Canadian parents Kathy Witterick and David Stocker are keeping the gender of their 4-month old baby, Storm, strictly under wraps. In fact, the only people who know (besides the parents) are Storm’s two brothers, a close family friend, and the two midwives who helped deliver the baby.
Witterick and Stocker sent out an email explaining what they were trying to accomplish by raising Storm gender-neutral. It wrote: “We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now – a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world would become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place? …)”
In other words, the parents are hoping to liberate Storm from the tyrannical norms and practices created and enforced by society. In practice, that means being very careful with personal pronouns, filling the closet with equal parts blue and pink, and letting Storm decide what Storm wants to do. Numerous books and articles have been published about the possibility of this very prospect. In the critically-acclaimed book, X: A Fabulous Child’s Story, Lois Gould writes about how child X, raised free of gender constraints, grows up to be a happy and well-adjusted human being. This book has influenced Stocker in his decision to raise Storm gender-neutral.
“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” Stocker said.
Of course, some aren’t too happy about Witterick and Stocker’s revolutionary parenting technique. Members of the family’s community in Toronto have reacted to the ambiguity surrounding Storm’s sex with bewilderment and criticism. Some claimed that the parents were imposing their own political and ideological values on the newborn, and most agreed that this upbringing would cause Storm both physical harm from others and psychological damage from a confusing self-identity.
And there is some truth to this -Witterick and Stocker are putting their child on the front lines of an age-old battle between nature and nurture. Can the parents really hope to keep Storm’s gender identity neutral, and if so, for how long? While gender roles may be socially constructed and imposed upon our children, there are certain undeniable biological differences between men and women. How will Storm’s parents deal with these differences? And lastly, is it fair for Storm to be part of this social experiment, even if it means a childhood of bullying and misunderstanding?
Images by o5com via Flickr and openclipart via Wikimedia