I heard this being commented on 567 CapeTalk this morning, and I was really struggling to get my head around the concept.
The short of it is – if you do not want to read the entire article:
Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, the parents of five-year-old Jazz, two-year-old Kio, and three-month old Storm, want to rear and love each of their children not as a daughter or son, not as a girl or a boy, but just as a child.
The sex of the baby, Storm, has not been disclosed to anyone other than the midwives who delivered it, a close family friend, the father, and the two siblings, who have been told to keep it secret (which also raises ethical issues).
They refer to the baby as “Z,” not he or she. Even the grandparents don’t know Storm’s sex.
The parents seem to believe that children “can make choices to be whoever they want to be,” including regarding their gender, and they are giving them the opportunity to do this.
I have several “raised eyebrows” on so many aspects of these parents, but for the purposes of this post I will limit it.
I will just focus on the one – really briefly as I am still trying to get my head around it.
My one issue is gender is not something you “choose.” You are your gender ‘automatically’ by birth – you have X X or a X Y chromosome set, for all intents and purposes.
That is what you arrive with. Yes I get that society has “male” and “female” roles and if we are one of the males then there are usually certain roles, we assume and as a female there are another set. Society often dictates how we dress, how we behave and so on.
I have got that point – so tick.
For most of us, it is the cultural expression of male and female and for most people, gender parallels our biological sex.
There are of course exceptions.
I understand the stress and anguish that must come for a child who is say born a boy (because those are his genitals) and he is raised a boy, but does not feel that he fits with that gender. He may realise that he is a “girl” inside a boy’s body, or maybe his sexuality does not align with “main stream” acceptance of his gender.
I can (or can’t) imagine the stress and anxiety that must place on a child in that situation.
I think we all hope – that as much as we would be accepting and encourage our children to be who ever and what ever they want to be as long as it makes them happy, we do not set out to make the journey more difficult for our children that it already is.
(The journey through childhood and adolescents is tricky enough, and really does not need more obstacles).
So gender + sexuality is also a tricky area – and we are often faced with societies ‘predetermined’ pressures and if you do not align yourself to what is ‘main stream’ life can be challenging. Tick, got that.
But I am struggling to wrap my head around the potential damage it must do to a child to not be anchored by who they are in terms of their gender as a starting block. Which in my map of the universe is the most basic sense of self, that we lean on and build on.
These parents are choosing to wipe/hide/not reveal that and then build on top of the invisible base and see what happens.
Why? To prove society should not push its stereotypes on to a child and all children should develop their own maps of the world independently of society?
Tricky – even in Toronto, this might be tricky. (They do have a functioning society there, right? I dropped Geography at the end of standard 6, so I might be sketchy on what happens up there.)
I think – and I feel – that as people we need some basics down pat to be able to explore other levels of understanding of our true selves and then those around us.
When I read this, I thought of the “Art of War” quote which is probably not relevant here, but it popped in to my head …. and then I googled it to get the correct wording.
“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.”
I must be honest I am not quite sure how to process this idea of parents willingly “keeping” a child’s gender a secret. Then thinking that if society stopped asking then it would not be an issue, and the child could grow to be a happy well-rounded individual who believed all was well.
My reality is that the world we grow up in is the world we grow up in – and we need to be prepared for it.
Armed for it, and given the strength to get through it.
We learn this when we play in the sandbox with Ruth-I-outweigh-you-by-10kg-and-if-you-do-not-give-me-the-spade-I-will-take-it-from-you-and-beat-you-with-it and we continue to learn it through our interactions with other kids, adults, and the tar when we fall with our roller skates.
Life teaches us difficult and often painful lessons all the time.
I am not sure quite where to “box” this parenting notion ….. how is this making this child’s life easier as he/she goes forward into the world.
I am leaning towards the freaky-parents-who-home-school-co-sleep-organic-eating-wear-corduroy-listen-to-Creedance-Clear-Water-Revival-and-always-make-the-gifts-they-give-each-other-and-sometimes-they-marry-their-cousins-but-always-eat-lentils-no-matter-what-the-dish-is ….. but I am just shooting from the hip here.
I really need to give this some more thought and time to sink in and maybe I will view it differently … or maybe someone can point out a crucial point that I am missing as to why this is a super great idea (for the child), and these are not just weirdo parents!
Boy or girl? Storm, in red, gets a cuddle from his – or her – older brother