I consider myself to be open minded to the choices parents make for their children, as long as the safety of the child isn’t in question. But a recent story from the Toronto Star about parents Kathy Witterick and David Stocker of Toronto, Canada choosing to keep the gender of their baby a secret has me scratching my head.
Save for the parents, two brothers, midwives and a close friend, nobody knows the gender of the now 4 month old Storm. Not even the grandparents. “In fact, in not telling the gender of my precious baby, I am saying to the world, ‘Please can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what s (he) wants to be?!.” Witterick wrote in an email.
During Kathy’s pregnancy, her now 5 year old son Jazz was having issues with his own gender. “I was feeling like I needed some good parenting skills to support him through that,” she said.
David came across a book from 1978, titled X: A Fabulous Child’s Story by Lois Gould. X is raised as neither a boy or girl, and grows up to be a happy and well-adjusted child. They found this compelling and decided to try this approach.
Storm’s brother Jazz and Kio,who is two, have also been free to choose when it comes to their gender roles. Both have been allowed to pick out their own clothes in the boys and girls sections of stores since they were 18 months old and decide whether to cut their hair. Jazz currently has his hair long and likes to wear it in 3 braids. Because both boys wear girls clothing they are often mistaken for girls. The parents have decided to let the boys decided whether to correct people.
With Storm they have taken this approach a step further by keeping the gender a secret from virtually everyone. Kathy says, “I believe that it puts restrictions on this particular baby so that in this culture this baby will be a singular person who is not being given an opportunity to find their true gender self, based on also what’s inside them.”
And that is where I get confused. In my mind the gender of a child is science. It is a fact. You are either a boy or a girl, unless born with parts from both. I agree that it is important to let your children be individuals and I applaud these parents for loving their children unconditionally and encouraging them to be who they really are. But I don’t see how keeping the gender of a child a secret gives children more freedom to figure out who they are inside, unless in the case of a child with both male and female organs. Instead I think it gives the gender identity issues and can make them even more confused.
As a mother of two boys, I think it is a good thing not to completely characterize our children in gender roles. Men who can cook and clean are in my mind sexy. There is nothing wrong with a woman who works outside the home and a man who decides to stay home to take care of the kids. Or a woman who is a firefighter and a man who is a nurse. I don’t mind if my boys play with dolls or choose a pink cup at dinner. Big deal.
Gender is not determined by the roles in which we put on them. Why not teach them there is nothing wrong with embracing our gender? If our children identify with another gender role, then by all means showing our children our support is important. But asking a small child to determine whether or not to tell someone whether they are a boy or a girl is a lot to put upon them.
Won’t these experiences negatively affect them in other ways than if they had simply identified the gender?
Why make gender an issue as soon as a child is born?
I’d love you to weigh in on this sensitive issue!