Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Raising a Genderless Kid...Really?

Today I read an incredibly disturbing story that has me fired up. You may have heard it: the parents (who, by the way, are clearly not genderless) are seeking to raise a genderless child. (Here's the link). They have two other children, who they admit are boys. The strange thing is, their 5-year old son, although he dresses in pink and wears braids, doesn't like to be called a girl and wants his parents to list on his camp application that he's a boy. He wants people to know it, because guess what? It's God-given, but I'll get to that in a minute.

They say they don't want to intervene and make choices for their newborn, choices like gender. Here's what they said in an email to family and friends: "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? ...)."

Let's go with that for a moment. "A tribute," in their own words, "to freedom and choice in a place of limitation." Why pick only gender to fail to impose limitations on? How about freedom and choice in other areas where parents normally impose limitations for the child's good, such as:
  • What foods to eat, or not eat? Can he/she eat five chocolate donuts for dinner if that is what the child chooses and feels like?
  • What time to go to bed?
  • What kind of movies to watch? Will the child be allowed to watch x-rated films if he/she would like to?
  • What words to use (and not use)?
  • How to speak to one's parents and elders?
Will the parents fail to teach manners, since its imposing certain rules on a child? Phone ettiquette? Language? Will the parents fail to insist on certain boundaries regarding curfews, computer use, sexual activity, and more? How is it any more imposing to say "No, you cannot have a pink stud in your ear," than to say, "No, you cannot eat a king-sized Snickers for lunch."

Since they homeschool (unschool, they admit, where the child's interests drive learning), it will be up to them to teach their children math. Are they going to "impose" rules like 3+2=5, even if the child feels like it should be seven. What about language? When their kids are learning to write, are the parents going to offer corrections such as, "No, that's not how we write an 'a.' This is what an 'a' looks like." Or will they say, "That looks wonderful! That squiggle is an 'a?' Fabulous. Great job figuring it out on your own." If they parent that way, where the child is free to create his or her own mathematic equations and language, the child will fail to fit into society. The child will never thrive, because how can it? It has failed to have been taught the basics.

Shouldn't gender be just as absolute as math and language?

Sure, I am approaching this argument not from an evolutionary position, but from a strong belief that we were created male and female in the image of God. Our anatomy was decided for us in the womb, and in all but the rarest of medical instances, our gender follows suit. Coaching your child in basic common-sense about being a boy or a girl is no different than teaching a child basic societal expectations, like, "No, you can't go to the store naked", "You can't take that without paying for it", and "No, that is not the way you behave in a public place."

There are rules set for us, for the good of society. Helping a child figure out what it means to be a boy or a girl is no different, and is a necessary part of good parenting. And yes, I believe the source for how we raise our children into strong, virtuous men and strong, virtuous women is the Bible. If that makes me horribly unprogressive, so be it.

The funny thing is, the article states that the parents, "believe kids can make meaningful decisions for themselves from a very early age." The children's father said, "What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious."

Ok, so fail to provide any parental guidance on an issue as important as gender, but prove yourself a hypocrite by choosing to make "obnoxious" decisions regarding food, bed-time, underage drug and alcohol use, sexual activity, and other things that caring parents set "limitations" on all the time. Or...don't make any of those "obnoxious," "limiting" choices for your child and wait for Child Protective Services to show up.

Children need guidance in all sorts of areas. This couple's children are begging for gender guidance. That's why the boy admits he doesn't want to go to school and that it bothers him to be called a girl. The mom admits: "When I was pregnant, it was really this intense time around Jazz [the 5-year old] having experiences with gender and I was feeling like I needed some good parenting skills to support him through that.” Could it be that he is struggling so because being a boy is his created, God-given instinct? Yet, he doesn't know what it means to be a boy, because his parents refuse to nurture him in that regard. I'd say that would cause some emotional turmoil.

So, as the mom states, "culture...narrowly defines what he should do, wear and look like." Yet, a California-based psychologist who wrote a book called Gender Born, Gender Made ("a guide for parents of nonconforming kids") admits "there is something innate about gender." She is quoted as saying that gender-neutral experiments during the 1970s “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.”

If a liberal psychologist admits "there is something innate about gender," then these parents are doing a grave disservice to their children by forcing them to ignore their innate gender. I steer my kids' choices all the time. We all do. It's called parenting. Good parenting demands we teach our children not only about who they are, and how they should behave, but we coach them into who they are meant to be--gender roles and all.


  1. I read this article as well and was so sad for the older boys in the family. They are not only being failed in their masculinity but encouraged to be feminine. The lies these parents are believing about culture and raising children are extraordinary.

  2. I just read this article before looking at reader and my first thought was, "Isn't this child abuse?" Do these parents really have no clue what they are doing to their children? How could they be that dense? What will become of these little boys later in life? I am a parent of a child who is ostracized for her ethnicity and for being a little overweight, and let me tell you IT BREAKS MY HEART!!!! As a mother I am in so much pain seeing her teased, but we talk about it frankly and I am giving her the coping skills to stand up for herself and to learn how to put a stop to it, what are these parents doing? They are actually allowing, and through non-action encouraging it to happen. I am so upset with the parents that I could go on and on, but I just wanted to tell you that I wholeheartedly agree with everything that you are saying.

  3. I read this article and was just floored. I had no idea how to respond. I'm so glad there are people who are more eloquent that I am who can say what needs to be said. Thank you.

  4. You are right in your article, however, as a sociology student I have to say that sex and gender are two different things.

    Everyone is born either a boy or a girl. That is their sex, given to them at conception. They cannot change that (well, these days I guess they can, but it doesn't change what God made them). They are given certain body parts, and certain hormones and were created uniquely male or female. God chose, whether they like it or not.

    Gender, however, is socially constructed. Society dictates how they think the certain sexes should behave and interact with society. The "girls wear pink" is socially constructed. It is an idea that society came up with and expects people to abide by.

    However, I do think that these parent's older son could wear pink without compromising his masculinity. Why can he not cut his hair, and wear a nice pair of boys pants with a pink polo shirt made for a boy? That way, he's still wearing the color he likes while showing that he's male. And, even though the ideas about what sex should wear what colors are socially constructed, this is one of the things that is changing, and it is now becoming acceptable for men and boys to wear pink, and purple etc.

  5. AnonymousMay 28, 2011

    @Katy Ann: What colors to wear may have social construction, but doesn't explain why my 2 year old daughter, without ever being told, (and having worn and still wears all sorts of colors, not just pink), during play, gives her daddy the blue things and says that they are his and me pink things without any instruction on it. I believe some of the draw to certain colors may be inate. I, of course, cannot prove it, but have spoken to speech therapists and play therapists and they too concur that colors seem to go with gender without any pressure put on the child to choose a certain color. Boys lean toward blues, greens and reds. Girls lean toward pinks and purples.

  6. Well, considering that historically, pink was a boy's color, I tend to doubt they are automatically now drawn to a new color. Even your two year old has had time to look at the world around her and have the world around her send subtle messages that pink is now a girls color and blue a boys color. It used to be opposite historically. Your daughter learns from her world more than we all know.