..because it seems that's what the parents in Toronto who decided to keep their baby's gender a secret in an attempt to keep zir unfettered by gender policing and expectations, have effectively created. For the good or the bad, is what I've got to wonder. In my honest opinion, if anything damages this kid, ambiguously named Storm, it'll be the media hype surrounding zir lack of gender definition, rather than a lack of defined gender*. I'm unclear as to who actually alerted the media to the couple's plan, although I think it may have been relatives of the child in question.
Myriads of commenters on the Yahoo article I read, as well as at least one columnist for the Toronto Star questioned the ethics behind this couple 'treating their child as an experiment'.
Thing is, parenting IS an experiment. There's no strict set of rules for this stuff.
Myself, I can totally see where the parents are coming from, in wanting their children to explore their own personalities and gender identification without having expectations pressed on them based on what is between their legs. I'm still completely lost as to what connection there is between a Y chromosome, a penis and an aversion to pink.
As far as 'damaging' this child we should probably remember that baby Storm is four months old. Zir main concerns at this point in time are "I'm Hungry. I'm Shitty. I'm Bored." Somehow I don't think "I'm Having a Crisis of Identification" comes into play at that age. Besides, I think zie will figure it out. I think the idea is not to raise an indefinitely ambiguous child, but to allow the baby for it's first few years to be less restricted by those gender expectations that are thrust upon us from the earliest of ages.
From the very moment we are born and the doctor declares "It's a Girl/Boy!" - at least, in instances where it's clear from the beginning - we treat baby boys and baby girls differently which in turn helps to shape how they see themselves in the context of gendered expectations. Not having a 'gender'** could result in people responding to baby Storm's individual personality rather than a preconceived notion of babyhood.
Interestingly enough, the number of people who have wagered that Storm is a boy is staggering. This may have to do with a common societal trope that uses feminine markers to identify as female, so
Baby - feminine identifiers = default = boy.
I'm gonna laugh my ass off if Baby Storm is indeed a girl. At this point, I'm not wagering any guesses.
Which brings me to where the potential for backfire comes in. Columnist Caroline Porter of the Toronto Star presented the idea that by refusing to acknowledge their child's gender they may inadvertently make it a bigger issue, by "trapping him in an endless discussion." I think there is something to be said for this view, as it does seem possible that Baby Storm could end up being defined by the unending "Well, what is he/she?" question. Because you KNOW, people aren't going to let go of that one easily.
I think, underneath the question of gender anxiety, another issue is at hand that has people wringing their hands, and I think part of it is the refusal of the Wittericks to enforce gender expectations on any of their children. The older children, both boys, play with nailpolish and the older one frequently wears his hair long and in pigtails.
Somehow people think that by not adhering to strict gender guidelines, they are setting them up for trouble later, from being bullied at school, or that they are going to be gender-confused. My question is, how many 'gender-confused' people grew up in homes where gender rules were enforced but still re-identified later in life?
As far as kids teasing them, call me crazy, but I think the way to combat bullying is not to try and force potential victims into conforming to expectations (see the case of the teacher who kicked a kid out of class for wearing high-heels "for his protection"), but rather to teach people to just fucking relax already and if a little boy wants to wear nailpolish, or a little girl wants her hair short, it's not the end of the world, just like it's not the end of the world if you don't know what pronoun to use around a four-month old baby.
As for Baby Storm, as the media frenzy dies down, I think he'll figure out who he is.. long before he has to answer the 'which bathroom to use' question.
*For the record, although I've named my own children rather unique names, I would never advocate actually saddling a small child with the name Shitstorm.
**Keeping in mind that sex and gender are often two different things. Sex is generally (although there are many different schools of though on this) defined by a) genitalia and b) presence or non-presence of a Y chromosome. Gender's more complicated and has more to do with how one identifies themselves. Someone may identify as female, while presenting as male, and vice versa. Some gender theorists have eschewed the idea of the binary model and presented ideas that there could be up to as many as nine different genders.