Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Walking the Enlightened Gender Walk: Parents Keep Their New Baby's Gender Private. Very Private.

It's pretty much the first question people ask when they hear someone's had a baby: Boy or Girl? It's usually before they even ask if the child is healthy.

Now check out this story from Canada:

When the third child in Kathy Witterick and David Stocker's family was born, the parents decided they weren't going to let society dictate what kind of person that child would be, so they've kept the child's physical gender a secret - even from the grandparents!

As the father put it:

"If you really want to get to know someone, you don't ask what's between their legs."
The couple also have two sons whom they've encouraged to be as gender non-conforming as they wish, allowed to wear pink and have long hair, and the kids are often mistaken for girls... with some resulting discomfort.

As a parent, my mind boggles at the idea of trying to side-step the MILLIONS of times "Oh, it's a boy!" or "Oh, it's a girl!" or "Oh, which is it/he/she?" must come up. And all those forms that only have two boxes to check, boy or girl. Male or female.

As we're learning in our Gender 101 video series, gender is more complex, more diverse, more wonderful than we've been taught, but the lock-step of baby pink and baby blue for babies is so intense in our culture, that something this simple seems completely revolutionary.

The baby's name is STORM, and ze already is - a STORM of Inspiration!

So, cheers for Kathy and David and their kids for walking the Enlightened Gender Walk - you're changing the world for all of us!

What do you think?


ps- My thanks to Karol for sharing this with me so I could share it with you! And here's an article where Storm's Mom defends their position.


Katja said...

There's been such a case here in Finland a few years back, but the parents gave finally in and revealed it a year or two after (was a girl).

The reason why I'm quite for this is, because gender really isn't set in stone, and then there's those who's gender can't even be determined at birth.

Why should your gender be one of the biggest things that shapes what you are?

Anonymous said...

I definitely think this is cool. I'm pretty gender non conforming, but I acted pretty girly as a kid because that's what was expected of me. Even when you're really young, there's a lot of pressure to act like everyone thinks a girl or a boy should act, and you're too young to really think about whether that's actually who you are. I think that it's actually a lot better for a kid to grow up without that pressure. I've wondered a lot if people would be different if we didn't grow up with these expectations. I think a lot of people would be more what we would now consider "gender non conforming" if we weren't pressured to "act like a girl" or "act like a boy" pretty much from the time we were born.I kind of thought about writing a short story with that kind of theme... Where everyone is referred to as ze and there is np gender, or kids choose their gender at twelve or something. I just don't have a plot yet...

Anonymous said...

This isn't about not revealing the baby's gender, it's about not revealing the baby's sex. There's no such thing as "physical gender", unless you're talking about gender expression. I think this is a great idea, to try to avoid people projecting gendered assumptions on Storm because of Storm's sex, but please try to avoid equating sex with gender. Storm is a baby. Ze's unlikely to have come to any understanding about what gender ze is yet.

Anonymous said...

I think it's incredibly brave and beautiful of these parents to do such a thing. I certainly wish this kind of actual appreciation for a person over gender, and freedom of choice, was practiced by more parents. At least, to some extent. Many kudos to them!

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Katja, that's so interesting to know that a couple did this in Finland, too! Thanks!

Anonymous June 1, 2011, 8:04am, yeah, it's amazing to think about how lock-step we train kids to be about blue for boys, pink for girls stuff - and how early it starts (hospital baby blankets! boy/girl diapers! How parents paint the nursery once they learn the baby's sex from the ultrasound!

thanks for your qualification on how I'm using the term "gender" - "sex" as a noun always sounds odd to me, which is why I chose "physical gender" but it's good to know that didn't work for you. I appreciate your sharing!

Anonymous June 1, 9:23 AM,
me too - I was really blown away by this story, and I wonder if all the attention give it will have more parents consider being less bound by the sex of their child and more open to letting their kids just be and grow "organically" into the multi-faceted humans they're destined to become...

Namaste and thanks to all for being part of the conversation,

Anonymous said...

The complications just boggle my mind. Nobody else can ever diaper the child (unless they sign a confidentiality agreement first?). The parents can't ever use "he" or "she" when discussing the child. And then there will be the public restroom issue. I cannot imagine the pressures they will face.

All of which shows how deeply ingrained it is for society to want to put people in one of those two boxes.

ivanova said...

I'm a little taken aback by this story, because it's such an unusual thing to do. I remember reading about parents of intersex babies, and that they are told to pick a gender for their child so their child will be treated like all other children, but to be flexible and ready for their child to identify with a different gender than the one they picked. To me, that makes more sense as something that all parents could do. It seems like this family's decision is making a great sociological point but could be a bit hard or confusing for the child. But no biggie, they should raise their baby how they please.

Book Dragon said...

more power to them!

fairyhedgehog said...

I thought it was great when I first read about it, until someone on another site commented that people are awkward around people whose gender they can't determine. Now I know this is a problem in our society but I wonder how it will feel to that child, having so many people acting awkwardly around them?

If only being male or female wasn't always such a big deal.

Pat Schmatz said...

In 6th grade, I read a short story about "Baby X" - raised with gender secret. That story was so freeing to me at the time...the idea that some adult would think of such a thing! And write it! I wanted to be Baby X so much, with my own bathroom at school, and nobody bugging me, ever ever ever, about my gender in any way.

Anonymous said...

Although I used gender-specific names for my two children (one of each gender), I worked diligently at raising them in a similar fashion. Thus, my son and daughter: each had a play kitchen, parented baby dolls, raced Matchbox cars, got muddy, took dance lessons, played sports, learned to cook, used power tools, wore nail polish, etc. As adults, they are not restricted and pursue all the passions they have. I highly recommend not stereotyping children...let them choose their own path. I just hope Storm's parents always put the child's needs and wishes first.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

And here's another couple who raised their child gender-neutral until age 5, when they revealed his sex: