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.
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