Parents Keep Gender of Infant Secret

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I consider myself to be open minded to the choices parents make for their children, as long as the safety of the child isn’t in question. But a recent story from the Toronto Star about parents Kathy Witterick and David Stocker of Toronto, Canada choosing to keep the gender of their baby a secret has me scratching my head.

Save for the parents, two brothers, midwives and a close friend, nobody knows the gender of the now 4 month old Storm. Not even the grandparents. “In fact, in not telling the gender of my precious baby, I am saying to the world, ‘Please can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what s (he) wants to be?!.” Witterick wrote in an email.

(Baby Storm: Steve Russell/The Toronto Star)

During Kathy’s pregnancy, her now 5 year old son Jazz was having issues with his own gender. “I was feeling like I needed some good parenting skills to support him through that,” she said.

David came across a book from 1978, titled X: A Fabulous Child’s Story by Lois Gould. X is raised as neither a boy or girl, and grows up to be a happy and well-adjusted child. They found this compelling and decided to try this approach.

Storm’s brother Jazz and Kio,who is two, have also been free to choose when it comes to their gender roles. Both have been allowed to pick out their own clothes in the boys and girls sections of stores since they were 18 months old and decide whether to cut their hair. Jazz currently has his hair long and likes to wear it in 3 braids.  Because both boys wear girls clothing they are often mistaken for girls. The parents have decided to let the boys decided whether to correct people.

With Storm they have taken this approach a step further by keeping the gender a secret from virtually everyone. Kathy says, “I believe that it puts restrictions on this particular baby so that in this culture this baby will be a singular person who is not being given an opportunity to find their true gender self, based on also what’s inside them.”

(Baby Storm and brother Jazz: Steve Russell/The Toronto Star)

And that is where I get confused. In my mind the gender of a child is science. It is a fact. You are either a boy or a girl, unless born with parts from both. I agree that it is important to let your children be individuals and I applaud these parents for loving their children unconditionally and encouraging them to be who they really are. But I don’t see how keeping the gender of a child a secret gives children more freedom to figure out who they are inside, unless in the case of a child with both male and female organs. Instead I think it gives the gender identity issues and can make them even more confused.

As a mother of two boys,  I think it is a good thing not to completely characterize our children in gender roles. Men who can cook and clean are in my mind sexy. There is nothing wrong with a woman who works outside the home and a man who decides to stay home to take care of the kids. Or a woman who is a firefighter and a man who is a nurse. I don’t mind if my boys play with dolls or choose a pink cup at dinner. Big deal.

Gender is not determined by the roles in which we put on them. Why not teach them there is nothing wrong with embracing our gender? If our children identify with another gender role, then by all means showing our children our support is important. But asking a small child to determine whether or not to tell someone whether they are a boy or a girl is a lot to put upon them.

Won’t these experiences negatively affect them in other ways than if they had simply identified the gender?

Why make gender an issue as soon as a child is born?

I’d love you to weigh in on this sensitive issue!


See more pictures of this family

Parents Keep Child’s Gender Secret

Parents Keep Child’s Gender Under Wraps

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  1. says

    I think it’s pretty cool what they’re doing. Far too often parents, relatives, friends push gender specific roles and ideals on children. When a woman has a new baby, that child is often spoiled with pink or blue depending on their sex. As they grow up, parents push ballet/dance on girls and sports on boys. Why not let the child decide what interests them without having them feel like they’re expected to do “manly” or “girly” things.

  2. says

    Alright, I’m completely against this. Kids are born with certain chromosomes, c’mon. My boys will learn how to cook and clean and preferably sew (although I need to learn that last one first…haha). But I’m not going to buy my boys girl clothes and push them to play with baby dolls and watch Dora the Explorer (or whatever idk). But if, someday, they want to do those things, I would support it.

  3. Carrie says

    I think it’s BS. If the parents know the gender they will still treat the baby with some bias whether they want to or not. The only thing they will accomplish is to confuse these kids when they are little and embarrass them with silly photos when they are older. Can you imagine this family photo of the parents and their three girls being shown to the son’s first girlfriend he brings home-UHG. It all seems like too much experimentation and I leave that to the experts!

  4. Joe's brother Jim says

    Frankly I couldn’t care less that the parents of baby Storm don’t want to tell anyone what it’s gender is. However, I do worry that they are letting the inmates run their asylum.
    Wait. What?
    I don’t know them but like all internet trolls, I can make wild leaps and insane accusations. I believe that children raised without proper structure have a difficult time becoming proper human beings. How much structure is a child receiving if they get to choose their hair style and clothing? Where are they drawing the line? Maybe they get to choose what they eat and when they get to go to bed. Maybe the kids are never told no. Look, providing love is the number one responsibility of a parent and I believe that they are getting plenty of that. But it is not easy to raise yourself.

