Stocker family choose to raise baby Storm “genderless”

Storm Stocker, with his older brother Jazz. Picture Courtesy of the Toronto Star

Meet Storm Stocker, the Toronto infant whose parents have decided to raise gender neutral. Besides Storm’s parents, brothers and a few close family friends, nobody knows his or her gender, and Storm’s parents have decided to keep it that way.

When Storm was born, the couple sent an email to friends and family: “We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place? …).”

Their announcement was met with stony silence. Then the deluge of criticisms began. Not just about Storm, but about how they were parenting their other two children.

The grandparents were supportive, but resented explaining the gender-free baby to friends and co-workers. They worried the children would be ridiculed. Friends said they were imposing their political and ideological values on a newborn. Most of all, people said they were setting their kids up for a life of bullying in a world that can be cruel to outsiders.

Witterick and Stocker believe they are giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females. Some say their choice is alienating.

This isn’t the couple’s first experiment in challenging gender norms with an infant child. Storm’s two older brothers have also been given a gender fluid upbringing.

In an age where helicopter parents hover nervously over their kids micromanaging their lives, and tiger moms ferociously push their progeny to get into Harvard, Stocker, 39, and Witterick, 38, believe kids can make meaningful decisions for themselves from a very early age.

“What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious,” says Stocker.

Jazz and Kio have picked out their own clothes in the boys and girls sections of stores since they were 18 months old. Just this week, Jazz unearthed a pink dress at Value Village, which he loves because it “really poofs out at the bottom. It feels so nice.” The boys decide whether to cut their hair or let it grow.

Like all mothers and fathers, Witterick and Stocker struggle with parenting decisions. The boys are encouraged to challenge how they’re expected to look and act based on their sex.

“We thought that if we delayed sharing that information, in this case hopefully, we might knock off a couple million of those messages by the time that Storm decides Storm would like to share,” says Witterick.

They don’t want to isolate their kids from the world, but, when it’s meaningful, talk about gender.

What do early development experts think about the Stocker’s bizarre plan to raise their child without a gender? They think it is potentially disastrous.

“To raise a child not as a boy or a girl is creating, in some sense, a freak,” said Dr. Eugene Beresin, director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It sets them up for not knowing who they are.

“To have a sense of self and personal identity is a critical part of normal healthy development,” he said. “This blocks that and sets the child up for bullying, scapegoating and marginalization.”

It’s one thing to raise a child in a free, nurturing environment that lets them explore and discover themselves, it’s another to create a bizarre and ambiguous environment that robs a child of much needed stability. Parents need to ensure their children are properly socialized and have an understanding of societal norms. The Stocker parents have chosen to ignore that, and instead have opted to bring up there children in a way that makes it almost impossible for them to socialize and integrate with ordinary children.

In addition to being highly experimental and possibly harmful, it is very likely that their experiment is doomed to fail and predicated upon a false notion in the first place. While many gender stereotypes are merely social constructs, a great many of them are actually founded upon our biology.

David Reimer experienced firsthand the disastrous effects of being raised according to “Gender Neutral” principles. After a botched circumcision, his penis was destroyed beyond repair. At the urgings of Psychologist John Money, a proponent of “Gender Neutrality” theory, his parents opted to have David undergo gender reassignment surgery.

They persuaded his parents that sex reassignment would be in Reimer’s best interest, and, at the age of 22 months, orchidectomy was performed to remove his testes. He was reassigned to be raised as a female and given the name Brenda. Psychological support for the reassignment and surgery was provided by John Money, who continued to see Reimer annually for about ten years for consultations and to assess the outcome. This reassignment was considered an especially valid test case of the social learning concept of gender identity for two reasons. First, Reimer’s twin brother, Brian, made an ideal control since the two not only shared genes and family environments but had shared the intrauterine environment as well. Second, this was reputed to be the first reassignment and reconstruction performed on a male infant who had no abnormality of prenatal or early postnatal sexual differentiation.

For several years, Money reported on Reimer’s progress as the “John/Joan case”, describing apparently successful female gender development, and using this case to support the feasibility of sex reassignment and surgical reconstruction even in non-intersex cases. Money wrote: “The child’s behavior is so clearly that of an active little girl and so different from the boyish ways of her twin brother.

This report was vastly different from David’s own experiences:

Reimer’s account, written with John Colapinto two decades later, described how – contrary to Money’s reports – when living as Brenda, Reimer did not identify as a girl. He was ostracized and bullied by peers, and neither frilly dresses (which he was forced to wear during frigid Calgary winters) nor female hormones made him feel female. By the age of 13, Reimer was experiencing suicidal depression, and told his parents he would commit suicide if they made him see John Money again. In 1980, Reimer’s parents told him the truth about his gender reassignment, following advice from Reimer’s endocrinologist and psychiatrist. At 14, Reimer decided to assume a male gender identity, calling himself David. By 1997, Reimer had undergone treatment to reverse the reassignment, including testosterone injections, a double mastectomy, and two phalloplasty operations. He also married Jane Fontaine and became a stepfather to her three children.

What the Stocker family are proposing to do certainly isn’t as drastic: they do not intend to force their child into gender reassignment surgery, nor do they plan to raise their child in a gender in defiance of their child’s wishes. However, they are potentially raising Storm in an environment which will leave him or or her confused about gender and social norms.It is likely Storm will simply opt to live life according to the biological gender assigned to him at birth, after many painful years of isolation, depression and confusion.

