Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, 39 are raising their youngest child, Storm, to be genderless. They won’t tell any family members which sex the baby is.
As Canadian parenting site ParentCentral reports, the only people who know are Storm’s brothers, a close family friend and the two midwives who helped deliver the baby in a birthing pool at their Toronto home.
They emailed their friends and family “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? …).”
The story lists the various complaints they’re getting — family members resentful of how they have to explain to their friends their lack of knowledge about its sex, worries that the children will be ridiculed and concerns about imposing political and ideological values on such a tiny baby. The biggest concern? Setting the kids up for problems with their peers.
But how about just the simple problem of treating one’s genitalia as something to be hidden and not shared? I mean, obviously you can’t keep the baby’s sex a secret without closely guarding the changing of diapers or anything else similarly intimate. It just seems like in addition to asking the kid to have problems with gender, it might also lead to problems with bonding and intimacy among family and friends.
The parents, for their part, are hoping their child will choose its gender, with no mind to genitalia or social norms. They think that if they delay that announcement, the baby might be old enough to decide its gender on its own.
The older brothers get similar treatment when it comes to social norms. They’re encouraged to shop without concern for whether the clothes are in the boys or girls section of the store. It sounds like the parents strongly endorse feminine markings over masculine, for what it’s worth
David is a teacher at an alternative school and we’re told he frames his lessons around social justice issues of class, race and gender. The family takes trips to Cuba and with Zapatistas through the mountains of Mexico. Both spouses come from liberal families. They all co-sleep on two mattresses in the master bedroom and Karen is a full-time homemaker, unschooler (kid-driven learning led by child’s curiosity) and breastfeeding volunteer.
They credit the record “Free to Be … You and Me” for the original idea since it had such a strong message of gender neutrality. So I should probably stop giving that out as a newborn gift. Kidding. I would never give that CD to anyone.
Anyway, older brother Jazz loves pink and Kio loves purple. Most people assume them to be girls and the parents don’t correct anyone who so assumes that. Jazz doesn’t go to school. He doesn’t want to because of all the gender issues, apparently. He’s five but he’s already got a portfolio of poems written under the pseudonym “Gender Explorer.”
At this point, I’m wondering if Canada is celebrating the equivalent of April Fool’s Day today. But I honestly don’t think so.
The parents explain that their decision to raise their children this way is all-consuming and takes most of their time.
The article talks to a California-based psychologist and mother of a “girlyboy” about how parents should support gender-creative children. She’s worried about the way Storm’s parents are raising him, saying that they’re not giving him the tools to position himself so much as just completely marginalizing their child into the category of “other than other.” She also thinks it’s way too much pressure on the older brothers to be forced to keep this family secret.
The article concludes with Dr. Ken Zucker, “world expert on gender identity,” saying that this family is engaged in a social experiment of nurture and he’s unsure how much influence parents can have on their children.
I wonder if the effect won’t be the opposite of what these parents intend. I would not be surprised to see each of these kids develop rather strong gender identity related to their biology. Or require massive amounts of therapy. But, like Dr. Zucker says, “We’ll see.”