Canadian Parents Raise Gender-Neutral Baby by Not Revealing Its Sex

A Toronto family is raising their youngest child, Storm, gender-neutral by not revealing the sex of their baby to anyone outside their immediate family, their midwives, and a close friend. As you might imagine, their decision has brought a deluge of criticism from friends, experts, and non-experts who like to tell other people what to do.

Kathy Witterick and David Stocker plan to keep Storm’s sex a secret for as long as Storm and Storm’s brothers, Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2, are comfortable with it. Jazz and Kio are encouraged to explore their gender as well; their parents believe that they’re giving their children the opportunity to be creative and free from social norms that dictate male and female behavior.

Despite their good intentions, grandparents and friends worry that the parents are setting their kids up to be bullied. Witterick recognizes that her children, while resilient, are vulnerable as well. Once, “a saleswoman at a second-hand shop refused to sell [Jazz] a pink feather boa. ‘Surely you won’t buy it for him — he’s a boy!’ said the woman. Shocked, and not wanting to upset Jazz, [she] left the store.” At the same time, she sees value in adversity. “When faced with inevitable judgment by others, which child stands tall (and sticks up for others) — the one facing teasing despite desperately trying to fit in, or the one with a strong sense of self and at least two ‘go-to’ adults who love them unconditionally? Well, I guess you know which one we choose.”

Witterick and Stocker have also been accused of using their children as social experiments to further their own political agenda. While I’m not a mom, it seems to me that all parenting is experimentation. Life is all about uncertainty and bringing a new one into the world takes some serious trial and error. As as for pushing an agenda, I’d argue that it’s nothing unique to this situation. People becomes parents for all sorts of reasons, but it only makes sense that they’re going to raise their children according their values. But why does it take more imagination to acknowledge that even the most white-bread status-quo nancy normal family is “agenda-pushing” just as much as families that live out their more alternative principles? The answer brings us to today’s point: social constructionism.

Social constructionism is the idea that specific phenomena, actions, concepts. and things are not naturally meaningful, but are given meaning by a culture. Obscene gestures are an easy way to understand social constructionist views. Raising your middle finger at someone doesn’t inherently mean “fuck you,” but in the social context of the United States or Sri Lanka it’s considered disrespectful.

Gender, as most of you know, has been subjected to an incredible amount of social construction as well. Some beliefs, while ingrained, are easier to spot; pink hasn’t always been a “girl color.” Others, like the myth that men are more interested in sex than women, are more transparent. Historically, there were probably fewer consequences for a man to have sex than for a woman to do so. Perhaps men had something to gain by arguing that women weren’t as sexual. Maybe men held positions of power that allowed them to perpetuate this line of thinking. This isn’t to say that hormones and chemistry have nothing to do with the way we experience the world, but it does mean that we should consider that differences among males and among females are too diverse to accept without challenge. Looking at the construction of something requires you to look beyond beliefs and question the origin of knowledge itself. The idea of something being “natural” is in itself a construction.

Dr. Ehrenshaft, a psychologist who is herself the mother of Jesse, a “girlyboy,” expresses worry that Storm will feel lost in a gendered world and unable to position her- or himself. While her concern is understandable, it doesn’t sound like Storm is going to grow up unaware and confused. Witterick and Stocker aren’t withholding any information from Storm, only from the rest of the world. They aren’t trying to make sex or gender go away by pretending they doesn’t exist (this tactic doesn’t work), they’re attempting to change their child’s encounter with a set of cultural beliefs that equates sex and gender and dictates expectations based on sex.

As long as a child is safe, healthy, and loved, it’s not our job to tell other parents if what they’re doing is right or wrong. The problem arises when people believe that teaching children that self-exploration and knowledge is harmful. Life is full of wonder, love is never wrong.

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Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

Laura has written 325 articles for us.

135 Comments

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    Once our nephew watched my GF painting her fingernails with rapt fascination for several minutes before telling her that he wanted her to paint her nails in “batman colors”. She told him that she didn’t want batman colors but she’d paint HIS nails batman colors if he wanted. To which he replied “NO! Boys don’t do that.”

    He’s 4! Who told him this?!

    Boy, you paint your nails batman colors if you want, you watch Dora instead of Dino Dan if that’s what you’re into, you do you.

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      My 3 and 4 year old nephews went through my purse last week and found some pink nail polish, and they wanted it on his toes so badly, so we had a pedicure day. It was so fun!
      They also love Dora and one of them has a pink bike. They are the coolest kids ever.

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      I have an adorably feminine little boy cousin who feels so left out when his sister gets her nails painted, but his dad doesn’t want me to do them up for him. I love babysitting my cousins and I’m a little afraid his hopelessly stupid parents would think that their visibly queer niece was trying to turn their kid gay if I made a big deal of this. So I let him paint my nails instead…which I usually end up taking off, because nail polish is too girly for me.

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    This is amazing! If you have ever looked at any studies or research on gender it is amazing how much of what we call male or female is really just made up. There is a classic twin study that was done in the 70s. One of the twins was born and the male pieces were cut during the circumcision. So doctors told the parents to raise the child as a female. The child’s identity was kept a secret and “studies” were done throughout the child’s life saying the child was a well adjusted, happy girl. It came out after the research died
    I believe (like 20 years later) that the child NEVER identified as a girl and always felt wrong. The poor guy even committed suicide later on…..
    Gender, sex, and our identity are all intertwined and combined and connected and only we really know what and who we are and it even takes us years and probably many mistakes to figure ourselves out!
    Kudos to these parents for letting the child discover them self instead of everyone else forcing it on them!!
    GREAT JOB!

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    The whole idea of gender construction and if it is possible to raise a child free of rigid gender conformity is something i am forever curious about. Whenever I think about raising a child without the social pressure of being masculine or feminine, I can only ever imagine it deep in the woods away from any societal interaction, not right in my hometown! I am impressed by these parents and they are majorly rad/cool/revolutionary gender warriors!

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    These parents are doing their children a huge disservice. It’s not fair to conduct a social experiment of this nature on innocent children, especially since a baby can’t give his or her consent.

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      That’s implying that they’re doing something unnatural to their child, and that enforcing gender roles is natural. It’s not. Gender roles are a social construct and entirely symbolic. We just see them as “natural” because society pushes them on us so hard. What’s more- societies with rigid gender roles have higher incidences of sexual assault and domestic violence. If they want to opt out of that craziness then more power to them.

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      I think this whole “experiment” thing has gotten weirdly put upon the parents. I don’t think I’ve read anything where the parents have stated they’re doing an experiment. They’re raising their kids with the values they believe in, and trying to make the world a better place for their kids to exist in. The “experiment” word has been used by the the researchers who have been interviewed about it (go figure, researchers framing something as an experiment) and internet commenters. It’s an experiment to everyone who’s not actually involved and living it every day. To them, it’s raising their family in the best way they can imagine.

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    Much respect to those parents, AND the grandparents. Embracing that, despite embarrassment and derision at the hands of friends, shows true love for the parents and their grandchildren, presuming they don’t resent it. These kids are super lucky, and any friends the kids have are too – being the “supportive” parent usually brings responsibilities above and beyond those for your kids.

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      Well, I don’t think the parents are as dedicated as they say. If mom walked away from the pink boa incident because of not wanting to embarrass the child then so much for their morals. Mom should have insisted on purchasing the boa pink or not for her son. If she backs down how can she expect the kid to stand up for personal beliefs? I also read something about the oldest son having difficulty in kindergarten because of gender issues in school and that he was struggling. If the parents were totally dedicated to raising their kids this way they should give the teachers and administration the heads up. My daughter has two moms and we are separated. Additionally, her birth name is different from her go-by name. She is 9 so we just speak with all concerned and their is rarely an issue. Good luck kids.

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    I agree ” A huge disservice” These kids are going to grow up veryvery confused. Children arenot a social experiment. These parents are making these kidslives harder. Maybe not right now because they are “sheltered” and “buffered” by their parents, What happens when they become teenagers? That is a hard time for any kid and just downright confusing. Lets throw another log on the the already gender confusing fire. Those parents should have the kids removed from their home and get some counseling mostlikely they are broken people who like so many other parents try to live through thier children and correct mistakes through offspring….. it’s sick.

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    My boyfriend routinely talks about using our future kids as social experiments, which I’ve always toyed with too. I love that the parents are trying this out, but I’m cynical at its success because every one else out there is subscribing to the gender-distinction bullshit.

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      Jealousss, my boyfriend is terrified that this couple is an example of precisely how I will insist on raising our futurekid(s). I am way too busy-with-my-career/unqualified/lazy for something like unschooling, goodness.

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    It’s not so much an agenda as it is just a couple of people not wanting to push an identity, with all of the pressures that come with that identity, on a child until the child is old enough to decide on their own what they want to tell people about who they are. When the baby grows into a kid and starts thinking and talking, that kid will start talking to other kids and adults in a way that’s self-referential, duh.
    They’re pushing an anti-agenda on themselves, and saying that the kid can push its own agenda. Babies don’t genderbully other babies, but kids bully other kids, and by that time, their parenting strategy will have changed and this kid will have started to develop enough of a self-concept to say, “call me this.”

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    It seems what these parents are tryin to do, not only for Storm but for their other children as well, is place emphasis on values and character as opposed to society norms. I definitely value and applaud their attempt. However, I kind of agree with Dr. Ehrinshaft. I think disregarding ones gender completely could leave the child lost. The very confidence the parents are trying to instill could be what Storm is left wanting. Very interesting though. Thank you for the article. Hopefully you can do a follow up on Storm in 20 years. :)

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    It’s not like the parents are lying to their kids. It seems that they are just embracing the philosophy that kids have the ability to choose for themselves. Humans have preferences and they are naturally drawn to things. Freedom from gender stigma can enable them to explore these desires.

    Society usually assumes gender when observing people out in public. The average person does not have a conversation with someone and immediately preface with: “I am a girl/boy.” (Yeah, there are obvious exceptions.)

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    I’ve got issues with this. I feel like by making it a secret and a Huge Freaking Deal, they are telling their children that gender expression is sososo important that we need to talk about it on a personal level in the newspaper.

    Also, Jazz doesn’t go to school because “When we would go and visit programs, people — children and adults — would immediately react with Jazz over his gender.” So what is the point of this if the parents are not giving Jazz the emotional tools to be able to be himself in public. You can do you at home, but you can never leave your house? School at age 5 is really fun and I feel bad for Jazz because it is like he is hiding.

    At the store where the woman didn’t want to sell them the boa, that is an opportunity for the mother to teach Jazz to articulate what he wants, and to let other people know that it is not about “girl items” or “boy items” it is about “awesome items.” But instead the mother chose to run away and hide? I don’t get it. If you are so sure of what you are doing that you are doing interviews, why are you running away when faced with people questioning your opinion?

    Dialogue people. How else will you show people your beliefs and be taken seriously?

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        Thisx2! I was a little confused about the not-going-to-school thing but didn’t want to criticize especially since I couldn’t put my finger on why I thought it was strange. You’ve got it, lovely jazmin.

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      What a wonderful articulation of what I think some of the other critics above were trying to say – I wasn’t really able to explain my negative reaction to this story when I first saw it on Jezebel, but I actually agree with everything you’ve said. They could certainly raise their kids without gender stereotypes or even traditionally feminine or masculine names without making it a huge deal and having to keep them out of school and other really important social situations.

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      Yeah. These are really good points. I think you read more of this than I did. If you’re doing things to try to give your kid more freedom in the whole world, you should teach them how to demand self agency, and you don’t do that by sheltering/controlling them.

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      Agree. I think ignoring the sex of the child is ignoring the issue of gender altogether, and who is that really helping? I also was suspicious of them feeling the need to talk to the press about this. Nice way to treat it like it’s not a big deal, huh?

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      Good post Jaz, I have a bajillion thoughts but it’s late so I will note this:

      -Here’s how other parents do it. At these ages, it’s about as complex as this: “Some parents want their girls to dress girly and play only with girl toys and boys to dress as boys and play with boy toys. And some people expect boys and girls to act certain ways. You two can act and do whatever feels right when it comes to this stuff, I love you no matter what you choose.”

      -The kids are ok with it because they said so tells me she is not bright enough to home school. I want to hear the 5 year old and 2 year old explain their cognitive
      processing of the issue and how they reached their conclusion…oh wait, kids that age don’t have that level yet, but why bother waiting when you have decided for yourself this is the right thing to do….

      -

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    This is delightful, considering our notions of gender could be classified as justified true beliefs, without actually constituting knowledge.

    All things considered, it could be a lot more damaging to be beaten in your early formative years than to be raised irrespective of gender constructs. Given time and more super exciting social evolution, this may become normal; who knows?

    I hope this brings more families who are structured similarly out of the woodwork; it would be fascinating to see how the children turn out.

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    this is really interesting!

    the david reimer thing, if i remember correctly, it actually showed, more or less, that gender expression isn’t biological OR purely socially constructed, or purely anything. and also that most people probably do have SOME kind of gender expression (not necc. “boy” or “girl”) that is inalterable or intrinsic to them, although intrinsic might not mean “natural” but something like “the confluence of many complicated forces.”

    i think a question for me in this case is, they are trying to raise the kid without imposition of societal sex/gender expectations, not to BE genderless, right? even if it’s a queer one, everyone has or is “doing” some kind of gender, i think.

    i guess i kind of like the idea, but it just seems like, raising kids to “not be aware of/restricted by” something that is just, like it or not, THERE in the world tends to make them hyper aware of it. in my limited observation. and it seems like that can go either way, depending on how it’s done. it could make the kid more free, or it could just make them . . . anxious?

    also, i think it’s probably possible to raise kids pretty gender-neutral or with freedom to change their gender expression or deviate from norms, without the heavy focus on/secrecy of pronouns and genitalia? i dk, this has got me thinking.

