By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A Toronto couple who has decided not to identify their four month-old child as either a boy or girl in order to protect the child’s right to “choose” what he or she wants to be later on in life.
The Daily Mail is reporting that Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, have decided to raise their third child, Storm, without any identity as a male or female. They claim no one but themselves, Storm’s siblings, and the two midwives who delivered the baby know the sex of the child. Their goal is to allow Storm to be free of societal norms regarding gender.
When the child was born, they sent an e-mail to their friends and family that stated: “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? …).”
They told the Toronto Star their e-mail was met mostly with silence at first, and then came a deluge of criticism in which the couple was called “selfish” and “inconsiderate.”
But Witterick was defiant. “When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or a boy?’” she told the Star.
Her husband agreed. “If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs.”
They say this will release Storm from the constraints society imposes on males and females and that children are capable of making meaningful decision for themselves from a very young age.
News of what the family is doing caused such outrage in Canada that they have now stopped giving all interviews.
Surprisingly, some professionals are actually supporting the couple. According to Fox News, Clinton Anderson, director of the American Psychological Association’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office, said that while the organization supports gender nondiscrimination, there is no research available regarding potential harms or benefits to raising a so-called genderless child.
But what is certain, he said, is that a “supportive” environment for any child is one that provides them love, nurturing care and a “good enough” context to develop.
“Gender is, of course, hugely important and that is what these parents are trying to challenge,” he said. “Gender is hugely important to people, and for most people, a fundamental part of their identities.”
Jeff Gadere, a clinical psychologist and contributor to HealthGuru.com says this style of parenting will give the child more self-determination as far as what interests it may have in life and what direction the child may want to go in, including in the area of sexuality.
“If the parents are able to fulfill all of the needs of the child and are able to meet the child’s needs in terms of guidance and nurturance, I really doubt that there’s going to be any real damage to the child,” he said. “I’m more concerned about how other people are going to react to the child.”
Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for government and public policy for the American Family Association, disagrees and said Storm is destined to grow up “terribly confused” regarding sexual identity.
“I don’t think there’s any question that this is going to do severe harm to this child,” Fischer said. “That child is either a male or female, and it’s a tragedy that his parents or her parents are apparently unwilling to base their approach on scientific and biological truth.”
The attempt to keep the child’s gender a secret is simply a “terrible disservice,” Fischer said.
“The vast majority of people have enough common sense to recognize that this is lunacy,” he continued. “The vast majority of people are motivated by a deep level of concern of what’s going to happen to that poor child.”
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