Is the four-month-old baby in Ottawa going to be totally screwed up one day because his/her parents refused to assign him/her a gender at birth?
These parents have been taking loads of criticism ever since a profile piece in the Toronto Star ran last week on their decision to raise a gender-neutral child.
Critics have called the decision a sociological experiment that will work hopelessly against human biology that’s been fortified over thousands of years and as such is doomed for tragic failure.
The baby, whose name is Storm, will be encouraged to discover his/her own sexual identity. The parents are saying that they don’t want to raise their third child with the same sexual expectations society imposes—that a person should fit snugly into one of two rigid categories.
Here’s the birth announcement from the parents:
“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 could become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place? …).”
So there you have it; not even the parents are denying that their child is, in a way, a sociological experiment. They may be setting the child up for a pretty rough adolescence, as critics would quickly point out—Storm could picked on for being raised gender-neutral.
But this is a courageous decision to make (even though the baby didn’t actually make it) and obviously it’s going to be something of a fight at times. Many social battles await Storm, no doubt.
But there’s a case to be made that a child has enough to sort out about the world without having to seriously mull over this concept that gender is more psychological than it is physical. Storm’s mother said:
“Storm will certainly need to understand his/her own sex and gender to navigate this world (the outcry has confirmed that clearly!), but there has never been any question that within our family, the issues of sex and gender and the decisions relating to it are always open for age appropriate discussion.”
Maybe the baby would have a much more, well, comfortable childhood if the parents just assigned the gender. That is some pretty heavy shit to decide for oneself. Especially as growing up Storm will be dependent on parental guidance, anyway.
But what the parents are really saying is that Storm really wont be choosing a gender, because gender really isn’t a choice. Just as we’re born with a sexual preference and we don’t choose it.
The male/female split is socially imposed to make sexual identity seem less complicated than it really is, and it’s fantastic to see people who are actually willing to take this leap with their own family even in the face of such a shit-storm of misdirected criticism.
Here’s an interview with the journalist who wrote the original profile on the family for the Toronto Star: