Canadian couple wants to raise child to be 'genderless'

PHOTO: Canadian couple wants to raise child to be 'genderless'

IS IT a boy or a girl?

That's a question everyone asks when there's a baby coming into a family.

But the parents of 4-month-old Storm in Toronto, Canada, are telling everyone else: It's none of your business.

Madam Kathy Witterick, 38, and her husband, Mr David Stocker, 39, will be keeping the gender of their baby a closely-guarded secret.

They are even going as far as to raise Storm "genderless" and to let it "choose" which gender it is most comfortable living with when old enough.

Apart from Storm's two brothers, Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2, a family friend and two midwives, no one knows if Storm is biologically a girl or a boy, reported AP.

The midwives who delivered the child are in no doubt that Storm isn't a hermaphrodite (a person born with both male and female sex organs).

The rest of the couple's friends and family - even the grandparents - were sent an e-mail that announced: "We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now - a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation."

The couple's controversial decision has created a firestorm of criticism since their story first appeared in the Toronto Star last weekend.

"It", rather than a "he" or "she"

But Madam Witterick says their critics are being judgmental.

She said that the idea that "the whole world must know what is between the baby's legs is unhealthy, unsafe and voyeuristic. We know, and we're keeping it clean, safe, healthy and private (not secret!)."

The couple said no one they told had a kind word to say about their decision. The grandparents were annoyed that they had to explain to friends that their grandchild was more of an "it" than a "he" or a "she".

Some friends have accused Madam Witterick and Mr Stocker of imposing their ideology on the child, while others have chided that the parents have condemned Storm to a life of bullying.

But the couple believe very young children can - and should - choose who they want to be, free from social norms about being male or female.

"I am saying to the world: 'Please, can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what s(he) wants to be?'" said Madam Witterick.

Their decision came after Mr Stocker found a book in his school library called X: A Fabulous Child's Story .

Genderless

The book is about a child with "no gender", who plays football and weaves baskets. The child ignores bullying and ends up stunning experts with how well-adjusted he/she is.

Storm's parents, who have also been criticised for the way they are raising their other two children, said they found the story "compelling".

Jazz sports long pigtails, a pink ear stud and sparkly pink dresses, while Kio has collar-length hair and a penchant for leggings.

Everyone who meets them thinks they are girls, reported the Daily Mail.

Jazz shows other signs of being unconventional, as far as gender norms go.

One of his favourite books is 10,000 Dresses, the tale of a boy who likes to dress up. And in a birthday card to his father, he wrote: "I love to do laundry with Dad."

Creating a 'freak'

There are already signs of trouble ahead.

At the local playground, two little girls refused to play with the "girl boy", and a shopping trip ended in humiliating retreat when an assistant balked at the idea of selling a feather boa to a little boy.

Experts have questioned whether the parents' unusual move will work or be good for the baby, reported Canadian newspaper National Post.

"To raise a child not as a boy or a girl is creating, in some sense, a freak. It sets them up for not knowing who they are," said Dr Eugene Beresin, a child psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr Harold Koplewicz, a leading US child psychiatrist, said he was "disturbed" that well-meaning parents could be so misguided.

"When children are born, they're not a blank slate. We do have male brains and female brains," he said.

"There's a reason why boys do more rough and tumble play; there's a reason why girls have better language development skills."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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