Raising a Genderless Child?
Old 05-25-2011, 01:56 AM   #1 (permalink)
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When Storm was born, the couple sent an email to friends and family: “We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place? ...).”

Their announcement was met with stony silence. Then the deluge of criticisms began. Not just about Storm, but about how they were parenting their other two children.

The grandparents were supportive, but resented explaining the gender-free baby to friends and co-workers. They worried the children would be ridiculed. Friends said they were imposing their political and ideological values on a newborn. Most of all, people said they were setting their kids up for a life of bullying in a world that can be cruel to outsiders.

Witterick and Stocker believe they are giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females. Some say their choice is alienating.
Parents keep child's gender secret - Parentcentral.ca

Not exactly sure how I feel about this. I do hope they follow up.
Thoughts?

(I should add that I'm intrigued by the idea of 'unschooling', which is mentioned in the article. My son's going to a Montessori school this fall which, while still a structured school, uses some of the same techniques.)
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Old 05-25-2011, 02:38 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I can see the point they're trying to make - but should they really be using their kids to prove it? The kids could possibly end up as misfits when they grow up and have to make a life for themselves in the real world.
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Old 05-25-2011, 03:18 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Aar_Canada View Post

I'm intrigued by the idea of 'unschooling'
Why? I'm curious. A lot of the bullshit associated with the structure of school is helpful for preparing kids for life.

Edit - I guess my feelings on unschooling would depend on how long this goes on, and for how long the kids get to decide what they learn.

Last edited by Bill Haverchuck; 05-25-2011 at 03:30 AM.
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Old 05-25-2011, 03:29 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I found this part of the article particularly interesting, and I might comment again tomorrow. Real tired right now.

Gender is not 100% nurture.

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Diane Ehrensaft is a California-based psychologist and mother of Jesse, a “girlyboy” who turned his trucks into cradles and preferred porcelain dolls over soldiers when he was a child. Her newly published book, Gender Born, Gender Made, is a guide for parents of nonconforming kids.
She believes parents should support gender-creative children, which includes the transgendered, who feel born in the wrong bodies, and gender hybrids, who feel they are part girl and part boy. Then there are gender “smoothies,” who have a blended sense of gender that is purely “them.”
Ehrensaft believes there is something innate about gender, and points to the ’70s, when parents experimented by giving dolls to boys and trucks to girls.
“It only worked up to a certain extent. Some girls never played with the trucks, some boys weren’t interested in ballet ... It was a humbling experiment for us because we learned we don’t have the control that we thought we did.”
But she worries by not divulging Storm’s sex, the parents are denying the child a way to position himself or herself in a world where you are either male, female or in between. In effect they have created another category: Other than other. And that could marginalize the child.
“I believe that it 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.”
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Old 05-25-2011, 05:29 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I find this quite insane. The kid has a gender, so let him/her free to develop the way he/she likes but you can't deny his/her gender. This could only give the child a lot of problems growing up.
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Old 05-25-2011, 06:44 AM   #6 (permalink)
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It's completely insane. I love how these hipster dipster parents are forcing their ridicoulous lifestyle choice or should we say experiment on some poor baby that got lucky enough to have these two 'free thinkers' as parents.

I don't think a lot of damage will be done to the kid up to age 2, but if they keep it up and are forcefull of this whole hiding the sex thing past that, then they are doing the kid a real disservice.
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Old 05-25-2011, 08:00 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Old 05-25-2011, 08:54 AM   #8 (permalink)
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If they're only doing this for a couple of years, then I don't see why they had to make a big deal about it. That turns it into something... gossip-fodder, up for negative comments, etc.

Instead, they should've just decided to not put any gender stereotypes upon the kid. No pink clothes, dolls and pretty things just because it's a girl, and no blue bedroom, trucks, and sports just because it's a boy. Allow the child to have a taste of everything, that could still be considered "gender-free" without making this something newsworthy that could potentially come back to bite this kid in the ass as it grows older.

It should be about not having gender boundaries. They pushed it too far from that.
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Old 05-25-2011, 09:44 AM   #9 (permalink)
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What i don't get is what's wrong with gender? I mean we born male or female by chance but is all natural it's not that someone decides what's better and there're some genetical things that differs male and female and again it's all natural. It's not about dressing pink or blue it's abuot let the child grow in a natural way. Just a question do they let the baby watch some animation movies? I mean Sleeping beauty is a girl and the prince is a boy and they're even dressed like a boy and a girl, do you thin this could compromise the "right" growth of the boy (ops I used a male term)
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Old 05-25-2011, 09:45 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Kind of silly thinking on their part, although I admittedly did not read the article in any real detail.