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    in my womens studies class last year we discussed this topic A LOT, and i guess there is parents in sweeden doing the same thing? i believe their baby is named pop.
    i have positive and negative feelings about the situation myself.

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    It seems crazy to me that people are so worked up about not being able to gender someones baby. Babies aren’t gendered, they’re babies! They all look and exactly the same. Only relevant difference is the ones with penises will pee all over you.

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    Like other more articulate people above, there are a few things I don’t agree with about this, but as long as the kids are cared for and loved, it’s really none of my business. What really upset me, when I first read it a few days ago, were the comments underneath the article about “Some people shouldn’t be allowed raise children” etc. I mean, really? There are parents who are addicts, who abuse their kids, who disown them in the name of religion, people who have way more children than they can afford, and -this- is something that you think kids should be taken from their parents for? Letting their kids be themselves and giving them unusual names?

    (That took way too long to type cuz my rats kept walking across the keyboard, they like to have their input)

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    1. Laura, you know I love it when you do sociological things.

    2. I can’t believe no one has said this is all just a storm in a teacup.

    3. We let parents bring up their kids in all manner of fucked up ways, but I don’t think we’re at the intervention of the state level with this.

    4.I would be very interested in a follow up a couple years down the road.

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    I completely agree with the idea of this and I understand the parent’s intentions, but there’s something about this that strikes a weird note with me.
    They seem to be forcing this ‘gender neutrality’ on their child just as much as most parents force stereotypical gender roles.
    I think what they did with their first two children was much more positive, as they are encouraged to explore and go outside the norm, but as many people have said this seems more like a social experiment than a valid & justified way to raise a child.

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      Yeah, I don’t think the parents should choose any gender-related thing for their child. They don’t have that right. And they can’t anyway.

      Who’s idea was the whole thing? Unless it’s the kid’s, I question it, just as much as I question parents teaching their kinds moronic gender role propaganda.

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      A lot of thoughts which were tumbling around in my head a few hours ago have already been said, so I’ll just comment on your point. Background viewpoint: I think the manner in which we gender children from birth is baffling and notagoodthing; furthermore, thelovelyjazmin has insightful thoughts which voiced my feelings of discomfort with the article itself.

      Gender neutrality applied with force is something I experienced growing up. I have so much respect for my parents, who made a very pointed effort to bring my brother and I up with as few gender-stereotyped expectations as possible. The usual – my brother’s baby dolls, my trains, lots of lego, lots of paint – but also the slightly more… hardline? I would be admonished for using a “cutesy little girl voice” by my father, and my brother was full-on shamed for wanting to play with guns (although this tapped into other parenting ideals). I admire their convictions, genuinely like the person who I have grown up to be, and will sometimes make self-righteous comments about not having had Barbies or Disney as a child. But what you’ve said above rings true. I was an insecure kid who genuinely just wanted to fit in in small-town Ontario, and at a young age I didn’t feel empowered to act against gender norms – rather, constrained and uncomfortable by being told that how I wanted to be was bad.
      There was something really viscerally awful about my mother laughing at me, and refusing my request (on intellectually understandable grounds), when I told her I wanted to shave my legs. It was less that gender lines are too strict, and more of an idea that the overtly feminised acts I wanted to take part in (even painting my fingernails as a little kid) were overtly bad. And I really wanted a pink sweatshirt, not a green one (it makes me laugh to think that they surely would have purchased a pink one for my brother). It has only been recently that I have felt really comfortable and empowered to really play with gender lines, to go from uber-femme one day to stealing my boy roomies’ clothes and binding my chest the next (I’m 23).

      Gender is socially created. Yet this socially created monster carries very real implications for all peoples’ lived experiences. It’s our job to analyse and challenge the workings of gendered categories, not accept them as inevitable. But I think you hit on something when calling for a supportive and exploratory model of gender in childrearing. As with EVERYTHING, especially around gender and feminism, politics and theory do not transfer to lived lives in straightforward ways… it is certainly possible to feel alienated and stuck when you’re a little person in this situation.

      (I realise that I’ve gone on a tangent, and this comment doesn’t directly relate to the article, and it’s obscenely long.
      Sorry.)

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    Well…………….there is kinda a slight problem I see with this. Not revealing someone’s gender doesn’t make gender any less invisible in interaction with people. People ASSUME gender without KNOWING it. So, if the baby was born a girl, but relatives feel the baby looks or acts like a guy, then they’ll treat the baby as a guy and gender will be positively nad negatively reinforced by this.

