Raising a Genderless Child and other interesting Canadian past times …..

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
Jazz

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1389593/Kathy-Witterick-David-Stocker-raising-genderless-baby.html#ixzz1NqO91cXS

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36 Comments

  1. lee

     /  June 3, 2011

    You may find this a very good interpretation with more food for thought.
    http://www.thedailymaverick.co.za/article/2011-06-01-analysis-of-a-genderless-child-parents-and-storm-they-are-brewing

    lee

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  June 3, 2011

      Thanks, I appreciated the article – was a good read. Though the last line was a great summary of events.

      For now, Storm is free from “the tyranny of pronouns” (Witterick’s words). But this charade has a lifespan, and it ends when Storm leaves their co-sleep nest, and enters a world that operates on definitions

      Reply
  2. Tania

     /  June 1, 2011

    BOY for sure
    The kids parents cannot fool nature
    It’s in his chromosomes
    If he is in any way confuse its his parents who have done the confusing and they deserve a good hiding

    Reply
  3. Sheesh, I always had this conception of myself as super liberal. I hate that gender roles are forced upon us, that pink and housework and barbies and love of making tea are forced on us. But this really just makes me feel weird. You can’t fight biology. The fact is, I have hormones that do female things to me whether I like them or not. I feel very sorry for gender confused people, but at least they know the stereotypes and can realise that they are leaning to one or another, but this kid? I think kids need some kind of solid foundation of what they are, and as they grow older will realise in how many ways the stereotypes do not apply to them. But anyway, it’s just silly cos by an early age it will notice which body parts it has and kids are smart. Can’t fool them.

    Reply
  4. Wait! Hold on a second. The older child in the photo with the long plait is a BOY?? I’m so confused.

    Reply
  5. Sharon

     /  May 31, 2011

    I’m with you RM! I totally agree with what you’re saying. This feels very much like a science experiment, waiting to go horribly wrong and wreck a child’s life! I wonder how responsible they’re being as parents? Do they really have their children’s best interests at heart or are they being sacrificed in an attempt to prove a point?
    I dunno, it seems risky to me.

    Reply
  6. Scared & Imperfect Mother

     /  May 31, 2011

    RM Im shocked about the entire thing! This world we live in is really messed up and confusing enough as it is, ad extra pressure on the child why dont you.

    Again I’m shocked.

    Reply
  7. jenny

     /  May 31, 2011

    As if it wasn’t bad enough they named the kids Storm.

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  May 31, 2011

      See, there are so many levels of problems here ……..

      Reply
  8. LoriF

     /  May 31, 2011

    Whilst I totally believe gender politics is screwy – this is not the way to fix it!

    Reply
  9. julz

     /  May 31, 2011

    Oh my word. I grew up knowing who the basic me was and I am still spending thousands on therapy. What is so wrong about owning your gender?

    I get that parenting has come a long way, but honestly this is taking things to the extreme.

    I do understand that there are kids that are gender confused and who really have been born into the wrong body and I feel very sad for these children, however this is where gender is pushed. If these kids are encouraged to follow their inner gender, they would be fairly well adujsted.

    Dylan loves Pink. I let him enjoy pink and I let him smell the roses. This is allwoing my son the freedom to be and to enjoy. I don’t have to deprive him of him gender to achieve this.

    Reply
  10. That article is quite disturbing and I think they are achieving the exact opposite by letting the media in on their experiment. They don’t want the child’s “gender” to be an issue but they are the ones that are making it an issue? So strange!

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  May 31, 2011

      I think you captured the “thing” that was bothering me, that I could not put my finger on ……

      Reply
  11. lee

     /  May 31, 2011

    As a parent of a gender confused 9 year old i do find this article interesting. Being very liberal and open-minded I have to question why I seem to have issues with this. The thing is-by the parents knowing the gender do they not automatically relate in a specific way. The fact that the 2 older boys seem to be “tom-girls” is another red-flag-the “experiment” is flawed by the fact that they dont seem to be able to define any roles for their children. Trust me, I am faced daily by a boy that really does wish he was Beyonce’s sister-it is not an easy path and i think that they are almost making a mockery of what the reality is. There you have my views…

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  May 31, 2011

      Thanks for your perspective …… I agree that something in this “experiment” “life style” choice is flawed.

      Reply
  12. This is totally insane! Those poor kids (whose names, by the way, sound like different models of cars) being turned into a social experiment by the parents.

    Firstly, what values are you teaching your kids by insisting they keep the sex of their sibling secret?

    Children can be totally cruel, and I think it’s the parents’ job to try to protect their child from at least as much of that as possible until they are emotionally equipped to deal with it. A 5 year old does not have the emotional strength to defend his choice of wearing a poofy pink dress, no matter how many times you teach him “sticks and stones”. (It’s hard enough for gay adults to wear what they want to without letting other people get them down.) What will probably end up happening is that the teasing etc the kids will go through will make them *more* repressed, rather than liberated in their choices.

    Reply
  13. I feel sorry for the children!
    I also feel that it makes it much easier (for children ad parents) to raise a child in the gender that she is born with, but to tell her that it is okay if she does not feel comfortable with her own skin or sexual orientation… You will fend for her whichever way!

