Is Your Baby a Boy or Girl? (Try: Either…or Neither)

gender-symbolsThe first question new parents are asked when they’re expecting a baby is: Boy or girl?

A Canadian couple is challenging society’s idea of gender identity by keeping the gender of their new baby a secret…even after birth.  At four months, Storm is the third child for Kathy Witterick and David Stocker (a teacher at a small, alternative school that focuses on social justice issues), who have two other sons, Jazz (5) and Kio (2).  Despite being boys, both Jazz and Kio were raised without assigned gender expectations or limitations, meaning they’re encouraged to play with boys and girls toys, wear boys and girls clothes (in “girly” colors of pink and purple), and grow their hair long if they choose. 

The immediate family (including grandparents), a few close friends, and midwives know Storm’s true gender, but the parents have decided to keep the baby genderless by avoiding the use of male or female pronouns.  Inspired by a book published in 1978, “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story” by Lois Gould, about a child raised without gender roles, the couple hoped to give Storm a chance to grow and decide on what gender to identify with, without society’s pressure.

While the couple’s decision has caused confusion and criticism (Will Storm feel marginalized later in life? Which public restroom will Storm use? Are the parents pushing their own political and social agendas on Storm?), the debate around gender identity comes hot on the heels of more recent news.  Chaz Bono, formerly Chastity Bono, just released a memoir and a documentary about his decision to become a man through a sex-change operation.  Cheryl Kilodavis, a mother of a little boy who loves wearing tutus and tiaras, was on national news earlier this year after writing “The Princess Boy.”

In a world that delineates between the power of princesses and the strength of superheroes, could the couple’s unique parenting decision succeed in helping society get rid of gender labels and stereotypes?

Read more about gender identity on Parents.com

What do you think of keeping your child’s gender a secret? Would you do the same?

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  1. by Joy

    On May 25, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Ok, while on one hand, I agree that the preconceived notions of what boys and girls are “Supposed to do” (eg- “Big boys don’t cry” or “Girls don’t do {you name it!}”) can be awful, teaching kids to love who they are, exactly as they are, gender included, is a good thing! And if you try to tell a child there’s nothing special about being a “boy”, or a “girl”, or the beautiful differences between the two, I could see it leading to some serious confusion and uncertainty later in life.

  2. by Mary

    On May 25, 2011 at 11:57 am

    While I can agree with the parents issues of not wanting to pressure their child into a specific “role”, I would have to disagree with how they are going about it. I have a daughter and I dress her in dresses and bows and lace. But if she comes to me one day and tells me she feels like she is boy trapped in a girl’s body, I’m going to do everything in my power to support and help my daughter. These parents, whether they realize it or not, are going to have to deal with people bullying their children because of society’s ideals. It sucks, but until society changes, they are going to spend a lot of time explaining ignorance to their children.

  3. by Jennifer Rogers

    On May 25, 2011 at 11:58 am

    This makes me sad. God created each child to be exactly who they are…a boy or a girl. So what do they tell Storm about their body and the way it was created? That he/she can change that later if they don’t like the way they were born? I think it would just cause a lot of confusion on the child’s part about who they really are. There are wonderful things about boys and girls. And they are very different. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If there weren’t boys and girls, there would be no babies, no mommies and daddies. No eggs, no sperm. End of story.

  4. by Tessa Hand

    On May 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I have a son and a daughter and both enjoy playing with each other’s toys. I’m just curious…will they completely isolate their child from the rest of the world too? While it sounds like a potentially positive idea to promote…how will they keep every other child and adult for that matter from asking questions (and while they may say they don’t care about that…it will certainly generate questions from their child which hopefully they will be prepared to answer). My son is 4 years older than my daughter and one of the first things he noticed while I was changing her diaper was that they were “different”. As someone who is educated in psychology…it would not have been okay for me to tell my son he couldn’t ask questions and it certainly would not have been okay for me not to answer his question with a biological response. In doing so, it was quite clear to him that he was a “boy” and she was a “girl”. At some point their child will ask questions…I am very curious to know how those questions will be answered.

