It’s a boy! It’s a girl!
Rarely do you hear: We’re not telling.
There has been a lot of discussion in the media recently about Derek Stocker and Kathy Witterick, a Toronto couple who made the decision to keep their third child’s gender a secret and raise him or her as, well… an X. The older siblings have free reign at clothing stores, choosing from boys and girls clothing as they please. They started the family trend of living ‘gender neutral’ but are still acknowledged as boys. This prompted the parents to take the plunge with their last child. Their rationale? They feel they’re giving him the true freedom to be who he wants to be without being ‘branded’ by gender conventions. The debate? That the parents are forcing their own ideological values on a child who has to struggle now against bullying and other issues that come with having no ‘gender’. There is also a strong point in favour of the fact that by taking a stand against gender, they are drawing much more attention to the identity issue.
This social experiment has received a lot of feedback from readers who are both highly critical or supportive of the couple’s decision, and the couple have finally issued their own response to the frenzy. Here’s some interesting discussion we found on the mommy blogs including Emma Waverman of embracethechaos.ca and Karen Green of The Bad Moms Club.
There are many potential ramifications for their decision on social, psychological and (let’s face it) logistical levels, but the question I pose is this: are they truly being ‘neutral’ by not allowing their child to have a gender?
The parents claim to be standing up against the societal expectations and pressures that come with gender labels: something that in the 1950’s I could see being an issue. But rather than actually make a ‘neutral’ decision, which would be to not put weight on whatever sex their child is and offer her or him a variety of options as s/he grows up (as they are currently doing with their first two sons), they are going to the opposite extreme and actually imposing a ‘non’ sex on their baby. By doing so, they are in fact putting major emphasis on gender, or ‘non’ gender as the case may be, rather than simply letting their child be a child which, they claim, is their ultimate goal.
Even more so, by introducing the idea to the public, they are adding even more pressure to both their baby as s/he grows up, and their current children who now have a secret to hold. Their psychological experiment has become a political one as well, and is that really fair to put that on the shoulders of a baby?
Parenting has become much more complicated in the past 30 years for a multitude of reasons, requiring all of us to make decisions about things like Internet exposure, organic food versus conventional and more. But there is a big difference between choosing to keep your kids away from watching TV as a learning experiment, and isolating your child in a society that (whether you agree or not) does indeed classify between males and females.
Is it fair to put Baby Storm in this situation? We’d love to know where you stand on the issue.