    Reply
  14. Well one way to freak them all out, let’s start a mass marketing campaign – “revealed, genderless baby is a boy!” 50% chance you will be right and we could have some fun on the way 😉

    Reply
  15. I think it is horrible that they are denying their baby the truth about himself / herself. And it is not like they can hide it forever – at some point in time when the kid is a teenager it is going to start showing and then? Sure if you want to raise your daughter or son to become who they wish to become and you teach them you are open minded and liberal and accepting of whatever, but surely the child has a right to be recognised for whatever gender this child is. Even my nearly 8 year old loves that she is known as a girl. She cannot imagine why any child would not want people to know if they are a boy or a girl. And sure she’s a girl. Sure she likes her hair long, sure she likes dresses at times, but she also loves Harry Potter, she loves playing with bow and arrow kits, she loves buying fake blood and vampire teeth at the toy shop. She is SO not into Barbie. But she still likes that ppl know she is a girl.

    Reply
  16. Oh yes, and another point – they are just being stupid as no one else can now change nappies for the baba. So only they can so they can never have time out or away. Plain stupid.

    Reply
  17. You know what I think -attention seeking parents seeing a cool way to be famous and screw up their kids in the same breath. Media sluts.

    Reply
  18. Katherine

     /  May 30, 2011

    I agree with their main point, which is that society really does seem to want to put us in little boxes from the get go, but I pity the kid which is being used to prove the point. It does indeed drive me mad that all girl clothes seem to be pink, and boys clothes all blue and other “manly” colours, and the same with toys, but I’m not sure whether I’ll do anything about it other than point it out to my children as quite stupid, and let them know I support them if they’d like to buck gender stereotypes.

    On a related note, but is the increased pinkification of little girls clothes more than when we were kids? I’m 31 and I didn’t wear a single item of pink as a kid – and now when I buy gifts for little girls, it seems hard to avoid buying anything with pink on it. Is it just me?

    Reply
    • countess

       /  May 31, 2011

      good point about the pink. maybe the manufacturers buy it in bulk for a bigger discount. it’s all about the money.

      Reply
      • reluctantmom

         /  May 31, 2011

        No, I think it because moms like me buy it by the truck load! I have two girls and my girls get dressed in pink – I nearly had a cry when my daughter wanted to wear Ben 10 stuff …. I want her to wear pink dammit. I want her to be the girly girl I never was ……

        Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  May 31, 2011

      Katherine this is sort of where I stumble. With my son I got all righteous about there being so much pink the stores and blah-blah-blah, and then I had my own. I am not sure if their vulva released a “pink” button in me, but we are pink “befok” in our house. We do one pink wash load a day of just pink!!!

      I was very “why my girls wear pink” and unfortunately now my girls wear pink when I dress them …….. I will also confess since they arrived I have been more inclined to buy the odd pink item. There is something about pinik that is girly and giggly, and some days I like being a girl, some days …. today I am all in black, so maybe not today …..

      Reply
      • Katherine

         /  May 31, 2011

        ya a friend of mine said it happened the same way to her too – one minute she was pregnant and swearing her little girl would never wear pink, and the next minute baby was out and she was demanding to be taken to a shop to buy a million pink clothes. I am very interested to see if I have a girl this time and to see if the pink switch gets flipped for me too.

        Reply
        • reluctantmom

           /  May 31, 2011

          Katherine it was exactly like that – I had Georgia and I thought she was a boy. She was Callum to me. They waved her over the curtain and I realised my error, I sent Kennith out immediately to buy as much pink fluff as he could find – suddenly the green baby grower just was not good enough. I admit, I am totally pink ‘befok’ and I still go and buy more pink stuff any opportunity I can get…. very sad ……

          Reply
  19. It seems that the parents don’t seem to be looking to the future. What on earth are they going to tell Storm when she (and I say she because that’s what she is) has to potty train?
    What is going to happen when they have to explain it? Will they just let her toddle and an experience it alone? I see tons of therapy bills coming their way.

    Reply
  20. countess

     /  May 30, 2011

    We are trying to raise a “grey” society. You are not black and you are not white, you are not a boy and you are neither a girl.

    I REBEL against this. Teach children to look beyond the obvious stereotypes by exposing them to different things and perhaps by encouraging them to think differently. You ARE who you ARE. Just because other people may see you in a certain light or put you in a certain box, does not dictate who you are as a person. Why are they so worried about society and how society perceives them and their family.? This stems from their own insecurities and their possible mixed up view on life. I am seriously against this on SO many levels. BE PROUD OF WHO YOU ARE……LOVE YOURSELF. (FOR EFFS SAKES!!!!!!!)

    Reply
  21. Kat

     /  May 30, 2011

    Those two are nuts. I feel so sorry for those kids and all the issues they are being forced to face. What if they want to be normal is there now something so wrong with that? As to them all co-sleeping. Wierd. How and where was Storm concieved or are those kids seeing things they shouldn’t?

    Reply
  22. josie

     /  May 30, 2011

    How to mess up your kids in a few easy steps…..
    I think these parents need to be shot – having children is not the oppurtunity to carry out all weird gender experiments! I’m sure there are other forums for that where you can do less harm to actual human beings….
    Shame, these poor kids

    Reply

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