A couple in Toronto decided around the birth of their third child that they weren’t going to tell anyone whether that child was a boy or a girl. Fewer than 10 people know the gender of baby Storm, who is now 4 months-old.
Only Storm’s two big brothers, Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2, parents Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, the two midwives who attended Storm’s birth, and Storm stormself know what lies beneath the diaper. It will be up to Storm to decide when — if ever — to tell. In the meantime, the parents say, the baby gets to live unconstrained by societies assumptions about what a girl is and a what a boy is. The parents tell the Toronto Star that they came up with the idea of keeping Storm’s gender a secret after reading X: A Fabulous Child’s Story by Lois Gould, a children’s book published in 1978 about a child raised as not-a-boy and not-a-girl.
Storm’s grandparents are supportive, as are some of Witterick’s and Stocker’s friends. But others, like the neighbor across the street, hassle them, complain or behave as if Storm’s secret identity is an affront to others. In fact, the parents get tired of explaining themselves, too.Keeping the gender of a baby a secret sounds like too much work for me — I’m big on sharing diaper changing with anyone who is willing. But the fact that people get emotional about it proves the parents’ point in an annoying way. Why is it so important to others that they know if Storm is a girl or boy? Because of pronouns? That’s cumbersome, sure, but the nosy neighbor across the street — people who’ve never even met this family — why are they getting so worked up?
Witterick and Stocker have been messing with signs of gender for years now. Their two boys don’t adhere to the standard North American boy dress code. They have longer hair. The oldest wears his in three braids. They both like dresses as much as they like jeans. Their parents have allowed them to pick their own clothes since they were 18 months old and they didn’t limit them to the boys sections. The boys own plenty of pink and purple. One rides a pink and purple bike. The parents don’t correct strangers who call their boys girls, they let Jazz and Kio do it themselves.Storm’s parents plan to keep the child’s gender a secret until someone in the family has had enough. It’s a fascinating experiment, what this family is doing. I can’t find any updates on the Swedish family that kept their only child’s gender a secret. Pop was 2 years old a couple of years ago when that story made the rounds. I wonder whether the jig is up now that Pop is 4, or what.I think even this Toronto family realizes being raised completely gender neutral isn’t realistic, but this something that their inner-circle has at least had to think about.What do you think of the baby Storm experiment? Is there anything to learn from it or is this just an ideological stunt? Are you more comfortable interacting with a child when you know whether he or she is a boy or girl? Would you ever try this?
Photo: Chimothy27 via flickr
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