Monday, August 13, 2018

It’s a Baby - Letting Children Decide Their Gender.

I was raised gender neutral. I am convinced that through no act of my own or my parents/grandparents until three or four I was raised that way. I do not believe that this was intentional. Maybe I so strongly identified as a girl, (girl toys, and activities) that my parents decides to just give me freewill.  And freewill I took. I was not punished or discouraged and happily played in both boy and girl mode. Not unlike today. 

4 or 5 years old
I know that this is not some whimsical look back or self-justification because I have vivid memories or tea parties with my dolls and stuffed animals. Maybe this was because of an absent father or some form of indulging an only child by doting grandparents; I will never know. This certainly was not some phase that I would out grow.  However, I knew for self-preservation and acceptance in the neighborhood I had to put aside the girlish toys and ways. Being called a “SISSY” back then, meant being socially ostracized. Although choosing “BOY” as my default was a deliberate decision, the "GIRL" was never far from the surface.

Fast forward nearly 70 years. In today's time of acceptable gender neutrality what would I choose?  Would I know I was not alone in this thought pattern and would my grandparent help me to make a decision by making it all OK?  Would society be open to a skinny short kid presenting as a girl in a rural country atmosphere? Would I be OK with the teasing and bullying? All very interesting questions.

What made me think about this is the fact that there are parents raising their babies and allowing them to gender self-identify at the typical age or three or four. What a radical concept!  The July 24, 2018 NPR/WBUR “On Point” spent almost an hour discussing this subject.

The pod-cast is available here:  NPR Podcast Directory The Subject 'Theybies': Letting Children Decide Their Gender.

The first person interviewed was Alex Morris.  Her article of the same title appeared first in the April 2, 2018, issue of New York Magazine and can be viewed here in The Cut.

Here are two paragraphs that I hope will encourage you to read the whole article:
For a small but growing cohort of parents — ones who see gender as a spectrum rather than a binary — the unisex movement of the ’60s and the “gender neutral” parenting trends that have followed have come up woefully short. For them, society’s gender troubles cannot be solved by giving all children dolls and trucks to play with or dressing them all in the color beige; the gender binary must not simply be smudged but wholly eradicated from the moment that socialization begins, clearing the way both for their child’s future gender exploration and for wholesale cultural change.

In 2011, parents Kathy Witterick and David Stocker became the objects of international attention — and “vitriolic” criticism, as they told the Toronto Star, the paper that originally broke the story — when they became one of the first families to go public with their decision not to assign a gender to their third child, Storm. People questioned whether a child raised without gender would be able to form an identity, whether Storm would suffer permanent psychological damage, whether the parents themselves were mentally ill. A barrage of cruel letters arrived on the family’s doorstep. Cars passing them in the road would slow so that the driver could yell “Boy!” or “Girl!” out the window.

Storm, who is now 7, identifies as a girl.

What a fascinating subject and so relevant to us as we think/dream back to when we were babies and a child. Lots of "what ifs".  Read more of Storm's story here.  

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