Toronto Parents Raising their Baby ‘Genderless’
A couple from Toronto who already have children have decided to raise their baby called Storm without disclosing Storm’s sex in the hopes that when he/she is older, he/she will be able to choose a gender or, presumably, remain gender fluid.
From Pink News:
Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, who already have two sons aged five and two, say four-month-old Storm should be allowed to decide his/her gender when he/she grows up.
Only the couple, their sons, a family friend and two midwives present at Storm’s birth know whether the baby is a boy or a girl, the Toronto Star reports. There is no ambiguity over the baby’s genitals.
After Storm’s birth, the couple sent an email to family and friends: “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? …).”
As to the couple’s reasoning behind this, they’ve been quite concise when interviewed.
“When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or a boy?’” says Witterick, bouncing Storm, dressed in a red-fleece jumper, on her lap at the kitchen table.
“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” says Stocker.
In an age where helicopter parents hover nervously over their kids micromanaging their lives, and tiger moms ferociously push their progeny to get into Harvard, Stocker, 39, and Witterick, 38, believe kids can make meaningful decisions for themselves from a very early age.
“What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious,” says Stocker.
“We thought that if we delayed sharing that information [Storm's sex], in this case hopefully, we might knock off a couple million of those messages by the time that Storm decides Storm would like to share,” says Witterick.
The couple’s other children, Jazz and Kio are also encouraged to express whatever gender facets they choose, reportedly wearing their hair long and mixing and matching between female and male attire.
Jazz, who self-identifies as a boy despite his gender expression, is at age five old enough to attend school but does not go, a decision that seems, at least in part, to have been precipitated by his gender variance. Instead he is home-schooled or rather “unschooled” a kind of teaching whereby children are free to lead the learning experience. Jazz is noted as feeling “sad” that he does not go to public school, but at the same time seems to relish his home-based learning environment.
The couple stresses that they are not trying to enforce their views on gender on their children, but instead would hope that by allowing for gender fluidity, the family will be able to have a meaningful conversation about the subject free of the constraints of gender norms and social cues.
Witterick does concede in the interview however, that her eldest son Jazz has to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing his gender with other people who are incredulous as to why he presents as a girl. Witterick says the blame is to be laid at society’s feet and the prescribed gender norms it demands.
We’ve heard countless stories of children bucking gender norms from an early age and gender variance among kids is well documented, yet by adolescence many children revert to expected sex-assigned gender roles while only a few would later identify as transgender or would choose to change their gender through medical means to have their self determined identity match their gender expression.
In removing the reinforcement of sex and withholding gender prescription, are Storm’s parents in fact giving their child a broader freedom to self-determine his/her own identity, something that can only be a desirable thing?
Or is this — albeit well meaning — freedom really going to isolate Storm from other children, an isolation that the baby did not choose because, in effect, Storm’s parents have made a choice for him/her in that that they have chosen to create an issue out of Storm’s gender regardless of whether Storm would have chosen to do so. This is also a consideration, as, while admirable in theory, this very public choice to withhold the child’s gender could generate hostility and situations of exclusion as others react to his/her difference, especially given the amount of publicity the pair have gathered for their decision.
Over to you. What do you think?