  5. by Sarah

    On May 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    This is foolish and misguided. I have a boy who has never been told he can’t play with girl things and is developing just fine. He goes from trucks and trains to his dolls and dress up clothes. There is a difference between allowing your child to have freedom from repressive gender rules and what these parents are doing. By refusing to tell people whether Storm is a boy or a girl, the focus becomes this weird thing they are doing with gender, and rather than making it a non-issue they are making it a HUGE issue. Telling the difference between boy and girls is a developmental step and part of how children order their universe. It helps them understand the world and has nothing to do with later gender identity or play habits. My son is quite clear that he is a boy. That doesn’t stop him from playing dress up, where he goes quickly from being a knight to a princess, to a prince to a fireman to a fairy and as long as I’m not interfering with that, I am sure he will be fine. These parents are setting Storm up for grief of one kind and another by making such an issue of this.

  6. by Tammy

    On May 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    As the parent of a female child who believes she is a male inside, I can see how the idea is appealing. However, I am concerned that this is more of an experiment, and not really for the benefit of the child.

  7. by jessica

    On May 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    you don’t have to strip them of their sex to take away their gender. i have news… boys and girls are different mentally, physically, genetically, and chemically. boys have boy parts. girls have girl parts. girls and boys have their own issues. girls can have babies and boys can’t. why take that away from them? i can understand being gender neutral but to take away their sex? why strip them of that? what good does it do? honestly? why not just be supportive of their decisions? why take away what they were born with? what good does that do?? just teach them that you have no expectations of what they become and what ever role they play is okay… that is all you need to do. not take away their sex. that is mean.

  8. by Sarah

    On May 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    How long could you really keep this up? When the child goes to school, is the teacher not going to know? If people ask, is that a boy or a girl, what would their answer be? I think encouraging boys and girls to challenge gender roles and participate in a variety of activities and play is appropriate, this to me is just over the top.

  9. by adrienne

    On May 25, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Wow. This can only last for a while unless they never leave the house.

    It seems a bit delusional to deny the reality of physical gender. We all come with parts. If someone (like their older son) goes against the typical social expression connected to their parts (like wearing dresses), they can be nurtured on how to deal with resulting social issues. Non-conformists aren’t raised in protective bubbles, they are usually developed in adversity.

  10. by korry ortiz

    On May 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    yeah i dont fully agree with this..i have a daughter and i dress her like a girl and even like a boy sometimes..if shes not wearing a bow in her hair people will think shes a boy and i dont really care…but also i think this is not such a great idea..kids find their identity in roles and genders..while they are little they are looking for ways to fit in and find out who they are..when not even labeling them alittle bit as boy or girl that is making it harder for them..im sure when the child turns atleast 2 and realize they have a penis or vagina they are gonna want to start being labeled as a boy or a girl. i also do think this is more of a experiment cause from reading the article they have 2 BOYS and all of a sudden when this child was born (which is most likely a girl..due to the name “storm” which is more feminine, and due to the horrid stereotypes and misconceptions our society has for women)then it is a actual way of life and life choice for the family..it doesnt mention that when the other 2 boys where born they also did this…they let the boys wear PINK or PURPLE..but did they let them wear dresses or tutus?!?… im sure this will only last for a few years as the child gets older it will wont to identify itself with either sex more…thats just what kids do..

  11. by Teresa

    On May 25, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I personally do not think the child will be confused…the child will be a child. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a boy or a girl – they should be treated the same. I say good for them – stand up against the labels people like to put on children. I didn’t find out what I was having when I was pregnant and it drove everyone around me nuts which in turn drove me nuts! I was extatic when my son was born, and would have been just as extatic if it was a girl. This child will obviously realize there are physical differences between boys and girls, between him or her and children of the opposite sex. I don’t see how keeping the sex a secret from others, dressing the child in neutral clothing, and letting the child play with toys for either sex will adversely affect the child – in contrast, it may help the child have more respect for people and be blind in a matter of speaking to the sex, color, religion of others and simply loving them for who they are not what they are.

  12. by marie

    On May 25, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    will let my daughter decide when she’s 18 yrs old. til then,she’s my little girl and will treat her as such.

  13. by Janry

    On May 26, 2011 at 4:52 pm

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  14. by lindy2

    On May 29, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Interesting article, more interesting comments. Kuddos to open minds, a thought for the others . . . perhaps “god” made this child hermaphroditic, more currently called intersexed. Experts would agree with the parents in this article. Thoughts?

  15. by lindy2

    On May 29, 2011 at 11:10 am

    ON TOPIC:

    Interesting documentary about a boy (Bruce Reimer), who undergoes a botched circumcism as a baby (in Canada, interestingly). Dr. Money, in response, tries to change the gender of the child to a girl with disasterous results. This was a horrifying social experiment, which changed my thinking on gender identity.

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/dr-money-boy-with-no-penis/

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