A Toronto couple has decided not to announce the sex assignment of their baby, Storm, in an effort to give their child the freedom to choose what they want to be on their own. As Storm's father David Stocker told Yahoo News, "if you really want to get to know someone, you don't ask what's between their legs":
We thought that if we delayed sharing that information, in this case hopefully, we might knock off a couple million [gender] messages by the time that Storm decides Storm would like to share.
Stocker and Storm's mother, Kathy Witterick, were inspired by the 1978 book, X, A Fabulous Child's Story by Lois Gould, in which X is raised as neither a boy or girl, and remains a happy and well-adjusted child.
Storm's two older siblings, Jazz and Kio, both identify as boys but have a more genderqueer presentation. Stalker and Witterick will not correct passers-by who mistake them for girls, instead giving their sons the decision of whether or not to correct others themselves. According to Yahoo News, Jazz recently asked his mother to let the leaders of a nature center know that he's a boy, and chose not to attend a conventional elementary school because of the questions about his gender.
I appreciate Witterick and Stalker's attention to the ways gender norms can limit children's self-expression, but I wonder what lies ahead for Storm as Storm interacts with the high levels of gender policing that may occur outside of the bubble Storm's parents have created.
Cabell Hankinson Gathman, a University of Wisconsin-Madison teaching assistant wrote on Facebook:
I find myself skeptical that keeping a child's sex assignment under wraps (since that's really what everyone means here, with gender being assumed to map onto sex assignment) is the best way to empower a child and protect them from the world's disapprobation. Personally, I'd just try to allow my children to express themselves however they wanted, provide toys and activities without regard to gender and let them develop their own interests, and give them a strong understanding of how ridiculously arbitrary gender norms are, much as my parents did with me (this is how I got in trouble in pre-school for calling another kid a "sexist"--she reported me for saying a "bad word").
To put it another way, I'm not sure that imposing genderlessness on a child in a strongly gendered culture is any better than imposing a narrowly defined gender... I think the kid will be fine. Just probably not significantly more fine than a child raised with a gender assignment that was recognized from the beginning as mutable.
What do you think, Projectors? How can parents deal with the reality that our society is highly gender-policing, paired with a desire to allow our children to express themselves freely?
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