    Not revealing the baby’s sex means the gender people perceive the baby as will not necessarily correlate with the sex, but it also won’t necessary correlate with the child’s self-identification either. The child’s behaviors are still going to encounter gender reinforcement. For instance, if the child normally likes to wear red and plays with trucks, parents/friends may be disapproving if the child decides to paint fingernails one day, because in their head this child is a “boy” whether they know the actual sex or not, eh?

    So…idk. It seems abit pointless. I don’t believe it creates MORE problems than revealing the gender would (obvi that comes with a set of issues that the parents already took on head first), but I see it as simply creating many of the same problems and also potentially other problems as well (it might hurt the child’s feelings if he/she is assumed to be a sex he/she isn’t). Most people (trans people aside – but they ARE a minority) take satisfaction from people perceiving them as their physical sex.

    Also, everyone knows Storm is a girls’ name -_-. She has awesome mutant powers like controlling the weather and stuff.

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      I totally agree that people will assume their gender—I’ve read comments on the article on a couple of different websites and a lot of them say things like “it is an obvious baby boy.” Even the article itself starts out with the neighbor saying “So it’s a boy, right?” It’s interesting that boy is the default.

      I think one of the negative consequences of this might be that people will gender their behaviors more than they would if they did know the gender. Every time the child plays or behaves a certain way, people will be looking for clues to their gender. Kids with a solid gender identity may have an advantage over Storm because they can play in ways that are stereotypically male or female, but they will still be perceived as the gender they identify as. That’s not to say that some people won’t treat them cruelly if they behave in a way that is too feminine or too masculine for their gender according to society, but at least for the most part society will still refer to them according to their preferred gender. Unfortunately this still isn’t true in most cases for trans kids, but I don’t know if that can be solved by being raised genderless, as many trans kids still want to have a definite gender.

      At the same time, it’s probably a huge relief for the kid not to have to live up to others’ expectations of how they should dress and behave. I don’t know, I’m so conflicted about this.

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      Mandy is absolutely right. This may be a crass comparison, but when people are born of mixed race, they often look like one or the other and are treated as such. The experience of a mixed race person who looks black is going to be different than the experience of a mixed race person who is white, and in turn I think they will self identify their race based on that. If that makes sense… maybe I should’ve just let your comment stand as is. But yes, by refusing to call your child he or she, you are not letting him or her escape gender in our society. I really think what these parents are doing is flawed and suspect.

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    ALso I think it’s pretty presumptuous for the family to single out relatives and think that will have some huge effect. The child obviously spends the most time with mom, dad, and brothers. Parents may think they and their kids are “gender blind” and will be better at allowing the child to express himself/herself than relatives, but I don’t see this as necessarily being the case either. My mom thought she was gender blind and progressive and she always treated my brother in different (and very gender stereotypical) ways. If I were a relative I would feel quite offended by this probably.

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    This is very interesting to me. As a lesbian mom to both a 5 year old boy and a now a 6 month old girl, I’ve given it a lot of thought on how gender and raising children. My son is very naturally a masculine boy: as a toddler I’d bring him to the library and tried to introduce him to softer gentler themed books/colors and he always wanted anything to do with trucks or fighting or sharks! He loves black and I had to work hard to get him not to always be the little warrior. Now having a daughter I definitely see the difference in a boy and girl. She is naturally softer and has a higher pitched voice and has very clear girlish gestures, even as a baby. I am not making this up! Of course I want to instill some tomboyishness but who knows! And what right is it of me to “instill” anything and yet that it is true they are my little experiments. But for now I will present my son as a boy and my daughter as a girl. I think it would be hard on a child to not have at least some beginning point and it can evolve as it evolves.

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      I think the fact that you’re thinking about this means you’re awesome anyways. :)

      I think most parents don’t even realize what they do sometimes.

      Also, kudos to this couple. Yeah, a few things could be improved about their technique perhaps, but at least they’re TRYING a different approach to parenting that shoving their boys into spiderman shirts and handing them toy guns.

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      Not at all wishing to dis your experiences as a parent, but there’s a fantastic book by Cordelia Fine called Delusions of Gender which talks about how easily and quickly children pick up implicit notions of gender-appropriate behaviour which maybe you should read if you’re interested in your children’s development of gender? :)

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    I love these parents. From what I got out of the article, it seemed to me that they are open to whatever is best for their kids. Instead of introducing their child to a gender and going through the typical motions of pink dresses and dolls for girls or blue shirts and trucks for boys, it seems like they want to include both sides of that as well as anything in between or outside of that spectrum. If this child (or their other two) decide they want to pick a specific gender presentation – traditional or otherwise, then they will be supportive and encouraging. In terms of facing adversity, I think these kids will be just fine, because I feel like their parents will be able to foster the self-confidence it takes and provide the counsel needed to handle any issues.

