Boy, Girl, or Neither? Raising A Child Without Gender

Those crazy Swedes are at it again! A couple in Sweden has decided not to reveal the sex of their baby. Which is normal enough, many couples abstain from letting the world know whether a child is male or female until after they have given birth. The point of difference about this case is that the child, known as 'Pop'* to the press, is now two and a half years old.

Pop's mother, (who apparently has embraced her gender identity far enough to be described as the female progenitor,) had this to say on the issue:

“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset.....It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

Pop's parents believe that gender is a social construct, and instead of dressing Pop in skirts because she's a girl, or pants because he's a boy, Pop wears a mixture of skirts, pants and other items of clothing. Pop's hairstyle changes regularly to fit Pop's moods, and most days, Pop chooses what Pop wants to wear.

Unfortunately, it would appear that science is not on their side, as psychologist Susan Pinker points out, from the second trimester onwards, 'gender' hormones are released which alter a child's feelings and behavior. Male and female children behave in different ways even in their infancy and early years, and though she doesn't expressly come out and say it, I get the impression that Susan thinks she could probably tell whether Pop is a boy or a girl in just a few minutes of meeting the child.

This is undoubtedly something of an unorthodox approach to child rearing, but there are elements of it which have some merit. For example, not pressing a child into wearing particular clothing or behaving in a certain way simply because of its gender is something I support. Going so far as not to identify whether the child is male or female seems to be going a bit too far.

Of course, this will not last forever. In the coming years Pop will mature to the point where he or she is obviously a member of one gender or the other, and given the way most children behave, Pop will probably end up rebelling against the libertarian tyranny of his or her parents and becoming hyper feminine or hyper masculine. Damn kids, you can't do a thing with them.

Only time will tell whether or not these gender free early years have a positive effect on the child in later life. Unless Pop's own discovery of gender identity is actively quashed, and as long as Pop continues to be able to make decisions about whether he or she dresses in 'male' or 'female' attire, then it seems that not making an issue of gender is unlikely to be harmful. Some experts even believe that by not being treated as one gender or the other, a child is able to develop their own character independent of expectations.

But is this sort of freedom and individual character building something society can tolerate? Or is it imperative we train children into their future roles from day one?

*Please note that 'Pop' is not the child's actual name, simply a moniker used by the press.

Original Article (Source)

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Comments 18 comments

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Interesting. Keep us posted. have you read the book "Middlesesx"?

Tomgeekery profile image

Tomgeekery 7 years ago

Actually, I would fully support this decision. It's amazing how differently people treat even a newborn depending on what gender it is. Usually either the first or second question parents are asked "Is it a boy or girl?" Why is that important? So we can coo about how beautiful she is, or what a strong man he is going to become. Even the tone of voice changes. This conditions them to conform to society from before they can even understand language. To me, that's scary!

Why? Their gender should have no impact on them at this stage of their lives.

I'd love to link a book that I read that is related, but I can't think of its name.

Tomgeekery profile image

Tomgeekery 7 years ago

Oh, and that is an incredibly courageous decision.

Hope Alexander profile image

Hope Alexander 7 years ago Author

I haven't read Middlesex, but I am guessing I should...

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

I guess I'm old fashioned about this one. The approach may work out fine or the child could be confused and alienated. I accept that some people are transgendered and should be free to assume whatever gender identity is most natural to them. However, I'm not at all sure the model described is best for most children.

Hope Alexander profile image

Hope Alexander 7 years ago Author

Keep in mind Ralph, the child isn't being denied its gender, it is just not being forced upon it, and not revealed to society at large. This way the kid doesn't get treated one way 'because it's a boy', or another 'because it's a girl.'

This has absolutely nothing to do with transgendered people at all. Nothing.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

Well, I'm an admirer of many Swedish customs and conventions, however, I suspect that the approach you describe is unusual even for Sweden. I wonder how many "gender free years" are contemplated by the couple. If they continue too long and could be damaging psychologically, if for example, the child is a boy and they don't cut his hair and dress him as a girl or if it's a girl, they dress her as a boy. Moreover, the scientists who dispute that gender is a "social construct" strike me as being correct. The truth may be that gender may be a continuum from very masculine to very feminine on which we all find ourselves at some point, closer to one end or the other or in some cases in the middle. This point on the continuum is reinforced by social conventions of dress and expected behavior. I don't view this as harmful for most people. The people advocating this approach to gender are probably the same ones who advocate laws requiring men to pee sitting down. :-)

Tom Cornett profile image

Tom Cornett 7 years ago from Ohio

If I were preparing a child for a perfect might work. Good hub...thanks! :)

fortunerep profile image

fortunerep 7 years ago from North Carolina

interesting to see how this will turn out.


