Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Tempest about Storm...

This is Storm. Storm is four months old and is being raised in Toronto. Looks like a typical four-month-old, no?

When the baby was born, Storm's parents sent out your typical birth announcement. But one thing was missing: the announcement didn't disclose whether Storm was a boy or a girl.

Said parents Kathy Witterick and David Stocker:
"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?)"
This isn't an issue of sexual confusion—Storm's parents are clear what sex their baby is—so only the parents, their two other children (both boys), a close friend, and the two midwives who helped deliver the now 4-month-old baby know its gender. Even the grandparents have been left in the dark.

Why this decision? Stocker and Witterick say it gives Storm the freedom to choose who he or she wants to be. "What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It's obnoxious," Stocker, a teacher at an alternative school, said.

"In fact, in not telling the gender of my precious baby, I am saying to the world, 'Please can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what s(he) wants to be?," Witterick wrote in an email.

Stocker and Witterick's two other children, Jazz and Kio, are allowed to pick out their own clothes in the boys and girls sections of stores and decide whether to cut their hair or let it grow. Aged 5 and 2, they wear pink and have long hair, and are frequently assumed to be girls, according to Stocker. He said he and Witterick don't correct people—they leave it to the kids to do it if they want to.

Both boys are "unschooled," a version of homeschooling, which promotes putting a child's curiosity at the center of his or her education. Their nontraditional education setting, coupled with the freedoms they have in determining their appearance and clothing, isn't all it's cracked up to be, however. Though Jazz likes dressing as a girl, he doesn't seem to want to be mistaken for one. He recently asked his mother to let the leaders of a nature center know that he's a boy. And he chose not to attend a conventional school because of the questions about his gender. Asked whether that upsets him, Jazz nodded.

There is debate in the scientific community about how this might ultimately impact Storm's gender identification. And while I admire the philosophy behind Stocker and Witterick's decisions regarding keeping Storm's gender a secret as well the freedoms they give Jazz and Kio, I ultimately question their effects. Childhood can be difficult for seemingly "normal" children; for children who are perceived to be "different," treatment by their peers—and even well-meaning adults—is often traumatizing.

While I see nothing wrong with not forcing children to adhere to traditional gender stereotypes, I believe that much of what Stocker and Witterick is nothing short of "experimenting," which may ultimately cause their children more harm than good. If a five-year-old boy is already struggling with being mistaken for a girl, what happens next? Why not experiment with disciplinary actions rather than gender roles?

I'm not a parent, but I don't believe this will be ultimately successful. And I only hope these children don't bear the after-effects well into their adulthood.

No comments:

Post a Comment