Sunday, May 29, 2011

Being Raised Gender-less?

Earlier this week I came home from work to my Mother wanting me to read an article she had found on the internet, titled, “The baby who is neither boy nor girl: As gender experiment provokes outrage, what about the poor child’s future?” I was intrigued of course, and after reading through the article that revealed a progressive couples’ decisions to raise their third child as “gender-less” I thought the notion was awesome.

Here is the article regarding Storm Stocker, who is the gender-less baby.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1391772/Storm-Stocker-As-gender-experiment-provokes-outrage-poor-childs-future.html

I found this article rather offensive and negative concerning Storm’s parents' decision to raise their child as gender-less. It’s depressing to me that we live in a society that is so against difference; not open to the idea of multiplicities of people or identities, and specifically genders. The big quotes that appear through out the article reinforce the negative stigma related to gender deviant identities. The quote “To raise a child like this is creating a freak,” I found to be the most upsetting and proves that people are not very open-minded about gender play in society.

The idea of being raised gender-less has been briefly mentioned in my past women and gender studies education. Despite being raised gender-less, Storm Stocker will eventually be exposed to notions of gender in our society. The beauty of his/her parents’ decision to raise him/her as gender-less is that Storm has the free choice to become whoever s/he wants to. For Storm, the possibilities of identity are limitless. Stocker and Witterick's decision, while some find it to be bad-parenting, displays how gender norms do not allow for a multiplicity of masculinities and feminities to be expressed in society.

The uproar over Storm’s hidden sex reveals how much our society depends on gender norms to define an individual. Storm’s mother says in the article that they’re not keeping Storm’s sex a secret, rather they’re keeping it private. I loved this point, because she’s posing a very good question: why does the world have to know what kind of parts are between a baby’s legs? Why does knowing those parts determine what you think of the child, and how you treat the child? Would you treat a baby boy differently then you would treat a baby girl--they're both human beings, both people, why would you treat them differently based on their biology? Storm is a beautiful, blonde haired, blue eyed child—who looks happy and (I think) is well loved by his/her two brothers and parents—what else matters? And what business is it of the world?

The Today Show had a segment on Storm’s story. They interviewed the original journalist of the story Jayme Poisson and Dr. Harold Koplewicz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. Here’s a link to the video of the interview:

http://www.parentdish.com/2011/05/26/genderless-baby/

While I don’t agree with everything that Dr. Koplewicz says, I think I understand what he means by Storm’s parents’ decision as “misguided.” He argues that raising a child in a gender-less environment can be harmful to the child because it could create confusion within the child about their own identity; established gender norms/roles within the child’s environment help the child develop a healthy since of their identity. I think this point is arguable. And even if established gender roles help a child develop a since of identity, society is still not very accepting of children, like Storm's eldest brother Jazz, who develop their gender identity contrary to their assigned gender. I applaud Kathy Witterick and David Stocker for their progressive parenting and bravery in challenging the gender norms that plague our society. Their praxis of raising their children in a gender neutral environment is encouraging and I hope will help change the way some people view gender.While I don't think they meant for their parenting style to attract to much media and controversial attention, it definitely brings to light questions of how gender influences the treatment, perceptions and equality of individuals.

~Katie, Oakland County NOW intern.


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