If you’ve read my blog, it’s no secret that I’m all for pushing the boundaries of antiquated gender norms. My son wears pink, has long hair and frequently paints his nails. We do our best to encourage play of all kinds, from T-Ball to art/music to imaginative play (like “family” or “princess” – 2 current top favs). I strive to check my own language and behavior, doing my best to show that it’s not about gender, but rather about who you are that matters.
I write articles about this topic. I tweet about it. I speak about it at length with fellow parents, friends, family and the occasional stranger on the street.
I feel that it’s important to have a dialogue about the social construct of gender and what it means in the larger scale of society. However, I also feel that while it’s important to discuss, process and unpack issues surrounding gender, it’s also possible to go too far.
Recently, this article about two Canadian parents who are raising their 3rd child, Storm, “genderless,” popped up in my Facebook and Twitter feed, sending everyone a flutter. The comments on the article range from “Good for you!” to “Oh! The horror! You will screw up your child!”
I tend to fall somewhere in between.
First, this is nothing unique. I briefly wrote about a Swedish couple who kept their child’s gender a secret back in 2009.
Second, while I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” about attempting to raise your child genderless from birth, I feel that it might be a lot of effort for relatively little output. While it takes time and effort to train yourself to speak without pronouns, etc… a newborn baby is unaware of the concept of gender anyway (and will remain blissfully unaware of the concept until 2-3 years old). This begs the question then, who is this all for?
Rather than keep the baby’s sex a secret in hopes that it will help change how we view gender, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to actually disclose the baby’s gender and explain how it’s not such an identifying factor if you don’t want it to be? To shroud it in secrecy seems to place more emphasis and importance on it rather than taking away the power, like the parents hope to achieve. In stripping their child of gender, they’re making it into more of a “thing.”
Going by the descriptions and photos of their two older sons, it seems they have been successful in raising two boys who are comfortable enough with their own gender to wear braided pigtails, whatever clothes they feel comfortable in (even if it means a pink dress), and involve themselves in whatever activity interests them. With seemingly well-adjusted children already, going this step further feels like a social experiment more than anything else.
And of course, the mama in me is amazed that two young boys have been able to keep their infant sibling’s gender a secret as well. But of course, this is coming from the mom who’s son shares pretty much every single detail of every single thing with every.single.person.
It will be interesting to see what comes of all of this. How will Pop (the Swedish child) and Storm turn out and what lessons will we eventually learn from these attempts at squashing gender right from birth? I just hope that while these children grow up presumably genderless, they don’t lose a part of themselves in the process.
Cross posted from The Mamafesto.