Daisy for a girl, nor do I mean dressing Michael in blue and Daisy in pink. I’m talking about raising your kid to be genderless, like the Canadian parents of Storm, a four-month-old baby, who refuse to reveal the sex of their baby in the hopes of curbing sexual stereotyping.
Kathy Witterick, 38 and David Stocker, 39, are the parents of Storm, their youngest child who has two older brothers, Jazz 5 and Kio 2. Only the brothers, the two nurse midwives who helped deliver Storm at home, and a very close family friend know whether Storm is a boy or a girl. What prompted them to do this with baby Storm? They say to offer “their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females.”
The grandparents, although supportive, resented explaining this lack of gender to friends and co-workers. “They worried the children would be ridiculed,” and furthermore, most people said “they were setting their kids up for a life of bullying in a world that can be cruel to outsiders.”
According to Michele Angello, a U.S. psychologist, “There is little hard, scientific data on exactly what does make people feel and act like a boy or a girl, but some evidence points to gender identity being hard-wired.”
I’d like to refer to the book I mentioned in a previous post called, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein, where she says that when her daughter, Daisy, was born, “I was committed to raising her without a sense of limits: I wanted her to believe neither that some behavior or toy or profession was not for her sex.” Orenstein then explains how on Daisy’s first day of pre-school at age two, she wore her favorite “engineer overalls” and her Thomas the Tank Engine lunchbox. “All it took was one boy who yelled, ‘Girls don’t like trains!'” and within a month, Daisy knew the names and gown colors of every Disney princess.
This brings me back to Storm’s brothers, Kio and Jazz. Were others told their sex and why have they both chosen long braided hair? All I can say is they must have incredibly strong personalities to stand up for themselves at school, as I am sure other kids have made hurtful comments.
Kathy and David state, “We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place? …),” they said.
And David believes, “If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs.”
What do you think?
Are parents raising their kid to be genderless right or wrong?
I can’t wait to get a Gutsy discussion going.
I read this article last week and wondered how well this would work… I love the fact that they want to fight back against the terrible stereotypes shoved upon us by retailers… just look at the toy or clothes sections for boys and girls in any store.
On the other hand, it's very difficult to fight against people's preconceptions and society's too.
Here in Sweden they are pretty advanced and some nurseries work on gender and against gender stereotyping … it's so much more than just not revealing a child's sex. It has to do with how you speak to them, what you say, how you dress them and so on…
Patricia Stoltey says
Does that mean they won't even allow the kid to learn the physiological differences between males and females? I honestly don't get what they're trying to do, and I can't see how it will help the child get along in the real world.
I would like to see how things work in Sweden, especially the way you speak to kids. I know in France, they seem to "talk" to their kids more like small adults than they do in California.
I could not "experiment" with my kids in this way, however, who knows what life will be like on our planet in 200-300 years from now. With more dependence on technology and perhaps less stereotypes, we might all turn more machine-like, and hide our emotions. Sounds like a sci-fi movie.
I saw something about this today, and though I can respect the parents for not wanting to pigeon hole their child, I have to belive there is a better way. Also, since they have two older children, it seems impractial and downright unfair to subject them to keeping that kind of secret. Also, what is the message if you say that gender doesnt' matter at all. Shouldn't the message be that our gender doesent have to limit us, that being a girl, or being a boy, is great, and that it is up to use to decide what kind of girl or boy we are. It does seem to me, without knowing these people at all, that they are preforming a social experiment on their child, and that strikes me as slefish. But, it's just my opinion. Thanks for an intresting post and intresting discussion.
I just have to say… are you kidding me? I agree with Kathy in that, we should embrace our genders. We have certain talents and strengths as women that men don't have and vice versa. Take those strengths and run with them. Just because I'm female, it doesn't mean there are limits to what I can do. If we raise a child with a healthy self-esteem, they will have the confidence to pursue what interests them, not what society may tell them they should be interested in. If that is the goal of these parents, they have totally missed the mark!
Can you raise children without gender? Can you raise children without biology?
I'm really not sure about that.
In reality, there are many things which separate men and women, aside from sexual structures. Like womens' excellence in fine muscle movement (eg. handwriting) and mens' upper body strength. How hard can one, as a parent, try to "change" or compensate for these sex-linked realities?
That aside, I believe we should celebrate the uniqueness of every child, and avoid sex-related stereotypes.
I am not a mother but I feel a kid should know its gender and parents are to help to identify it with the kid
Anonymous Carol says
It's lovely reading your posts, they're terribly gutsy and stirring!