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    jeez so many feelings about these comments.
    being raised the way this kid is being raised would have made my life one million times better/easier/happier.
    every single one of us is forced a gender at birth, based on our ‘sex’. some of us grow up to realize that it doesn’t really work out like that, and have to go through some process or other of coming out.
    it would have been nice to bypass all that and just been raised in a supportive environment with the space, love and freedom to figure it all out without folks dictating what my gender is based on my genitals. like it’s really no one’s business.

    p.s. i don’t mean to speak for all the gender non-conformists/transfolks out there.

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    This is stupid. Look, yes I am a lesbian and I’m a liberal and I think society’s rigid gender construction is ridiculous and unhealthy. But refusing to refer to a child as he or she.. really? There exists no pronoun for little Storm? This is not only impractical, but it doesn’t actually address the problem. Why not let the child be a he or a she — a biological sex — but encourage the child to express his or her gender however he or she wishes? Pretending that the child is neither male nor female or ignoring it is not the answer. While I have big problems with gender norms and conformity, I don’t think that biological sex has no place in society, because it does. Ignoring sex to make some sort of point about gender seems to miss the boat entirely. This is just weird and frankly, kind of silly — I do suspect that this could be more about a social experiment than any sort of desire to raise the child a certain way. These people did think it was a good idea to talk to the press about this. I could argue that such publicity and critical attention wouldn’t be in little Storm’s best interest…

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      Not referring to your child as a specific gender does not inhibit them from gender entirely. Plenty of people choose their gender, look at all the transgendered people on this blog. This child will never be separated from conceptions of gender, they are all around us. If those parents chose to call Storm a ‘she’ and he turned out a ‘he’, all those pronouns will have gone to waste. Talking to the press about it, perhaps not a good idea since this is a baby we’re talking about. But male/female pronouns? Useless. I’ve been called ‘she’ and ‘her’ all my life, yet here I am, genderqueer. Enforcing gender of any kind is actually sillier than gender neutrality. Humans are naturally androgynous, biological sex means little to nothing except when it comes to reproduction, which plenty of people choose not to do anyways.

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        But you still go by he or she, right? And being called she all your life didn’t stop your gender identity from leaving a rigid structure, right? That’s why this is so stupid. The healthiest thing the parent’s can do let the child know that their gender isn’t written in stone and they can express themself however they want and they will love them and think they are great regardless. Build up a child’s confidence. The child’s assessment of its gender is going to happen whether they refer to it as a he/she or not. No one can really control the natural self-assessment that kids go through. What they can control, though, is how the child feels about it. Let them know they are perfect however they are. Living in a bubble where gender isn’t addressed is running away from reality. The kid will need to enter the real world. Gender labels will be there waiting for him or her when they leave the house. Ignoring it at home isn’t preparation for that. Giving a child unconditional love and confidence is how you prepare a child for that.

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          BTW, I hope it didn’t sound like I was dismissing your opinion or anyone else’s at all. Everyone’s mileage may vary. I personally don’t think these parents’ approach is the right one, and I haven’t worked out whether it’s misguided or self-serving, but it’s fine for anyone who disagrees. The debate on gender has been really interesting.

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    i have a completely dumb and possibly ignorant question to ask but its plaguing me so here it is. is it surprising to anyone else that the parents have completely avoided any and all gendered pronouns when referring to Jazz? i mean really…that can be hard cognitive work sometimes (at least for me). it is such an ingrained speech pattern: “he is this old/she likes this” etc…so how would this practice of avoiding something we see so prominently in the english language “other” Jazz in his own home…i suppose we will know when Jazz learns to talk, huh?

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    ugh and by Jazz i mean Storm. apparently everything is hard cognitive work for me…including getting the poor child’s name right. I AM SORRY, AUTOSTRADDLE. i am a ridiculous human being. no more commenting at 1:30am.

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    I love what you said about all parenting being experimenting. Nobody really has it all figured out. Every parent has to figure out what works best for them. There are things that some parents do that are obviously damaging and this does not seem like it would be one of them. I think it’s awesome.

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    there’s nothing ‘silly’ about being gender-neutral. other pronouns and genders exist besides she/he. the fact that our minds go straight to thinking anyone who deviates from the gender binary is ‘weird’…is in fact The Problem. there are tons of people who do this who are not doing press about it. like we exist and it’s ok.

