As we read sections from Natalie Angier’s Woman: An Intimate Geography and discussed our own experiences with being gendered as children (stemming from Angier’s discussion of female aggression), I was reminded of an article I read earlier this summer. The article details Canadian couple, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, who have chosen not to share the gender of their 4-month-old baby, Storm. And the couple’s older children, Jazz and Kio, are given all the elbow room they want to experiment with their own gender presentation and performance- as evidenced by 5-year-old Jazz, who chooses to wear his hair long and, in the article, shares his excitement over the recent acquisition of a pink dress from Value Village. Both he and Kio “are encouraged to challenge how they’re expected to look and act based on their sex.”

Witterick and Stocker have been the brunt of countless criticisms since sending out Storm’s birth announcement, in which they explain: “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?)..” Most of this criticism was focused on an imagined future of bullying and ridicule from Storm, whereas some centered on how Kathy and David are “imposing their ideological and political values on a newborn.” Witterick and Stocker defend their choice, however, saying that they “believe they are giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females.

Witterick and Stocker certainly have reasoning behind their unusual decision. As they have witnessed with their two older children, “The moment a child’s sex is announced, so begins the parade of pink and barrage of blue.” In fact, when the family took a trip to Cuba and decided that, for the sake of language barriers, it would be easier to assign Storm a random gender (male, decided via coin flip), the language others used around the infant was radically altered- people commented on ‘his’ size and strength, but certainly would’ve gravitated to something along the lines of “pretty little princess” (barf) had they been led to believe the opposite. This parallels Angier’s experience with her daughter in playgroup- while male and female children behaved similarly, their actions were interpreted (naturalized, normalized, or not) in a strictly gendered way by the adults (parents) in the room.

The genderless baby idea isn’t new- Stocker first got the idea from the 1978 book X: A Fabulous Child’s Story, which depicted a child raised not as male or female but simply as X. And though I felt initially skeptical about the whole shebang- after all, it seems dangerously close to social experimentation with one’s own progeny- I definitely respect what this family is attempting to do. After all, if individuals aren’t constantly queering the common-held (and intensely limiting) beliefs about gender, then those beliefs aren’t going to change. And not that I ever plan on having children of my own (ever, ever, ever), but IF I DID, I would raise my children as children instead of little boys and girls.

-Blair Dietrick