If they don't want a gender identity, why on earth do they choose names for their children ?! Couldn't they just let their children do that later?
I cannot imagine performing this "experiment" on my own kids. I agree that raising girls and boys to realize that our gender doesn't have to limit us, is the right approach. Thanks for your input.
You really summarized a healthy approach to raising kids, in my opinion. Thanks and welcome to my blog from Voiceboks.
So true about celebrating the "uniqueness" of every child. Did you notice how Storm has two brothers? How and when did they find out they were boys? and why do they chose to have braids?
I agree with you. I'm happy to be a woman and have had a healthy upbringing with loving parents.
I'm so glad you find my posts Gutsy, as I wanted to portray Gutsy in a positive way, and these parents are Gutsy, but in a negative way, I believe.
Penelope J says
So what's the big deal except if people want to make it one? Storm will choose his/her gender as soon as he/she starts to think and talk and have preferences.
However, this leads to speculation that the child's gender is not yet fully established. I believe this happens with more frequency than is generally admitted. I read that a certain well-known performer was given a unisex name for this reason. The parents may not want to force a gender on their child before they/he/she know what it is. In this case, what they're doing is understandable.
Whatever the reason, it's their decision and everybody else should shut up and respect it.
Doctor Eclectic says
I had seen this and dismissed it as one of those "different" things that some parents do. Congratulations on raising our attention level.
As the grandparent of one child who was breast fed until age six and slept in his parent's bed until age 8, I am painfully aware that there are other ways we negatively affect children than discussing gender.
Robert the Skeptic says
We have some very close former "hippie" friends who we have known for decades. When their daughter was born, they did not want her to grow up with gender stereotypes. So their daughter's toys included things like building sets and Tonka trucks. But what they found she enjoyed doing most of all was to put on a frilly dress and twirl! 🙂
That's why I love, everyone with a different opinion. Thanks for sharing.
I've heard of parents who do that, and I know a young woman who has her 8 month old daughter in her bed, and the 3-year-old son sleeps on a mattress with his dad in the other room. I can only imagine the future!
That is so FUNNY! I have a friend who was against toy guns, so her son picked up sticks that looked like guns and pretended to shoot.
I heard about this at work today and wanted to look it up. Your article was the third I read, but was a bit more througho than the others.
It's hard for me to sit here and judge, as I'm not in their shoes, nor am I in their mind, seeing and understanding what they see and understand.
That said, this strikes me as all too familiar:
I was in the Army, as such my vocabulary is full of colorful words and expressions (I'm sure you can gather).
Sometimes when I'm in public I forget to censor myself, and my friends will prod me and warn, "Hey, there's a kid over there."
My reply to that is "Well, they're gunna hear it sooner or later, so might as well be from me, right?"
Of course I censor myself afterwards, but I think my response fits rather well in this situation.
'They're gunna hear it sooner or later' – or in these kids' cases, they're gunna see it, live it, experience it, and possibly be bullied about it sooner or later.
So while I commend the parents for standing up against retail-forced gender identity, the simple fact is that they're gunna be experiencing it sooner or later, so wouldn't you want to set your child up for success, rather than confusion, frustration, and possible depression?
It's a risky move, one that could pay off nicely and end in an open-minded, new-agey type of kid. It could also turn out that little Jazz, seen with the pig tails, could be so harassed at school for being "gay" or whatever kids these days say (and lets face it, kids can be cruel) that he goes home and kills himself, or lives his life as a shut in, a recluse.
How would the parents feel then about their brave experiment?
Bottom line, I feel it's a wise move to teach a child about his or her identity, what it CAN mean to be a boy or girl, but constantly remind them that even though they are who they are, they are not limited by it and they can do anything they want in this life with hard work and determination.
You really spent time on this and I appreciate your thoughts. I agree that kids can be cruel, and that sooner or later the kids will experience something said or done by another at school perhaps. Thanks for "censoring" yourself and for your input.
Tara Cole says
Great blog here! And this is a neat discussion, very heavy. I feel it's important to train them (as the Word says) "In the way they should go", if they are a boy, train them to be a boy. They can still have their God-given bent (maybe the boy is a sensitive artist, he doesn't have to be a He-man football player, let him still be him!) but I say how SILLY to let them "pick" their gender, wow.
Tara Cole says
PS. Thanks for the good balanced article on this!
With four children of your own, I'm sure you have enough experience to make a decision. Thanks for stopping by.