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    I’m gunna stay out of the debate, because you (Laura) wrote something that I found really insightful: “it seems to me that all parenting is experimentation”. Simple, but I feel like it applies to other things too.

    So I kinda feel like… it’s not my business how they raise their kid. People raise their children many different ways. I think they’ll be fine.

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    I would be interested to hear more about this. I hope the parents write about their experience after Storm has grown up a little bit. That kind of freedom as a child will be so satisfying. I do agree that Storm will probably get teased, but who doesn’t get teased as a kid anyway? It’ll just make Storm a better person.

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    I understand and admire what the parents are doing; I completely understand where they’re coming from, and I think this freedom is something more people should embrace. However, I’m not sure if not revealing the sex is doing anything big besides drawing attention. I mean, in this day and age “genderqueer” is almost becomming a gender in itself–another option for those who do not identify solely male or female. I want to raise my children with the freedom to express who they are however they would like. But what if I have a girl who -wants- to be super feminine, or a boy who wants to be super masculine. Or perhaps I will have a girl who is butch as hell, or a boy who identifys more as a woman. Whatever my child feels, I want them to be able to be that person and express themselves freely and I think that is what these parents are going for. It’s a pretty bold move of them and I applaud them for making it. To each his own, right ;) ?
    Xoxo
    Morgan

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    I think this is fantastic, and these parents are incredibly brave. Raising a gender neutral baby is going to invite a lot of ignorant, judgmental criticism and it takes special people to handle that. I hope this inspires other parents to try similar child rearing techniques.

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    I should have waited for Autostraddle to cover this instead of reading the shitty comments on parentcentral.ca. So much ignorance. Glad there are smart people on this website, whether you disagree or agree. You’re all much more eloquent :)

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    I agree, Im so happy autostraddle made this available for people to open up a thoughtful and enlightening dialog about gender and identity issues =) Great persepectives versus the negative attack the parents comments on other sites…

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    I think it’s all a crapshoot…

    I was a total tomboy growing up; my mom/relatives would always try to shove me into dresses and things, and I would acquiesce most of the time for fancy occasions, but I also wore Batman and Superman pajamas to sleep and completely nonfeminine outfits to school (red sweatpants, soccer jersies, etc.) until enforced dress code at my Jewish Day School took final say (skirts below the knee and shirts had to be at least to mid-bicep.)

    I played with Barbies, Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Batman, Power Rangers, Legos, Tinker Toys, etc. and had a giant table of art supplies which I would sit at while a hockey game played on TV in the same room. I used to change outfits all the time when I was a little kid at home, my parents thought it was kind of strange, but mostly funny, and never really questioned what I wanted to do. They mostly laughed and thought I was being silly and creative.

    My parents were COMPLETELY shocked when I came out to them. Said they didn’t see the ‘clues’ at all. My dad even said that none of those things really mean anything when you’re a little kid. I’m not sure what to take of this… that he’s incredibly open minded when it comes to gender roles? Or that he’s just clueless?? He’s also a hard-core Republican- though is completely understanding and supportive of who I am.

    I guess I never really thought about this in terms of how I was raised; my parents pretty much let me be me- but I think this may be why I got into so much trouble as a little girl- I got in trouble in preschool for bringing in a toy army truck for show and tell. Wtf!! The complete freedom I had at home didn’t carry over in school, and so at every turn, people were either overtly or subconsciously giving me cues that the way I was was not “normal”. That it wasn’t okay for me to be “aggressive”, when at home nobody questioned it or even gave my “quirks” a second thought.

    I’m not sure it’s clear how this story came to light in the first place; did the parents request that the whole world know what they are doing? If so, then yes they should be prepared to answer hard questions but I do applaud them on at least making an effort to bring to light things that most people don’t think about. Execution is never perfect, and there’s a whole lifetime for improvement.

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    …also i want to add that i grew up in san francisco, and my dad passed along to me “and the band played on” complete with article printouts… he’s not clueless about gay, and one of my mom’s best friends from sf is also gay. so i guess they probably just never expected it to come from within their own. that’s the best i can come up with. but i can say that i fully appreciate that they let me be ME at home, even though it meant that i didn’t fit in at school at all. i at least always had that one “right” safe space to believe in. these kids will grow up and as someone else already said, aren’t we all already confused growing up… we figure things out for the most part when we get older. so all in all i think it’s mostly a good thing that this article brings these things to light for people who probably wouldn’t think of it on their own, otherwise.

