Wednesday, 15 June 2011 00:00

Exploring Gender: A Genderless Child

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One of those new stories I have been seeing over and over when searching gender through the news is about parents in Canada attempting to raise a genderless baby. It has become one of the biggest gender stories of the year. Is this a valid approach to raising a child? Is it even possible? Here’s my take.

The effort is admirable: to try to break the bounds of gender norms. It is a hard thing to do and to approach. Previously I have advocated in child rearing avoiding reinforcing gender stereotypes for children such as blue for boys, pink for girls. Reading articles about this family, though, I’m not really sure about the effects this approach will have on the child. There are many things to consider: how feasible it is to hide the biological sex of a child, especially once school begins, the societal pressures involved, and the fact that once the child reaches an age where it can choose, the whole experiment may backfire.

It is very hard to hide the biological sex of a baby. Diapers must be changed. I’m not quite sure how this would work. Then there is school. I’m not quite sure how the Canadian school system works, but if it is anything like in the US, kids are shuffled around according to sex for gym classes, sex education classes. What happens when the child has to change for gym class the first time? I just don’t know how long the parents will be able to continue this approach into the child’s life unless they want to exist completely outside of society.

Society has some insurmountable pressures, those dictated by the government in the handing out of driver’s licenses, birth certificates, all those things which are required of us to exist in society. But we can’t change society without the bravery to stand up to these pressures. So again, admirable to take a stand, just perhaps not practical.

So what about the kid? Generally, I think if parents do not reinforce the stereotypes, children have a good chance of coming to their own conclusions about their genders. Yes, there will still be the societal pressures, but those will always be there. I keep thinking in regards to the approach these parents are taking, if they are capable of keeping the biological sex hidden, that the child will feel it has been deprived of some part of its life and rebel. Although these parents are attempting to raise their child outside of the gender boundaries, they are depriving the child of the choice. Although the child cannot know yet what societal pressures there are, I think the approach will backfire. If children are not allowed their options, it is in their natures to seek out of what they have been deprived.

I think this family’s willingness to attempt to allow their child to exist outside of societal pressures is admirable. The backlash seen in the short life of this child shows how desperate society is to enforce the norms. Some of the comments made in the many articles I read, they are devastatingly nasty, not in any way creating a commentary on the parents’ decision, but tearing it apart simply for going against the gender norms. It shows what progress must be made in acceptance to gender variance. Have you read any of these articles? What is your take on the choice to raise a genderless child?