Keeping Secrets and A Genderless Baby

Sending out Emails after your child's birth is not unusual – but announcing that you are keeping the child's gender a secret is not the norm. But two parents issued such a missive believing that it is a statement about choice and freedom for their newborn. It appears to be part of an experiment to bring up a child as free of social pressure as possible with regard to gender stereotype.

And it doesn't appear to have been a publicity stunt as most of us might first think, although a Swedish couple had already launched a similar child-rearing project. (Boy, Girl, or Neither? Raising A Child Without Gender.) When the Canadian parents found themselves on the cover of one of their country's biggest newspaper's, The Toronto Star, they were genuinely surprised said the story's author. She spent two days with the parents and seems convinced that they were launching an enlightened social experiment rather than a publicity stunt.

Sizzle seems androgynous in both name and features, it barely needs saying!
Sizzle seems androgynous in both name and features, it barely needs saying! | Source

When Storm is able to speak, he or she might have a few questions about the whole gender identity thing; and certainly by the time Storm is a teenager, it would be unusual if there wasn't a whole lot said. But parents do a lot worse to their children in the name of science than try to create the opportunity to give them an androgynous baby/childhood. But I expect the cat to be out of the bag long before Storm utters too many words let alone forms a sentence or says what s/he really thinks.

Storm was born with the assistance of two mid-wives; he or she also has two brothers aged two and five and, of course, there are the two parents – that's six people who already know the secret. That is not an auspicious beginning for a secret; any secret that is known by six people is bound to be short lived. And that is probably a very good thing. However well intentioned the parents may be launching their social experiment, Robert Heinlein's observation that “Secrecy was the beginning of tyranny” seems to probably sum things up quite well from my perspective.

The stress and pressure on Storm's siblings must be enormous. Just being told that you are not to repeat something is hard to do as an adult, and surely doomed and possibly even cruel if it's a child or children who are meant to keep the secret. I can remember that it required a Herculean effort to keep the slightest confidence from the moment I was as told. As a child, walking around with a secret was much the same as carrying a sack of rocks on your back. And adults don't do too much better. The load's a lot lighter when you are free of rocks or secrets.

I hope the four adults involved are all teetotalers. The rest of us know that secrets and wine don't mix. In vino veritas is something that's been oft repeated over the centuries. There seems no better time to share a confidence with your good drinking buddies than after a few drinks or, in politer circles, there might be a pleasant dinner party accompanying the vintage wine. As secrets go, I think that the circle of six will quickly grow, and how many people have to know something before it is no longer a secret? And if the secret was about me, I wonder how I would feel when I discovered everyone was keeping a secret from me? It seems to me that Storm is being surrounded by some terrible role models if honesty is a value. Also I wonder at a world, myself included, that is caught up in so much triviality that masquerades as something serious when it should be either ignored or treated with the frivolity it deserves.

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Comments 26 comments

TeaPartyCrasher profile image

TeaPartyCrasher 5 years ago from Camp Hill, PA

I think it could be interesting. I agree that the child will figure it out soon enough. (s)He will be able to figure out that (s)he looks more like one or the other parent.

I don't think the parents are being cruel either.


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Hi TeaPartyCrasher, my own suspicion is that we are all pretty well hard wired in many ways and Storm will not be too affected by the early treatment. Also, an argument could be made that the parents are trying to imprint their own values on the child and that may be a kind of arrogance! But it is and could continue to be interesting, as you say. Thanks for your comments and thoughts.


Quilligrapher profile image

Quilligrapher 5 years ago from New York

By the time Storm reaches grammar school, s/he will have to alternate public rest rooms to keep the secret. Will s/he be checking both gender boxes on the driver's license application? By exaggerating the contrast between Storm and his/her peers, the psychological impact may be less liberating than the misguided parents imagined. Perhaps Storm will grow up to be asexual like a worm. Q.


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Hi Quilligrapher; As I said in my previous comment, I suspect we are hard wired in these things and it is often a surprise to a parent or parents to have someone quite unexpected evolve. Cher is an example of someone who tried to groom a daughter who always thought of herself as a boy.

I agree with you that life is quite difficult enough without having parents conduct their own psychological experiments on their children. The way they live their own lives will be the greatest influence.

Parents have not been too affective in influencing their children in matters of sexuality generally and I suspect will have little impact on Storm. He or she will have a strong sense of gender whatever the parents do - I would put money on it. The child will exhibit gender specific behaviors before he or she understands the difference. Most male and female brains show distinct differences, although this type of thing can be put on a bell curve as can almost everything else.