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    You can be gender neutral without being “genderless.” Avoiding pronouns isn’t going to change how your child identifies themselves or sees who they really are, because a pronoun is just an external designation just like a proper name. My parents raised me in a relatively gender neutral way. I was really girly when I was very little, and less so once I hit the age of 5. My parents just “went with the flow” so I had more trains and hot wheels etc. than barbies. I played sports, played mostly with boys, but still loved dresses. I was “all over the map” as my mom puts it, but my grandmother told her to “let me be” and she did. I’m eternally grateful for that. The irony is that they tried to get my very girly sister to follow in my footsteps and play sports and that was a total disaster lol. She had every barbie you could name and avoided all things athletic and dirty.

    I think the best thing you can do for your child is just to support them and allow them to express whoever they are.

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      THIS. I got the impression that how they were treating their kid w/r/t gender had more to do with other people going “So is your kid a boy or a girl? TELL ME SO WE CAN GET THE RIGHT COLOURS AND TOYS” and they’re like “Uh, does it matter? NOOOOOOOO.” It’s not like the kid’s going to have a clear idea of gender at 4 months old anyhow.

      I see it more as opening up possibilities rather than closing them before you have a fair chance to explore it all. And like you said – “go with the flow”. I’ve gone from relatively gender-neutral to anti-femme (like to a scary degree) to neutralish to more girly than before. It’s not fixed.

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    this is just stupid. they can raise their child that pink is fine for boys or girls etc etc, without going to such extremes to ignore the obvious. you cant raise a child gender neutral. Our society has become ridiculous, with the “gender” talk about everything. Transgender, gender neutral, etc etc. You are either a male or female end of story. If you have a penis, you are a man, even if you wear a dress. If you have a vagina you are a woman even if you have your breasts removed. You are no more the other sex than a cat is a dog because someone says it is. Its actually really sad.

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    i just had a heated discussion over this topic. i think this is pushing it to the extreme when it comes to defying gender norms. however,i will say that i am happy to see that the pitt family is allowing their daughter, shiloh, to challenge these same norms in her clothing style. i dont think societies problems are the labels of male/female but more of our associations with these labels. we dont have to get rid of gender but the stereotypes of what is strictly for a girl to wear,say,do and what is strictly for boys needs to go. but those are just my two cents which should be taken with a grain of salt.

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    I have two girls 4 and 5 and I have been raising them gender neutral. my oldest is the girliest little person I have even seen in my life and my younger one is a tom boy. Her favorite toy is buz light year. If they want “boy” things are more then welcome to it. Also when I watch my 3 year old nephew if i paint my girl’s nails and he wants his done, I do his, he picks the color. His dad commented on it one time and I told him that I wasn’t going to leave him out, and if he did not like it he could find another baby sitter. I think it is wrong to leave a child out, or get what they like just because its not normal for their gender.

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    I believe it’s better to raise your girl or boy, acknowleging that they are a girl or a boy, but not placing limitations on what they play with, what they do, what they wear, etc. It is a reality that society places “limitations” or “expectations” on male and female roles and all the free or progressive thinking families out there are not going to change societal norms. By providing your child the tools they need to choose for themselves who they are, while at the same time acknowledging and celebrating their gender, you give them the security they need to develop their own individual identity.

    By raising a child with the KNOWLEDGE that society will try to place limitations on their future based on their gender, you empower them and give them the confidence and tools to go out and prove society’s norms are wrong . . . that a woman can be an athlete, a politician, a soldier, etc. and that a man can be a nurturer, a caregiver, a dancer, etc.

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      This is an excellent approach, it’s important to find a middle ground and not go to what I feel are extremes like these parents did. In my mind it similar to communism in the fact that it’s a great idea in theory, but in this human (and imperfect) world that we live in it is nearly impossible to pull of successfully.

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    my parents raised me “country girl” which is “you have lady parts, try peeing standing up, it’s funny but it wont work out, you can do everything better than boys etc etc” to the point where every day my mom is telling me how much of a boy i was supposed to be. (maybe i believe her? oh well)

    my sister’s super into fashion and welding. i’m into everything. i think the whole gender constructs are bull. now, my parents didn’t’ raise us like this to be new age, but because we lived on a ranch and it was necessary. but i think that my mom understands my genderqueerness a lot more because of it. she thinks its hilarious that i go out one day in dresses and frills and the next studly as hell. my parents are the most southern (used to be anti gay but they got over it) people you’ll meet, but it’s surprising when you think about how this whole thing is pretty open minded.

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    I agree that raising children without pushing them into gender roles is a great idea in theory. Whether it is actually possible to do I’m not sure. I’m not sure how raising your baby as “gender neutral” is going to do anything other than leave them open to critcism and merciless bullying. Not matter how many enlightened adults you surround this baby with, kids will be kids and there are some who will make this child’s school years a living hell. Loving your child does NOT take away from the pain of bullying.

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