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On Parenting
Posted at 03:45 PM ET, 05/25/2011

Is raising a “gender-neutral” child a fantasy?

Suddenly an old question is new again. Can a child be raised “gender-neutral?”

The consensus seems to be “no,” if you trust the reaction to a Canadian couple who have gone public with their attempt to raise their children without the burden of gender.

Kathy Witterick and David Stocker are raising their two sons, five-year-old Jazz and 2-year-old Kio and their as-of-yet-publicly-unidentified-gender infant in a gender-free bubble.

Their story was recounted in the Toronto Star this past weekend. It is spreading fast and the reaction is coming in forcefully negative.

“The denial of biological reality by highly educated, but humanly naive ‘progressives’ — and their choice to privilege the ‘world’ over the needs and rights of their own children — speaks more to their narcissism than to their idealism,” wrote columnist Barbara Kay in today’s National Post.

It all brings back that grade-school lesson on the book “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story,” by Lois Gould, (1978, Daughters Publishing). For those who don’t remember it, the book, which influenced the Canadian couple, chronicled the fantasy case of a child who was raised without public recognition of his or her gender. Baby X was taught to believe he or she should play with trucks and dolls, could aspire to be a nurse or a fireman. I remember thinking at the time that it was an excellent child-rearing model.

But the 70s gave way to more cynical times and, eventually, some of us had our own children.

For me, it took meeting my own girls to realize that some things, like gender, are not just a social construct. Preferences and aspirations can be gender-neutral, but I began to understand, that I, as a parent, had little to do with them.

From what I’ve witnessed so far, I’m thinking these “gender-neutral” children may grow up to be the exact same way they would have been if they’d been raised by Ozzie & Harriet.

What do you think? Is this couple’s experiment dangerous? Is it helpful?

By  |  03:45 PM ET, 05/25/2011

 
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