I would say that a proper understanding of modern biology shows that there is not much of a nature/nurture divide. Rather, we are always embedded in an environment that always has some degree of effect on us, right from embryonic development and onwards. That sort of thinking produces the unwarranted view that gender is strictly a social construct.

Also, the parents overrate their ability to guide their child. The idea that they can protect them from gender associations in a society that is full of this sort of thinking is honestly laughable.

I think there is something to be said for gender-neutral parenting, ie. you look at everything through the lens of a person parenting an individual, not a gender. I also think certain arguments intended to prove that something is the "natural" behaviour for things of type x are completely silly (and people also are terrible at arguing in support of things because they're "natural"). So I'm at least somewhat sympathetic with the parents' desires. It's just not clear to me how to accomplish those desires in a practical and meaningful way.

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Old 05-25-2011, 10:10 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Ligeia View Post
Kind of silly thinking on their part, although I admittedly did not read the article in any real detail.

I would say that a proper understanding of modern biology shows that there is not much of a nature/nurture divide. Rather, we are always embedded in an environment that always has some degree of effect on us, right from embryonic development and onwards. That sort of thinking produces the unwarranted view that gender is strictly a social construct.

Also, the parents overrate their ability to guide their child. The idea that they can protect them from gender associations in a society that is full of this sort of thinking is honestly laughable.

I think there is something to be said for gender-neutral parenting, ie. you look at everything through the lens of a person parenting an individual, not a gender. I also think certain arguments intended to prove that something is the "natural" behaviour for things of type x are completely silly. So I'm at least somewhat sympathetic with the parents' desires. It's just not clear to me how to accomplish those desires in a practical and meaningful way.
I get what you mean but i go back to my question.. What's wrong with a gender in itself? Maybe i misunderstand what you're saying but even saying there's not much biological divide meaans to me there's a biological difference, trying to negate this difference means in itself one gives more or less value to a gender against the other. Are not his/her parents of different genders? So they're saying all their life is been a mess because they were labeled a male and a female? It's all too philosophical considering we're talking about a baby
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Old 05-25-2011, 10:25 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Bill Haverchuck View Post
Why? I'm curious. A lot of the bullshit associated with the structure of school is helpful for preparing kids for life.

Edit - I guess my feelings on unschooling would depend on how long this goes on, and for how long the kids get to decide what they learn.
I think it would end at a certain point, but I don't know. A lot of the bullshit associated with the structure of school can also turn a kid off. I hated school from the get go but I know for a fact that it would have been a different deal for me if I'd been unschooled or schooled in the Montessori method. My sister (18) and I are very similar. Problems with motivation, turned off easily, but she went to a Montessori school for two years and I fully believe that was the difference. She never hated school. Still had the same problems, but they didn't suffocate her and she wound up being a really good student and is doing what she wants to do now at Ryerson. I went to university for painting, but by the time that rolled around, I was so jaded about school and being taught, I didn't last long. Some thrive in regular schools, some don't. I did not. I was bored and became resentful of the whole idea. If I could school my kid at home I would but thanks to school and everything it did to me, I'd be unable to.
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Old 05-25-2011, 10:45 AM   #13 (permalink)
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gender and sex are two different things, although often aligned. i'm not sure that i agree with what these parents have done, but i'm not sure that i completely disagree either. there is something to be said for self-identification, and the more we categorize children from the outset, the less they are able to self-identify.

we didn't know the sex of our first child until she was born, and the vast majority of clothes, toys and baby-stuff we had accumulated and that we used in her first 18 months was green, yellow, orange etc. i put her in blue rock and roll t-shirts and jeans, and she played with all manner of toys when she was old enough to do something besides eat, sleep, poop and puke. with all of that, she very firmly decided, as early as she knew what colour was, that pink was her favourite, and that she loves bunnies.

that may be something, and it may be nothing.
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Old 05-25-2011, 11:06 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Keeping the child's sex a secret will be close to impossible. Grandma and Grandpa aren't going to watch the child change? Is the baby never going to have any naked time?

