Reader Steve from Alaska sent me a link to an article I found disturbing. It concerns some parents with three children -- two boys, and a baby named Storm of unknown gender.
No, there's nothing medically ambiguous about the child's genitalia. But the parents don't want their tyke burdened with gender stereotypes, so they are raising little Storm to be gender-neutral. They only people who know if Storm is a boy or a girl are his/her immediate family, and the midwife who delivered him/her. The parents "believe they are giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females."
Which raises the first question: What pronoun should we use when referring to little Storm? The parents admit to facing "the tyranny of pronouns," as they call it. They considered referring to Storm as “Z”.
The couple's two older boys (Jazz and Kio) are five and two. "They are encouraged to challenge how they’re expected to look and act based on their sex," notes the article. Oh are they? So they're encouraged or at least allowed to wear pink dresses. Okay fine. But what if they want to turn every stick or Barbie doll into a gun? What if they choose a GI Joe action figure and want to play at combat? What if they want to take up hunting, hmmmm? Do you think these gender distinctions are going to be encouraged by the parents? Maybe I'm just casting a stereotype on the parents, but somehow I don't think they'd like that.
Whether the parents want to accept it or not, Storm HAS a gender. He or she will someday either father a child or give birth to a child. Why deny the beauty inherent in gender? Why deny the wonders of masculinity or the glories of femininity? Why does everyone have to be so durned hostile to gender differences?
In reading the comments following the article, someone wrote, "It is perfectly possible to raise children without hiding their gender and still give them a sense of self. It is not a child's job to figure something so huge out for themselves as such a young age. It is the parents' job to guide them. Problem is, the parents are pushing their own views on their children, the same way that they don't want society to do. They are only hurting the children's sense of identity, not helping. I believe all this does is teach children to be ashamed of having gender. Boys and girls are built differently, their brains work differently, their bodies work differently, and trying to have a child choose their identity without a healthy model is foolish."
Another comment says, "While I totally agree with the idea of not forcing stereotypical gender roles on children, I think that these parents may have instead created a situation where gender is suddenly huge (even if only in its "absence"). Go ahead and treat gender as just a characteristic - no different than hair color or handedness or height. None of these things need to define you as a person and are just one of the many things that make up who you are. But by refusing to even acknowledge gender, it suddenly becomes almost the whole focus."
Please don't misunderstand -- if a boy wants to play with dolls or a girl wants to play with trucks, it would never cross my mind to discourage him or her. Unless parents are anal in the other direction -- in other words, like über-macho dads who try to bully their sons into being über-macho as well -- then most kids will naturally gravitate toward toys of their gender. But some won't. Girls are usually the ones drawn to ballet, for example, but that doesn't mean there are not superb male danseurs. Boys are usually drawn to football, but that doesn't mean girls don't enjoy playing the sport as well.
There is unquestionably a continuum of gender influence among people. Some men are tough bad boys. Some men are gentle nurturers. Some women are tough bad girls. Some women are gentle nurturers. But most of us are blends of toughness and gentleness. It takes all kinds in this world, and we're all different.
Some of the more extreme comments on this article suggested removing Storm from his/her parents because of "psychological abuse." I disagree. I think the parents are whack-jobs and I think Storm is going to be messed up as a teen, but in all other respects they seem to be loving parents... and people are FAR to quick to suggest removing children from the care of their parents just because the parents are different.
I don't especially care if the parents let their boys wear pink dresses and put their hair in pigtails. Whoop-de-doo. But to deliberately rob a baby of "zis" identity strikes me as vaguely nauseating.
That's all I'm saying.