CULTURE, CURRENT AFFAIRS, SEX AND SEXUALITY

Is a genderless child worse than a gendered child?

By Jen Thorpe

Most of us will remember lessons in how to be either female or male. We were told, no my girl, don’t play in the mud. That’s not for girls. Or no, my boy, fairy wings are only for girls. I was given an incredible poster by Andreas Spath about how so much of our gender is premised on binaries that limit our actions – for all genders. Most of these binaries were premised on excluding us from certain activities so that we would grow up to be our perfect socially formed selves.

How did that work out for you? I thought so.

Generally, when someone is pregnant it is habitual to ask – is it a girl or a boy, the same way it is habitual to ask about the weather. But lets examine that question for a second. How could it possibly be ANYTHING? It is inside someone. It is, in fact, an it. With no rules about gender and no idea h0w it should or shouldn’t act. It is free.

A storm in the teacup has arisen over Storm, the ‘genderless’ baby. Two parents in Canada refused to disclose the gender of their baby to others, to prevent the habitual gendering of a child. Their goal? To promote freedom of choice and a more progressive future for their baby.

Their choice is being deemed a ‘social experiment’ and people are concerned about the effect on the child. Of course, Storm won’t be completely protected from gender norms, as his parents are themselves adults who have been socialised and gendered. It is impossible to live in the absence of culture. Perhaps they will make a concerted effort to dispel norms – but in that recreation, they will construct another set.  It’s also assumed that at some point the child will learn to talk and learn about ways of being at school – other children will influence Storm’s idea of gender and appropriate ways of action.

But for a moment lets think about this gut reaction to the choice of Storm’s parents. Perhaps we might feel that these parents are taking it too far, or that this child is more than an experiment. My question then, is why we are not as concerned when parents raise girls to be weak, or to avoid physical strength? Why are we not as concerned, when parents raise boys to be aggressive, violent or to value braun over brains? Why don’t we question the gender binaries that society tells us are real, but most of the time we feel don’t really fit perfectly?

Is it perhaps because we still view gender as something innate, that you are born with? Is it because we don’t respect Storm’s right to choose the gender norms that later in life will be part of who Storm is? Is it because it is so hard to write a sentence without gendering someone, and we don’t have an appropriate way to describe Storm with out the she/he, him/her? Is our fear of Storm, really just a fear of the fact that our own gendered stories of ourselves, are in fact, just stories?

Why do we not question all gender as vigorously as we question Storm’s lack of gender?

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