Boy, Girl, or Neutral: Can You Parent Without Gender Bias?


Boy, Girl, or Neutral: Can You Parent Without Gender Bias?

Genderless preschools, and genderless kids are popping up in headlines lately. The Egalia Preschool in Stockholm is making news for rejecting gender identity altogether, choosing not to address children as either "him" or "her" and using toys, books and other school materials that strictly avoid gender stereotypes. Another case involves Canadian couple Witterick and David Stocker who have decided to keep their baby Storm's sex a secret from the world and are attempting to raise him/her without a gender. The only people who know Storm's sex are his/her immediate family members, midwives and a close family friend. The couple told the The Toronto Star that they are "saying to the world, ‘Please can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what s(he) wants to be?"

Circle of Moms member Mary R. reacts with approval, saying it might be a good idea to keep young kids genderless. "I think it's great!...We can pretend to be so progressive these days, but whether you're conscious of it or not, you treat people differently according to gender, and the only way to avoid that is to be genderless. Figuring out how to escape this is difficult, but I believe this couple is trying an innovative way to do that."

Other Circle of Moms members have more mixed feelings, and say it's impossible to raise a child without gender bias. "That would be a tough one," says Mommy Megs from Texas. And Amber N. says that while she supports what the Stockers are trying to do, they are going too far. "I try hard to keep things gender neutral for my son until he picks something out for himself. Then I just go with it. I do believe that these parents are taking it to an extreme, but I understand their reasoning behind it. They just want to let their child choose who they want to be without the world telling them who they are supposed to be. "

Joanna G. agrees: "I understand what they're trying to do, but it's a bit extreme. The children should definitely have a choice in who they are, but they should also embrace who they are, gender and all. My daughter LOVES boy stuff, but knows she is a girl and is proud of it. We let her pick out her clothes/toys from the ‘boy' section, and encourage her to play with whatever sparks her interest. We love that she just does what she loves, and not what she ‘should' love just because of her gender."

Other Circle of Moms members fear that being raised genderless could set up a child to be bullied. "I think this is really sad," says Christy B. "I hope this child figures out his or her gender before preschool so that s/he doesn't get teased. Can you even imagine the conversations between 4- and 5-year-olds? ‘Are you a boy or a girl?' ‘I don't know.' ‘How do you not know?' ‘Do you have a wee wee?' 'A what?' ‘A penis. I'll show you mine and you tell me if you have one.' My guess is that child will not feel like s/he has an identity at all. So sad."

Some in this camp are adamantly opposed to the idea of gender neutral parenting or schooling, saying it leads to a lifetime of sexual confusion. "I think this is crazy," says Emilie B. "I think it is crazy to let a child choose his/her own gender because genetics has already decided what and how they are going to be...I let my son play with dolls, but I am not going to let him wear girl clothes or have long hair. People need to draw the line somewhere." Rachel M. adds:"I think they are actually taking away some of this child's identity. Our gender is a big part of who we are. Anyone who thinks boys and girls are the same have never observed a room full of little children. Little girls rock baby dolls, boys throw them. Some girls are more 'rough and tumble,' some boys are more caring and sensitive, but that does not make them less male or less female. Children are who they are, any parent who has tried to change the behavior of their child can attest to that. We can guide them and teach them and love them unconditionally. Also children who get too many choices without a parent's guidance often just turn out as spoiled brats. I fear these parents are doing more damage than good. "

Many Circle of Moms members agree that raising a child without gender bias does not have to involve withholding info. As Pamela A. suggests, "What you do with it (your sex) is up to you. But never push your child or anyone else into something like this. Especially when they do not understand. I have two children, one boy and one girl. I have never pushed the "gender" thing with either one. My daughter is just as comfortable playing tackle with the boys as she is rocking a baby doll."

Despite the lack of consensus, many Circle of Moms members say they would support their own children if they grow up to decide they would prefer life as the opposite gender. "I do think that it's very important to expose children to all things regardless of the gender it's intended for," says September W. "But I'm not sure I could ever be this extreme with it. Our son was born with a penis so we consider him a boy but if he grew up and felt like a girl we would support that too."

Ultimately, many Circle of Moms members suggest that the role of parents is to help children be comfortable with who they are. "Every human born into this world has a gender - to ‘hide' this from a child is simply crazy," says Tracy W.  "We, as parents, are [here] to nurture and protect our children and to help them to become decent, caring adults, regardless of gender."

Image Source: John Perks via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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