Hope Alexander profile image

Hope Alexander 7 years ago Author

Ralph, I thank you for your comments, but it is obvious that you didn't actually read past the first paragraph of the article, which makes your comments entirely off base.

They're not forcing him or her to dress any way, the kid choses what it wants to wear. If it turns out that the kid is a boy and wants to wear shorts, fight with sticks and play with trucks, they're not going to stop that, they're just not forcing it on him or her.

If gender isn't a construct, and the child becomes masculine or feminine naturally, then there is nothing stopping him or her from expressing that, the whole point here is that it won't be forced upon him or her, as it is on most children who are taught how to be a boy or how to be a girl from day 0.

Dr. Gordon profile image

Dr. Gordon 7 years ago from Pennsylvania

While gender is partly a social construct it is also a biological and physiological reality. I suspect that the child will figure it out naturally if he or she is allowed to socialize in a natural way within society.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

Hope, I beg your pardon. I did read your entire article. And I stand by my comments indicating my disagreement with this approach. Dressing a little girl in a dress or a boy in short pants is hardly "forcing" anything on the child. As they grow older, a small number of children may want to make cross-gender choices. That is the time to determine how best to deal with the gender issue. Parents who attempt to curb "Tomboy" behavior of their daughters or feminine interests and traits exhibited by their sons would be well advised not to make an issue of these issues.

Hope Alexander profile image

Hope Alexander 7 years ago Author

Here's my point Ralph, the parents allow the child to dress as it pleases. Therefore, the kid is not forced either way. You seem to be implying that they are forcing a state of genderlessness, when in reality they are only preventing other people from knowing what gender their kid is.

Like Dr Gordon, and the other scientists in the original article, I am personally of the mind that it is probably already fairly obvious whether the kid is a male or female, because even from a young age males and females behave differently, and most children, by the age of 5 or 6, (perhaps younger) usually play quite naturally in gender segregated groups.

I don't think the parents are trying to inhibit the gender development of their child, I think they are trying to relieve any early pressures that would make their child feel pressured to behave one way or another.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

At what age does a child start to have preferences on how to dress? I think the parents are expressing their own strange preferences. I don't see what the advantage is in keeping their child's gender a secret or what's wrong with allowing others to react to the child as a male or female. For 99% of children who are not born gender confused what's wrong with allowing other adults and children to react to them according to their gender? And what's the advantage of not allowing them to refer to the baby as "he" or "she?" I guess I'm missing the point or don't agree with it.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

Further, I wonder what the sexual orientation of the parents is???

Tomgeekery profile image

Tomgeekery 7 years ago

Probably both Ralph.

I feel like I do understand the parents. So allow me to try to explain.

There is a theory that much of the gendered behaviour that we see in even very young children is already influenced by the reactions of those around them. For example, there has been research done (sorry I don't have sources to hand) which concluded that from birth people talk very differently to girls and boys. In general they speak much softer to girls. At this age the child isn't going to understand the words, but there is evidence to suggest that the difference can in fact change brain state.

At a different level, from my own observation girls are constantly bombarded with the need to be beautiful etc. Boys on the other hand are encouraged to be strong. Whatever else young children are, they are adaptable and extremely quickly adapt to their environment.

If any of what I've said is true, and you want your child to grow up as free from the prejudices of society as you can. To allow them to become anything, then it's a quite reasonable thing to do. I don't think it has anything to do with sexual orientation or confusion. I'd say that it is the opposite. It's about protecting them from being boxed just because of what is between their legs. Society pushes negative roles on both sexes from as soon as it knows the sex.

If I ever have another child, I would at least bring up this as a possibility with the mother.

profile image

pauls_boat 7 years ago

i belive this is the best way of raising a child, to not be forced to have to act as a boy or act as a girl would be great if a boy was raised as a boy and then decided he wanted to wear skirts or dresses people would react difrent than if he had been raised as neither and then decided he wanted to dress in skirts, the same as a girl who is raised as a little girl in nice dresses and then decides she wants to wear pants all the time and have her hair cut short would be looked on as having something wrong with them self unlike a girl who was raised as neither boy or girl or both boy and girl and then decides they want to dress as a girl or boy no one wouyld be bothered they would just say that the child has decided who they are.

i wish i had been raised as neither and had the choice to decide how i wanted the world to see me not as it is now that the world know's me as a male and i must have something wrong with me as i decided to wear girls clothes.

i say good luck to them and hope they keep up there belifes untill the child decideds what he/she wants to be classes as.

oscillationatend profile image

oscillationatend 6 years ago from a recovering narcissist.

As a child I played with teenage mutant ninja turtles, cars, baby dolls, and barbies.

And how can you hate an EZ Bake Oven? Freaking delicious light-bulb baked cupcakes.

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