Many bloggers have been following and commenting on the story of a couple choosing to keep their child’s gender a secret from the world. I couldn’t help but weigh in on this issue – not because I have issue with what they are doing, but because I’m left with too many questions that I can’t seem to ignore when I hear more about this story.
Here is the background in a nutshell: a couple from Toronto have decided not to share the gender of their child, Storm, with anyone including grandparents. The only people that are aware of the child’s gender are the parents, the siblings, and the midwives that delivered him/her. Their stance is that they want the child to make his/her own choice about gender at the appropriate time without the burden of gender stereotypes.
Okay. I understand (and even appreciate) that they are wanting their child to be judged by the whole of his/her character and not by what is between his/her legs. But, what I don’t understand is how imposing an androgynous existence on the child isn’t carrying its own set of beliefs. Why are the parents using their child to as a vehicle to exercise their own gender beliefs? Shouldn’t the individual make this choice at the appropriate time?
Do the parents live an androgynous existence free from gender stereotypes? Why are they so adamant about announcing that their first two children are boys and want to be known as boys? Why didn’t they start this crusade with their first two children? Why wait until the third child?
These parents believe that by giving their children the ability to choose who they want to be without the worry of social gender norms, they are helping them discover themselves naturally. Unfortunately, I think it is impossible to escape social gender norms – especially when your older siblings know their gender, the parents know their gender, and the parents exist entirely in a gendered society. I almost feel that this is a strange experiment with a human child as the unknowing subject.
Also, what effect is this having on the older siblings being forced to keep their brother/sister’s gender a secret? That’s a big job for two children that are mentally and emotionally incapable of understanding the scope of what they are doing.
I believe that children will discover exactly who they are with time, understanding, and love. I don’t believe that purposefully raising an androgynous child is going to benefit gender stereotypes in any manner. I doesn’t matter what gender you are raised or what gender you identify with – it isn’t going to make the stereotypes go away. This child will still be exposed to thousands of small interactions on a daily basis that will contribute one way or another to who they become. Nobody can shield a child from each of these micro interactions every moment of every day. By hiding the child’s gender is it possible that the whole thing will backfire and the child with end up with a lack of a sense of self?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. But, I do know one thing: My personal gender crusade is not going to be acted out through the innocent life of my child. It is my crusade – not theirs. And, their existence isn’t negotiable.
Stepping off soapbox now…