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Toronto Parents Raising their Baby ‘Genderless’

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.

From parentcentral.ca:

“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.

[You can read an in-depth interview with them here which also features comments from the couple's older child and from a child psychologist.]

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?

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to paparutzi.

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152 comments

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1:58AM PDT on Oct 1, 2011

interesting, this couple has a good point and they are brave to so blatantly defy the constrictive gender roles of a patriarchal society.

9:11PM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

Jamie J -

"NEVER will a man be able to breast feed."

search for male lactation. Men are able to breast feed.
the short video below may help you understand.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiXp_See_Bs

8:56PM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

this won't do any psychological damage. gender stereotypes are what do the damage. the parents in this story are not forcing their child to be any certain way...they're letting him/her make his/her own choice about what they like and how they want to be. of course gender is "real", but the stereotypes are contrived and reinforced by society. i wish more parents would stop forcing gender stereotypes on their kids.

8:51PM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

I have to agree with the person below me, that the parents intentions are good, I understand why they are trying to do that, but at such a young age, it seems that it would be tad confusing for a kid..

6:16PM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

I think the parents intentions are god,but I feel like in the long-run this can be confusing for a kid.

4:21AM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

hey did you know, girl chimps play with sticks as if they were dollies? who taught them that? we are more evolved, some of us let our little girls play with plastic swords, guns and toy cars.

gender is 'real'.

9:50AM PDT on Aug 20, 2011

“'What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious,' says Stocker." Yeah, Stocker, it's called parenting! We have to make choices for our children because they are children! I will never let me children make all their choices in life...that's ridiculous. Children are better children when they have structure and rules. Most children would choose to eat sugary foods all day or watch tv or play video games 24/7. Most children would not choose a suitable bed time and they most certainly would not make the choice to go to school!

And whatever sex the child is born with is certainly not indicative of the a parenting choosing for them. If the child has a penis, he is a boy; if the child has a vagina, she is a girl. People who don't understand basic human physiology maybe shouldn't be rearing children to begin with.

8:24AM PDT on Aug 1, 2011

Hope this doesn't hurt the child.

1:53PM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

One statement says it all.........Storm said he is sad!!

12:59PM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

There's a couple in Sweden who have been raising their child genderless, now for several years. It is not an experiment that will mess up the kid. It's actually a way better choice for the child. He/she will have greater selfesteem and a better start in life without being pushed into a gender role set up by that precious society we all blame stuff on. As for blue for boys and red for girls..It is as many other gender things made up by xtinas. Blue was considered a color of protection and was therefore used to protect the best a family had: the son/s! The red came a few hundred years later, just as an opposite to blue and/or to match colors. But ever since then blue has been associated with strong and male and red with weak and female.
Hurray for these brave parents that defy society's demands for gender control!

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