Unless you live under a rock OR you don’t work in the sexual health field you’ve probably heard about the infamous “Genderless Baby”. If not, let me fill you in. In May 2011 Kathy Witterick and her husband David Stocker made international headlines when a simple entry she made to a relatively unknown parenting blog was outed to the mass media causing a frenzy of newspaper articles, media reports and misinformation about the new parents and their child. What was the blog entry about? Her baby’s gender.
You may be thinking…Why is that so odd? What’s the big deal? Well, her entry was not about welcoming her bouncing baby girl or about dad’s new little man. On the contrary, her entry was about how her and her husband were going to keep their child’s gender to themselves. You see, Kathy already had 2 children when little “Storm” was born. Her experience raising her first 2 children left her with a unique outlook on her children’s gender. Her first boy, Jazz, at an age as early as 18 months had demonstrated that despite the fact that his genitals said he was a boy, he was much more interested and drawn to stereotypical little girl things. He loved to wear pink, he preferred to wear dresses, he wanted to grow his hair long and when his grandparents took him to get his first pair of shoes, he chose the ones with orange toes and pink flowers on the side. As he got older, the outside pressure increased from peers and adults for Jazz to “act more like a boy.” Being an engaged parent, Kathy did extensive research as to how to properly approach this behavior as she wanted to fully support her son. What she found was most experts suggest that as long as the child has a clean and healthy self-image, clothing colours and hair length are an expression of an individual’s choice, even if they are only 18 months.
As the time approached for the new baby to be born, it was 5 year old Jazz who profoundly asked his mommy, would people treat the new baby differently if they knew it was a boy or a girl? What gifts would they bring his little baby sister or brother if they didn’t know? He even asked, if the new baby was a boy would he be allowed to wear pink dresses too? In her only formal response to the media attention, after turning down over 100 requests for interviews including an all expense paid trip to an American morning television, Kathy says “There are moments as a parent when you wish your child would bring a different issue to the table — but there it is, plop! — and if you mean what you say about being kind, honoring difference, having an open mind and placing limits thoughtfully, then you better walk the talk. We agreed to keep the sex of our new baby private”.
Despite the whirlwind of international attention and gross misrepresentation of what are supposed to be “facts”, Kathy and her husband have stood strong on their beliefs and what they feel is the best for their child. I’m sure it was not their intention but their choice has opened a worldwide conversation that could be trans-formative. Their choice has forced us to examine if what we know as “normal” when it comes to gender is actually right or wrong. As a society we are more comfortable if boys wear pants, like trucks and the color blue and girls wear skirts, like dolls and the colour pink. But why? Why does gender have to be so attached to these stereotypes that only make us, as adults, feel more comfortable and in some occasions, seem to do more harm then good to the child itself. If a 4 year old little girl hates skirts, should she be forced to wear then just because she has a vagina? Little Jazz may grow up to me the most macho stud in town, that remains to be seen, but I feel confident if he does he will do so with self confidence, self awareness and respect for other people’s choices based on the life lesson his parents instilled in him: authentically get to know a person by responding to meaningful cues given by the person themselves not by the colour of their shoes.