By Leticia O.
There is a limit to what parents can do in order to protect their children. However, some parents are pushing the limit by raising their children as genderless as possible. This means that parents are not telling anyone the sex of the baby and they are not monitoring that their kids act according to their sex. There’s a family in Canada who has attempted to raise their kids in such a way. Like every other issue, there are pros and cons to this. But what is really best for the child; to grow up with a gender label or not?
How sweet it must be to walk around without feeling the pressure of society’s expectations. People who raise their children as genderless set up a very accepting and supportive environment for their children. In a way, it is good for children to grow up genderless and unaware of society’s stereotypes because that makes it easier for a child to be more open and expressive without the fear of being judged by their own parents for their preferences. In addition, they find their preferences without any external influence, so genderless children are fully themselves. Not only that, but genderless children at a young age learn to be more grounded on their identity, meaning they know exactly what they like and they don’t hide it; and it is completely their decision.
Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2, are the children of the Wittericks, who have decided to keep the sex of their newborn a mystery. Although Jazz and Kio have been identified as boys since birth, their parents have not enforced them to fall into the gender stereotype of boys. In fact, both boys like girlish colors like pink and purple, and like to sport long hair. Jazz and Kio have no idea what a gender stereotype is and they don’t know that according to society, most of their choices would be considered gay. Their parents do not have a television at home so the media will not interfere with the choices the children make. Jazz and Kio get to live their lives every day as innocently as any child could, because they get to enjoy everything without limitations or direct criticism. It seems that being raised this genderless way would raise children with an open mind of the world, which would make them just as understanding and accepting as their parents have been. Unfortunately, these kids will one day have to face the gender questions; and that’s where the problems come in.
Gender stereotypes, and lack thereof, are problematic for multiple reasons. Gender stereotypes are troublesome for people whose genders are identified because now those people, which is the majority of people, have to live under society’s rules of conforming to one’s gender. That means boys have to like certain things and girls have to like certain things. If males and females don’t act according to their gender stereotypes, they get shamed and humiliated for not abiding by society’s rules. Basically, people whose genders are identified have to hide their actual identity in order to not be shunned by the rest of the world. If a person grows up genderless, it can be problematic because of people’s curiosity and cruelty. Once a person finds out that a child who is clearly a boy or clearly a girl is being raised genderless, people might try to mold the child’s mind into conforming to society’s expectations. That would be disrespecting the parent’s wishes and it would confuse a young child. Not only that, but these children are not afraid to hide their preferences, and for that, they are at risk of teasing and bullying for both children and adults alike.
Jazz, who is only five, has begun to face the downside of being raised as gender neutral. As Jazz and his mom go to check out schools, the question is always raised of whether he is a boy or a girl. Jazz has admitted that he does not feel comfortable answering these sorts of questions, as his mentality is not fully mature enough to answer these questions. As nice as it may be to grow up gender and stereotype-free, that’s not what society goes by and it can be very difficult to transition from that naïve and innocent world into the real world. Not only is it difficult to transition, but it’s difficult to face the scrutiny of others for being raised with different views and beliefs. As a genderless child going to a school, one can only imagine the bullying coming from fellow classmates and the curios questioning of the teachers. One very difficult effect of being raised genderless is a growing teenager’s self-identity. Inevitably, gender is part of everyone’s personal sense of self and not having a specific gender classification can confuse and trouble a teen. It seems that remaining gender neutral would become increasingly difficult as a person grows.
As parents, one wants to protect their children from everything. Raising a child to be free of gender roles and gender stereotyping is a way in which some parents have chosen to protect their children. Growing up in a world that is supportive and accepting of a free, open-minded child is a great world; and it seems like a wonderful choice of raising a child. From the looks of it, however, remaining gender neutral as one grows can prove to be challenging. So the question remains: who’s to know if raising children as gender neutral is beneficial?
1. Piosson, Jayme. “Parents Keep Child’s Gender Secret.” The Star: Parent. Toronto Star Newspapers, 21 May 2011. Web. 1 April 2013. <http://www.thestar.com/life/parent/2011/05/21/parents_keep_childs_gender_secret.html>
2. James, Oliver and Bindel, Julie. “How Important Is Gender?.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. 25 May 2011. Web. 1 April 2013. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/26/how-important-is-gender>