The mere act of trying to hide the child's gender from relations who will should witness the gender through regular relations has to have consequences.
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Old 05-25-2011, 11:29 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Child abuse.
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Old 05-25-2011, 12:35 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Aar_Canada View Post
I think it would end at a certain point, but I don't know. A lot of the bullshit associated with the structure of school can also turn a kid off. I hated school from the get go but I know for a fact that it would have been a different deal for me if I'd been unschooled or schooled in the Montessori method. My sister (18) and I are very similar. Problems with motivation, turned off easily, but she went to a Montessori school for two years and I fully believe that was the difference. She never hated school. Still had the same problems, but they didn't suffocate her and she wound up being a really good student and is doing what she wants to do now at Ryerson. I went to university for painting, but by the time that rolled around, I was so jaded about school and being taught, I didn't last long. Some thrive in regular schools, some don't. I did not. I was bored and became resentful of the whole idea. If I could school my kid at home I would but thanks to school and everything it did to me, I'd be unable to.
I can relate to some of the problems you had. In grade school, I lacked a bit of motivation, too. But I don't think school itself is necessarily the problem. I had some real dickhead teachers. A few of them were total assholes, although some were great, too. Learning to deal with that is part of life.

You're a bright guy. I think you're capable of home schooling your son, assuming you had the resources (time and money).

I'm not that familiar with the Montessori method. I might google that, later.
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Old 05-25-2011, 12:38 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I wonder how they'll refer to the child... they can't say "He" or "She". Will they say "It"? Or always have to call it by what I assume will be an androgynous name?
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Old 05-25-2011, 12:59 PM   #18 (permalink)
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marge piercy would have referred to the child as 'per'.
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Old 05-25-2011, 01:09 PM   #19 (permalink)
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gender and sex are two different things, although often aligned. i'm not sure that i agree with what these parents have done, but i'm not sure that i completely disagree either. there is something to be said for self-identification, and the more we categorize children from the outset, the less they are able to self-identify.
Actually, I don't entirely agree with that, at least not in the case of a transgendered person. In fact, some transgendered people have said that being forced into a role actually helped them realize their issues at an earlier age. They knew something was wrong. They didn't "feel right". Thus, while uncomfortable, being told they were "this" or "that" actually helped them recognize the disconnect between their sex and how they felt in terms of gender.

Personally, from an emotional and psychological perspective, I think it would just be easier for many, many people if society would offer a broader range of possibililites. But still, I don't think that alone solves the problem for a transgendered person, because that suggests that their problem is simply a matter of social construct, which is probably insulting to them. In fact, I know it's insulting to some of them. They feel their situation has a very real biological component.

So, I think it's a complicated issue. In some cases, gender is fluid. Based on what I've read and heard, some of which might be wrong, people have a mosaic brain. That is, a bunch of characteristics that we associate with masculinity and femininity should be viewed as a spectrum. Different humans will be more or less "feminine" or "masculine" in different areas. You get all kinds of combinations. For example, on average, women might be more "nurturing" care givers to babies. But not all women will be better than every man, and some of that will be enviromental but not all of it. Also, for example, many men will have better spacial and depth perception skills than women (and it can be re-produced via repeated tests and drills) but not all men will be better than all women. And some of the women who have above average depth and spacial skills will be drawn to activities that seem more "masculine". Some of it is construct and some of it is biological reality. I think the culture that arises around particular activities may be constructed, but some of it stems from the biological reality that a particular sex is more likely to be able to do a given activity and be drawn to it.

I think things like clothes have some fluidity. Just look at how feminine the men looked during the Victorian era. Or, going back to my WWF comment from yesterday, take a look at Randy Savage's outfits in the 80s.

However, there is more to gender than things like clothes. I view it as a spectrum with probabilities related to the sexes, but those probabilities are never absolutes.

Edit - I apologize if I did a poor job of explaining my position. I might have just confused things..ah

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Old 05-25-2011, 02:00 PM   #20 (permalink)
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you are right to correct my statement because it is not that definite. although, that doesn't mean that what follows is something i disagree with.

rather than saying 'the more we categorize the less they are able to self identify', i should have said something more along these lines: the more we categorize, the more self-identification that deviates from the norm is considered to be 'wrong' or 'inappropriate'. i suppose it is the connection between self-identification and self-expression in the context of social norms that i wanted to highlight.

i agree that gender identity can be (is?) fluid.

that broader range of possibilities is exactly what i was pointing to in the criticism of categorization (albeit misplaced in identity rather than in expression of that identity). whether biological or social in origin, it is the social construct of the 'other' that creates the barrier to inclusion. the social construct aspect of the way we see gender is crucial.
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