Take care,

Sem


Tony DeLorger profile image

Tony DeLorger 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

great article Sem. I'm not even sure where I stand on this issue, I can see where they're coming from but it will backfire shortly, secrets are bound to be broken. And in the end, if it were kept a secret, what makes you think this experiment won't hurt the child. Gender association may have negative aspects, but not having it may leave the child in a mental state of not belonging. I may be cynical but I see only disaster. thanks Sem, and interesting subject.


Sun-Girl profile image

Sun-Girl 5 years ago from Nigeria

Awesome hub which i enjoyed reading from.


TeaPartyCrasher profile image

TeaPartyCrasher 5 years ago from Camp Hill, PA

Sem:

I corresponded, for awhile, with a person who saving up for "gender reassignment". It did get me to think a lot about the idea of gender being physical, or mental.

Quill:

I think by the time Storm reaches grammar school, (s)he will have figured out 'what' (s)he is.


THAT Mary Ann 5 years ago

Androgeny - or, I suppose, a "gender-free" experiment like this- may be rife with risks for the child who, of course, has no vote on how his early years will be handled. This seems unfair and even actionable. Should the parents be able to subject the child to all this kind of upbringing may generate? The child will bear the fruits of this experiment, not the parents.

I happen to have a friend who is a scholar on this subject. For those interested here are some references:

Fausto-Sterling, Anne (1992). Myths of gender: biological theories about women and men. New York: BasicBooks. ISBN 0-465-04792-0.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne (2000). Sexing the body: gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-07714-5.

Rated UP and awesomely interesting topic


chefsref profile image

chefsref 5 years ago from Citra Florida

This looks like more of a political statement by the parents rather than anything that might help the child. The number of LBGT people around points out the fact that sexuality is not determined by parental influence.

Interesting topic.

Voted up and awesome


Mimi721wis profile image

Mimi721wis 5 years ago

Interesting hub. I think the parents are adding an unnecessary stress to the child's life. They are drawing attention to this child which may cause the child to feel different over time.


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Thanks for your thoughts Tony; it seems unlikely that the parents would have proceeded without doing some research on the subject. Having recognized that I have become more suspicious of the parents' motivation. The more the possibility of any kind of exploitation suggests itself, the more worried I become. I hope it is not one more example of parents using their children to get rich quick.

Regardless of the parents motivation, as you suggest, it is an experiment that is probably best ended sooner rather than later.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Stay well,

Sem


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Thank you Sun-Girl for your kind comment.


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Hi TeaPartyCrasher; it sounds like you would have gained some insights as a result of your correspondence with the person awaiting gender reassignment. As chefsref suggests in his comment, my understanding is that the parents have really little or no role influencing their children in these matters other than contributing the DNA that contributed to the brain's preferences in these things.

The secret of Storm's gender will be out long before grammar school unless the family is planning a long reality series or something nefarious, I am sure.

It really is rather an odd story, the more I think about it. Thanks for your take on it.


justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

Seems like silly business to me, being a kid of either gender is crazy enough. I Just don't see the point. Peace!! Tom


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Hi THAT Mary Ann:

Thank you for the references. It seems strange to me that everyone around a child is going to practice a kind of duplicity until the child figures it out. As you say, it doesn't sound like the best way to start out in life. As far as being actionable, I am no lawyer but it does seem that if lying, being unkind or doing even worse to children was a crime, there would be a sizable percentage of parents in trouble. And perhaps they should be!

Thank you for your valuable contribution - thank you.


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Thanks chefsref - I think that you are right in all your observations - more and more I think it is all about the parents rather than their child as they would have us believe.


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Hi Mimi721wis I think that you are right and the baby will have a lot more difficult time of it because of his or her parents - thanks for your comment.


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Hi justom - it is silly and I don't know why I feel compelled to write about it unless it is to bare witness to the crazy antics of the world in as reasonably a good humored way as possible.

Thanks for your accurate observation!


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Hi justom - it is silly and I don't know why I feel compelled to write about it unless it is to bare witness to the crazy antics of the world in as reasonably a good humored way as possible.

Thanks for your accurate observation!


Wil C profile image

Wil C 5 years ago from United States of America

Interesting article, sembj. I believe the parents job is to provide their children with the ability to grow and adapt in our society. Playing cloak and dagger with the child's gender is a mistake. However I do believe that people should allow their children to understand how both genders look at the world.


