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Genderless Child Update: Parents Defend Move To Keep Baby's Sex A Secret

By Monica Bielanko |

Steve Russell/Associated Press

It was all the talk on the web last week: a Toronto couple’s decision to keep their infant’s sex a secret in order to allow the child to develop his or her own gender identity.

Kathy Witterick and David Stocker’s parenting choices ignited a firestorm of controversy. The couple has been lauded for their decision, they’ve also been widely criticized for imposing their ideology on four-month-old Storm.

Now, the couple is defending their decision in response to the wide array of criticism’s they received after their story went viral.

Here are just a few of the comments in response the blog I wrote on the genderless baby:

Children, including babies are not laboratory mice. It is as if they are doing a social experiment on their children, close family and also their neighborhood…We are born with a defined gender (at least most of us) and it is not our parents right to decide to blur this definition. They are not wise.

This article actually enrages me. My oldest son (who is 5) likes pink, but I will not allow him to wear a dress…he knows dresses are for girls. Both of my boys have dolls, but they love to play dinosaurs and cars too. I take my kids to get their hair cut, make them go to school…I think its a responsibility as a parent. I think these parents letting their children dress in dresses, not go to school, and not cut their hair are not fulfilling their role as parents…its horrible when you let your child do “whatever they want”. What do the parents then do? Whatever happened to discipline?

I love this idea simply because this child, for a while at least, won’t be faced with gender prejudgment and attempts to expect (at best) or force (at worst) him/her into the prescribed gender role. I especially get a kick out of the idea that people will be frustrated that they don’t know whether to give this child the usual societal male privilege or not. How awful the prospect must be of giving it — however unintentionally — to a girl.

In my opinion, this couple has, with the best of intentions, simply exchanged one set of pressures imposed on their children with another. Before the children would have coped with gender biases and now they must deal with another set of biases.. So, what did they gain?

oh PUH-LEASE. Stop using your kids to purport your own self importance. I can’t stand parents who use children as a way to differentiate themselves and their status in society. Experiment on yourself – your “celebrating” gender neutrality is nothing but a self-centered gimmick at a poor child’s expense

I love it! Bravo to the parents willing to give their child every chance to figure out who they are without social pressures (or as little as possible). I had always planned on requesting gender-neutral clothing and toys for our first child, so that we could let them decide who they are, and in a practical sense, use the items again. I love this story and I wish I could hear about more of them!

As the BBC reports, in an e-mail, Kathy Witterick told the Associated Press that the idea that “the whole world must know what is between the baby’s legs is unhealthy, unsafe, and voyeuristic”.  She goes on to say that 4-month-old Storm is still learning to recognize him or herself and it would be inappropriate to impose a gender identity on the child. The mother of three says the argument that children need a sex taught to them in order to feel safe in the world does not hold up in their experience.

Witterick said it’s important to challenge traditional thinking. “The discussion that emerges not only “outs” people (in their rush to judge, they demonstrate the prevailing views), but also has the effect of helping people examine whether they truly do believe the status quo to be the best that we can do. Is this the best that we can do to grow healthy, happy, kind, well adjusted children?” Witterick writes.

Witterick, 38, and her husband, David Stocker, 39, are also being criticized for the way they’re raising their two sons, 5-year-old Jazz and 2-year-old Kio.  The boys choose their own clothing and hairstyles.  Jazz’s favorite color is pink, he has an earring and likes to wear his long hair in braids.  The boys are generally assumed to be girls but Witterick says “Jazz has a strong sense of being a boy, and he understands that his choices to wear pink and have long hair are not always acceptable to his community.”

While I appreciate the concept and do believe that society places way too much importance on gender, I think this couple is probably doing more harm than good for their children, although I believe their intentions are good. Mostly, I’m still wondering how neither of those boys – who know Storm’s gender – haven’t spilled the beans. Also, isn’t forcing to little ones to keep a secret so many people want to know putting an awful lot of pressure on a child?

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About Monica Bielanko

monica-bielanko

Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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10 thoughts on “Genderless Child Update: Parents Defend Move To Keep Baby's Sex A Secret

  1. Meagan says:

    They’ve said they’re going to keep it secret for as long as all the children are comfortable keeping it a secret… that doesn’t sound like FORCING them to keep it a secret to me. I suspect the big secret it probably a great game for the kids for now… and if it stops being fun, they WILL spill.

    I think a commenter on an earlier artical about this caught my feelings pretty well, though I’ll probably notch it trying to summarize: every parent does some level if harm to their children in trying to impose their views… there’s really no way to know ahead of time whether this couple’s value imposition on their children will be harmful or liberating in the long run. We all roll th dice every time we make a parenting decision. I’m pretty sure these kids will grow up just fine, with the same level of mental scarring as any other kid.

  2. Britney says:

    I can’t help but be caught by the line, “Jazz’s favorite color is pink, he has an earring and likes to wear his long hair in braids. ” I wonder if maybe *this*, and not the matter of the withholding of Storm’s gender, is the issue at hand. It seems our society gets inordinately uncomfortable when one strays from gender assignments. These parents are lauded for allowing their children the freedom to choose who they want to be. How dare we outrage against that?

  3. Tabitha27 says:

    I sure hope that the parents did their research before this, here is a link to a story that is somewhat similar. http://www.altereddimensions.net/people/BoyRaisedAsAGirlDavidReimer.aspx

  4. ibarra says:

    britney, that is nothing like this story. they are not raising storm as either sex. they are trying to raise storm as gender neutral. the story that you are referring to is about an individual who had his entire being determined FOR him by adults around him. storm is being given an opportunity to make his own choices without any pressure.

  5. ibarra says:

    i meant tabitha*

  6. Ashford Wyrd says:

    I think what Storm’s parents are doing is the right thing. They are allowing the child to choose – without pressure from society – what ey likes. By keeping Storm’s sex private, they are ensuring that societal pressure does not even enter into the equation. It is not a science experiment, but rather a stand against cultural discrimination. If more parents did this, I think eventually we would end with true gender equality, and freedom.

  7. L says:

    Except that’s really not similar at all…

  8. pip says:

    I just find it sooo interesting that people are so angry. I have seen and heard comments about lying and forcing on the parents part. These parents are not lying to Storm. They are not forcing Storm to be a boy or a girl. They are allowing Storm to be a baby without attachment to gender. This is absolutely about the rules we believe we need in our society of women and men/girls and boys. I also find it funny that someone said that the parents should not force their beliefs on their children – ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Try to raise a child with beliefs opposite of your own – just try…. You can teach them to be open and accepting to others but you cannot raise them opposite of your own beliefs. Example – I could not raise my child to be a neo nazi or believe that the KKK is right. It would be impossible because I am NOT that. What we believe colors EVERYTHING we say, think, do. You believe what you believe because you think you are right. You raise your child as you deem correct based on your beliefs. Because the bulk of society agrees with you does not make it right or wrong it just makes it easier.

    And the comment about discipline…. You discipline your child if he does not act like a boy or she does not act like a girl? Really???

    And in defense of the parents – I believe the reporter came to them for the interview, they did not go searching for this crazy 15 minutes of fame.

  9. LindaTOO says:

    I don’t care.

  10. Merrick says:

    Maybe we could worry about the children who are really at risk — those in abusive homes, those who live with food insecurity, and those who live in neighborhoods where it isn’t safe to take a walk.

    I can’t get too worked up over kids living in a loving, somewhat kooky home.

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