Raising a genderless child

26 May

Great article on Today.com about a Canadian couple who is keeping the sex of their newborn child a secret. They would like their child to have the freedom to develop his/her own identity and not have to be concerned about whether it is conforming to gender norms.

They have 2 older children (both boys) with gender neutral names and their sons also are free to wear dresses, long hair, nail polish etc..

Why did they take the step to keep the sex of their third child a secret? Because they recognized that people treat children different based on their sex. Not necessarily worse or better, but differently. Small children, like my 2 year old son, do not care if they are boys or girls. But adults and older children do. They have a very strong need for babies girls to be sweet princesses and for little boys to be little ball players/truckers/soldiers. Keeping the sex of their child secret prevents people from pushing their kids to gender identify.

Students of gender studies will recognize this story as X: A Fabulous Child’s Story. In the story by Lois Gould a child is born, called X and the child is allowed to play with whatever X wants and can grow up to be whatever it wants to be. The story ends with the happy ending that X is the most well adjusted child ever. You can read it in full here. It was written in the late 70s — back when we watched Free to be You and Me and when girls were offered an array of choices that were previously not available to females.

Women and girls since then have enjoyed the victories of the feminist movement. We can choose to marry, have kids, wear skirts, go to school, work in “male” jobs. The vast majority of us operate somewhere in the middle, picking and choosing from “feminine” and “masculine” things on a daily basis. We may identify as women or girls, but the truth is that we all do a lot of things that would have been considered to be unacceptably masculine a generation ago.

So why is the idea of a gender neutral kid so shocking? Because I have to admit, I too raised my eyebrows at this story.

I am sure that people are concerned about the child being bullied or not fitting in. But who bullies a baby? The couple clearly is not going to try to prevent their child from figuring out their sex when it is older. At some point, when the kid is around 3 years old, it will figure it out and start asking some questions and making some choices. Won’t it be nice to know that your kid likes princesses and pink because she really likes them, rather than liking them by default?

Freedom is a good thing. I think these people are crazy (what is unschooling?) but the kid will be fine.

More detailed article here.

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