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Hi Wil C: I agree with all you have to say. And there is every reason to be as open as possible regarding gender, sexual preference, etc, since, beside everything else, our children will grow up with strong ideas of their own on these things. And it is only sensible as well as reasonable and loving for our children to believe we our supportive in decisions that can be very problematic for them without having to worry about their parents in addition to everything else.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 5 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

Thanks for a really interesting Hub, Sembj!

I wonder how long the parents expect to continue this 'secret?' After all, the child will soon enough notice that everyone else is a girl or boy, and want to know what that means--and more than 'want to know,' s/he will need to know what that means. And of course as soon as s/he learns about the basic anatomical facts, the game is up.

BTW, I don't think it's 'arrogance' for parents to pass on their values--more their *responsibility*, I'd have said. Ideally, they'd have enough confidence to tackle it *and* enough humility to recognize themselves as fallible--especially during the teenage years, when individuation is the main developmental task.


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Thank you Doc Snow and you make a good point about values although I suspect that the values that are passed on are usually observed more in the breach than the observance. The younger generations would do well not to emulate the example that has been set by the boomers. When our children are old enough they look at our behavior rather than listen to our words and they should find as wanting.

It is sad that values are rather like principles, people like to pretend they mean a great deal but both experience and now research teaches us that our behavior does not reflect our principles when given a choice, say, between sticking to our principles versus some financial or other advantage is presented to us.

We have a great deal of evidence to suggest that we are an untrustworthy lot as a whole and need to be closely watched. We only have to look to the record and behavior of those we elect to represent us to see the unfortunate truth. Democracy has become broken because we cannot trust those we elect to represent us properly - often they serve other interests who reward them well. It is sad that we do not expect more from those we elect - it almost seems we have excepted that our politicians often serve others than the citizens they are meant to represent.

Values is an interesting topic that I should probably have avoided here!

Thanks again.


d.william profile image

d.william 5 years ago from Somewhere in the south

Interesting article and fascinating comments. Everyone is 'assuming' that this child is either a boy or a girl.

To me, that shows the lack of concern, compassion and understanding that most people have about physiological differences in the first place.

As i read your article, i could not help but think that, just perhaps, this child is one of the rare birth anomalies known as a true hermaphrodite.

The hermaphrodite possess both the male and female genitalia. It is a rather rare phenomenon, but extremely traumatic for the child when the parents attempt to "assign a gender" to suit their own choice.

There is absolutely no way of knowing which "choice" this child will make, and trying to force one or the other, could cause permanent emotional scars on this child for life.

I have known a few hermaphrodites who were brought up either as female, or male, according the the desire of the parents.

One of those people that i knew, and studied, was surgically altered at birth so that this child would be brought up female, as was the parents wish. When this child grew up, as a lesbian, and realized what the parents had done, she attempted suicide several times before she came to the acceptance of the reality that she could not change what has been done. To have to live one's live as a lesbian when they were born with both 'functional' sexes is quite an adjustment to make for any child, or adult to be forced into making.

So, just how will society categorize, reject, or accept this possibility? The answer to this question is that society has no rights at all in categorizing, or judging this child or any other child born into this world.

My article: "Are People Born Gay? Read this article, then YOU decide", describes the scale into which each and every one of us fall. And for anyone to make a judgement about another is truly a sin against humanity.


Georgie98 profile image

Georgie98 5 years ago from UK

I heard this happened in New Zealand and the 2 brothers were actually twins. I'm guessing the gender is a boy because they already have 2 boys and it would be more likely that outcome than a girl. Also the name, Storm, if in fact this did happen in NZ then there is more evidence it is a boy. I have a female friend in NZ called Storme. With a female you add the extra 'e' like in fiancée.

As for the parent's views on how many wrong decisions parents make in general for kids is outrageous. A child doesn't understand the world and life to be able to make decisions that can be considered obnoxious. And a baby - small child can DEFINITELY & SHOULD DEFINITELY NOT make the decision on their gender. Gender is chosen via genetics, if that person chooses to change their change when they are older then that is their prerogative.


Sembj profile image

Sembj 5 years ago Author

Thanks for your comments Georgie98 and I think you are right on with everything you say. My wife used similar logic as you to guess that Storm was a boy too. (She said if they had had a girl after two boys, they couldn't help but tell everyone.) Now the added evidence of the "e" at the end to signify female seems to just about wrap it up.

Again, thank you for adding some more useful details to what is really rather a sad story.

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