  5. JennyOH says

    One the one hand, I agree with the view that while sex (what parts you have) is a fact, gender (what kinds of roles you take on) is a social construct. On the other hand, by avoiding the issue of gender for their kids, this couple have actually made it the biggest issue in their (admittedly short so far) lives! I mean hello, there’s an article online about it, so they’re…talking it up that they’re keeping it quiet? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If gender really weren’t a big deal they would treat the fact that they’re keeping it secret as no big deal.

    • Emilie says

      Jenny, that is where it gets confusing. In the last few decades the term gender has replaced the term sex and in my mind I use that interchangeably. So in my post when I refer to gender I am referring to sex. And when I think of the social construct I’m saying gender roles.

      According to wikipedia, “Gender” is now commonly used even to refer to the physiology of nonhuman animals, without any implication of social gender roles.

      And yes, I agree with what you are saying! By keeping it a secret they are making gender this huge focus. Instead of just letting their kids be kids and supporting whatever they want to do they are actually choose to make their child an “Z”, neither female nor male. And now suddenly that child is considered different when there is nothing physically different about this baby.

  6. says

    I’m sorry, I’m normally not THIS rude but…what a weirdo thing to do! I agree – there is nothing wrong with embracing our gender. It is most certainly not something to be ashamed of! What is that child going to do once he/she goes to school? Do they have unisex bathrooms?

    I have a very girly-girl who also loves cars and trains and working in the yard and wood building projects. And I do not think letting her know that she is a girl is detrimental to her development.

  7. says

    Yes I agree, it’s a little weird. I couldn’t have said it better myself “it is important to let your children be individuals and I applaud these parents for loving their children unconditionally and encouraging them to be who they really are. But I don’t see how keeping the gender of a child a secret gives children more freedom to figure out who they are inside”

    For the record, I think he’s a BOY! :-)

  8. says

    I agree with everyone here. I think they over reacted and swung way too far to the other side of the spectrum. While I don’t agree with showering little girls in pink and pushing dolls and kitchens on little girls, I also don’t think babies, toddlers or preschoolers should just be left to decide what they are. We are born different, it is a fact. Girls are girls, boys are boys. Sure, you can fight the societal pressure to put gender in a box, but don’t tell your child “you are whatever you want to be.” They will get made fun of SOOOO badly in kindergarten. What bathroom do they go to? Basics like that people!

  9. Autumn (Beth) says

    Does anyone else get the feeling that maybe these parents aren’t exactly 100 percent satisfied that they only have sons? (assuming baby Storm is a boy)
    It seems to me that they are trying to make up for the fact that they are so disappointed with what nature gave them that they are encouraging their children to be transgender. This can cause identity issues, low self-esteem, etc. I feel very sorry for these children, and can only hope that the parents truly have good intentions in what they are doing to these kids.

  10. says

    I don’t have any amazing argument or reason that I think this is wrong, but I know I would never do it and it seems strange. Just odd.

  11. says

    This is very strange in my opinion, and you can let your child be themselves without pushing boy or girl activities on them and embrace them for who they are. I think you are confusing them more, by giving them too much freedom, seriously. Don’t we all want to be governed, truly? Our entire society would be chaotic without it. Regardless of which gender this child will identify with(and I am guessing since the boys sibling are into girl clothing, so will he/she be, too. Pardon the elementary pun, but “Monkey see Monkey do”, comes to mind. There again that wonderful age old argument of nurture vs nature. Is it going on a limb to be boring and ordinary these days or do we all have to live in a dramatic world? I will take the boring, ordinary road any day, because the problems created later in life for these children will be heartbreaking. Who are these kooky grandparents and I refer to them in lieu of the parents, because I think these parent’s are so far in left field at this point? I can see my Mother in law now and my own father playing along with this! Neither would play along I can promise you. I would think the parents need psychological counseling and I wonder why they both are so hung up on gender? I also agree with an earlier comment about the children running the household. I would like to see repeat interviews in 25+ years. I wonder how great it will seem to all involved then??

  12. Belinda says

    “Does anyone else get the feeling that maybe these parents aren’t exactly 100 percent satisfied that they only have sons? (assuming baby Storm is a boy)”

    I had the same thought! And like others have said, it seems like by hiding the gender, they are just drawing more attention to it. He/she can still avoid stereotypes if people know his/her gender. I have 5 boys and while they tend to be pretty boyish, we are totally fine if they want to play with a doll or pick a pink shirt. I almost get the feeling that these parents are making their boys feel like there’s something wrong with being boys. It’s like they are almost pushing them to be less “boyish”. It all just seems strange to me.

  13. says

    Infant genders are sometmes kept secret from the mother, while the father knows it or vice versa. Some couples totally doesn’t want to know. It really depends on what you prefer. It is but normal to want a complete surprise!

  14. Christina Jackson says

    This is so strange…when I first read the article I thought you meant they wanted to be surprised by the gender…not that they were keeping their 4 month olds gender a secret. I am all for the child exploring life the way he/she chooses and not forcing certain stereotypes into his/her life…but this is insane.

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