Children require stability and boundaries just as much as they require love and affection. Depriving their child of a stable gender (which he or she could choose to reject as they grow and mature) is just as neglectful as depriving them of a stable diet, or home life. The fact that Storm and his or her brothers are raised in an unschooling environment, away from peers their own age, only compounds the problem. By the time Storm is an adult, choosing a gender may be the least of Storm’s worries. It is likely s/he will be thoroughly ill equipped to interact with people on anything but the most basic level.

Read More:

Parent’s keep child’s gender secret – Parent Central

Baby Storm Raised Genderless Is Bad Experiment, Say Experts – ABCNews

David Reimer – Wikipedia

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Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Health, Medicine, People

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7 Comments on “Stocker family choose to raise baby Storm “genderless””

  1. May 31, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Two words for the Stocker family: Fucking ridiculous.

  2. May 31, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    My argument is we’ve gone 65,000 years without having to deliberately deprive the “default” gender associated with a sex, until now. And throughout history it hasn’t stopped people identifying themselves as gay whatsoever. Only social acceptance has stifled that. So this entire “let the child decide what gender it wants to be” argument is void, as it addresses a non-issue. It should grow up as the default male gender if it’s a male sex, default female gender if it’s a female sex, and then if it by chance starts to show signs of rejecting it’s own gender, then it has the right to. It’s kind of retarded to go “Storm, there’s nothing wrong with you and you may very well be a boy, but we’re going to create an issue anyway”. It’s no different to giving kids ritalin before they’ve been diagnosed with ADHD.

  3. Paul
    June 1, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    new born babies are gender neutral by default.
    Some parents pull stupid attention seeking stunts with their children. (like naming you kid ‘space shuttle’ or something) seemingly without consideration for the consequences.
    It’s harmless enough for a short time, but you can’t HIDE the gender of your child.
    Any parent knows there is a big difference between boys and girls (just watch what toys they pick). To think that this is somehow PROJECTED onto them by society is completely naive.
    People need to understand that WE built society, not the other way around. There is a reason for gender roles and it’s not because we’ve been ‘brainwashed’ by society.
    Would you keep your child in a ‘culture’ free environment until they could choose which culture they wanted to be a part of? (same goes for religion / education / diet / values / lifestyle / etc..) you have to give your children what you think is best so that they are fully informed by the time they can make a decision for themselves…

  4. Natalie
    June 21, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    They don’t want Storm to be labeled, but umm … HELLO? He or she is ALREADY labeled beneath that diaper. Now if he decides to be gay or if she decides to be a lesbian, more power to Storm, but hiding the gender is NOT going to label the poor kid, it will only do quite the opposite!! And FYI I’m gay, so don’t call me judgemental!!

    • June 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

      Gender and sexuality are not really one in the same. You’re trying to define gender as sex. Sex is defined by what is in the diaper; not gender. I don’t see your point.

  5. June 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    What kind of director of training in psychiatry uses the word “freak” to describe a person? I remain suspicious.

    Also, it does not deny them a sense of self. Their sense of self is fluid, and will not be held by constructs. That doesn’t mean they will grow up not knowing who they are; not in the slightest. They will probably gravitate toward one gender type as they age, or not. But whether or not they do so, their ideas of themselves will be defined by the fact that they are who they are. Sexually, they are males, but will they behave like boys are “supposed” to? Maybe, maybe not. That doesn’t take away from their sense of self. That’s a ridiculous argument, and quite a weak one.

    Children naturally are curious and pay little mind to gender stereotypes unless they are forced to do so by adults. My brother wanted to play with my Barbies when we were younger. Now he plays football. What of it? The Stockers are just going a step beyond and not telling their sons what boys “should” be doing. They are letting them behave like children will behave. It’s as simple as that. I hope to raise my children the same way. They will be of a certain sex, but I will not force them to believe that gender is so black and white. If my little boy wants to explore wearing a dress, fine. It should not matter. Those who ridicule such parenting are just comfortable with the way things are; they don’t wish to see a change. That kind of belief is the same that spawns hate crimes and prejudice. So maybe if everyone opened their mind to the fact that hey, it’s okay for children to explore their gender and not be inhibited, the better off it’ll be. I mean you’re already trying to set up these children for ridicule and harassment. Why not give it a chance?

    • James Hill
      June 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      “What kind of director of training in psychiatry uses the word “freak” to describe a person? I remain suspicious.”

      His qualifications speak for themselves. His choice in wording might not agree with you, but the reasonable thing to do is address his arguments, not his personality.

      “Children naturally are curious and pay little mind to gender stereotypes unless they are forced to do so by adults. My brother wanted to play with my Barbies when we were younger.”

      This is incorrect. Children naturally conform to many gender stereotypes, including choice in toys. In fact, cross gender play is considered by many psychology professionals to be an early indicator of homosexuality.

      “Those who ridicule such parenting are just comfortable with the way things are; they don’t wish to see a change. That kind of belief is the same that spawns hate crimes and prejudice.So maybe if everyone opened their mind to the fact that hey, it’s okay for children to explore their gender and not be inhibited, the better off it’ll be. I mean you’re already trying to set up these children for ridicule and harassment. Why not give it a chance?”

      Don’t equate disapproval with parenting decisions to be a hate crime. Nobody is advocating harming or excluding the child in any way. Anyway, it is exclusion and bullying by the child’s peers that healthcare professionals are worried about. Like it or not, the vast, vast vast majority of humanity has comfortably existed with clearly defined, binary gender roles. Children and adults alike instinctively try to ascertain another person’s gender because it supplies a wealth of information about that person. I think it is wrong to exclude and victimize people that don’t naturally fit comfortably into either male or female, but to deliberately interfere with a child’s understanding of those roles to make a political statement is beyond irresponsible.

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