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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chasing Storm: Identity is Important - Part II

At this point, what haven't we heard about four-month-old sexless Storm? From the minute the story hit the papers, we've been hit by opinion after opinion, pretty much split 50/50 support versus criticism.

Let's start with me. My twins are my daughters because that is physically what they are. According to their doctors and what is down below, they are female. Their sex is female. This of course says nothing about their gender. I let them dictate that.

They love dressing up like princesses...even on the potty.

They love playing with race cars.

They are scared of bugs, not because they are girls, but because I'm scared of bugs, and they are learning from me. And that's where the crux of this debate lies.

Some things we are born with. Our physical sexual parts, for example. Some things we gravitate toward based on our own personalities, unassisted by the influence of others. Some things we learn from those around us. When children are young, they are already taking in the entire outside world. They have to learn their name, their family, their colors, numbers, shapes, sounds...the list goes on. In order to do this effectively, they have to have a strong sense of home within themselves. They are not wise enough to look society in the eye at two years old or five years old and tell the world, "hey, it's none of your business if I am a boy or a girl."  Life isn't like the books you read.

"[Storm's father] found a book in his school library called X: A Fabulous Child’s Story by Lois Gould. The book, published in 1978, is about raising not a boy or a girl, but X. There’s a happy ending here. Little X — who loved to play football and weave baskets — faces the taunting head on, proving that X is the most well-adjusted child ever examined by “an impartial team of Xperts.”"

Is it society's business? No. But keeping gender a secret isn't freeing to a child that young--especially if he or she is the only one. It's hindering. It's a weight upon his or her shoulders. My key question when digesting all of this is what if Storm doesn't want to prove anything to society? Are his or her parents any better than the parents that force their boys to be extra manly or force their girls to wear pink, against their wishes? Storm's parents may be open to letting Storm play football or dance ballet, but they are foisting a very big societal issue upon their young one, without his or her consent. The idealistic goal is worthy, I believe. The practical application is a shambles.  They've literally created an army of one, and for no need.

The problem with this whole thing didn't start when Storm was born, as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps his or her parents' experiment would have worked just fine, had they been able to keep it to themselves. The second Storm's mother agreed to a newspaper interview is the second she chose Storm's path for him or her.

"Storm has a sex which those closest to him/her know and acknowledge. We don't know yet about colour preferences or dress inclinations, but the idea that the whole world must know our baby's sex strikes me as unhealthy, unsafe and voyeuristic," she says.

I would counter with the argument that putting your baby in the limelight for a lifestyle you chose for him or her is unhealthy, unsafe and exhibitionist. By going to the news, you've taken the emphasis off of the greater meaning of your decision and placed it squarely on your child.

"[A family friend] understands why people may find it extreme. “Although I can see the criticism of ‘This is going to be hard on my kid,’ it’s great to say, ‘I love my kid for whoever they are.’”"

If you loved your child for who he or she is, you'd be able to let that child figure it out for him or herself. Which is interesting, since that's exactly what you were trying to do with this whole thing. Except you made the decision, not the child. I understand you want to move society along, and I applaud your social awareness, but so far it looks like the world isn't on your level. And the fact that society isn't there yet isn't Storm's fault, yet in this instance, he or she is receiving the brunt of the heat. Because you put him or her there. While it may not look like punishment to you, it may very well be punishment for him or her as he or she clambers to find his or her place in that very society you scorn.

A doctor quoted in the story says, “I believe that [their choice] puts restrictions on this particular baby so that in this culture this baby will be a singular person who is not being given an opportunity to find their true gender self, based on also what’s inside them.”

If you want to force your idealism into reality right now, before anyone else--if you want to be a trailblazer and show the world the error of its ways--I suggest you use yourself, not your child who has no say. 

Storm's father says: "What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious."

But by his decision to take away his baby's sex in the eyes of society, Storm's father has made the ultimate choice for Storm. He's decided to put him or her under a magnifying glass for the rest of us to poke at.

My daughters will be girls unless they decide otherwise, not because I love girls more and not because society told me that the private parts they were born with were female. Society didn't tell me that. Biology did. If biology is wrong, the babies will know, and we will go from there. And who knows, maybe 15 years down the road I will have two sons. But I know that I won't willingly force them to face a society so heavy, so big, so over their heads at age two. And, that, I feel, is the best decision for our family. I will let them decide, and I will let them tell me when they're ready to decide. They didn't tell me that when they were born, and they haven't told me yet.

They're busy. They have "learning to do, parks to visit and butterflies to care for." They don't have time to be distracted by gender.

Original article:

Mother's letter of defense:

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  1. Honestly, I had a similar idea about raising a gender neutral child, although not to their extremes, before I realized that it's pointless. Psychology dictates parents treat different gendered children unintentionally - regardless of your intentions to be "gender neutral". Besides, science and biology have proven over and over again that there are psychical differences that result in different behaviors, communication styles, etc. for males and females. What are these parents going to do when their baby becomes a preschooler and figures out what kind of equipment they've got down there and wants to be like all the other kids?

    Some people are nuts. Especially about their kids. That aint ever going to change

  2. You said everything I've been thinking.

  3. And by commenting on it and poking the issue further you continue the practice of putting this child unwittingly into the spotlight. This blog post is part of the problem.

  4. You really hit on my initial reaction to the story. I couldn't help but think that forcing a child to keep their gender a secret isn't really any less oppressive than forcing a child into a specific gender identity/role.

  5. I totally appreciate that you jumped in a gave us your opinions - and explained them. I 100% disagree, but that's okay. I'm just excited that you chose to enter the debate and put yourself out there - where people are able to agree or disagree.

  6. I always find myself cheering when I read your posts.
    It's not fair for them to pin all of that on a small child, and then announce to everyone what they're doing. I think the parents are being rather self-indulgent by talking about it the way they are. I get what they're trying to do, but in trying that hard, they're failing.
    Also, I'm really bothered by their lack of structure at home, but that's a whole other story...



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