Before I get into this, here are some links to bring you up to speed: Original Toronto Star article about a Toronto couple raising their youngest child, Storm, without a gender. They've not even released his or her sex to anyone other than their other kids, a close family friend and 2 midwives. The Star has also published a follow-up article, with some of the readers' views reflected in said article. And Fox News chimed in on this, making sure to make it sound like a debate between an insane asshole and a decent human being, though I am pretty sure they meant for the AFA guy to be the decent human being (hint: he isn't)
This story, and the furor around it, has highlighted some general ignorance about these topics. I'll clarify some of this and offer my commentary on the story itself after the jump.
Clearing up confusion:
1: Gender and Sex are different things
This is something that it seems nobody commenting on the article seems to truly understand. While they have some basic idea about this, those who oppose these parents' decisions seem to think that gender is some sort of ingrained thing. If you have a penis (meaning you're a male, physiologically) you will be masculine, gender-wise, and vice-versa, they think. Of course, the very existence of Transgendered people shows that, at the very least, this isn't always the case.
2: This is some sort of experiment
The fact is, if it were an experiment rather than parents simply doing what they thought was best for their children, the parents wouldn't be avoiding further media attention. Unlike some absolutely horrible people who are becoming celebrities due to their kids, these people shared their story once and have done their best to keep out of the public eye since, except for telling the media to leave them alone. They aren't giving the results to anyone, and no one except those directly involved in Storm's raising will be able to monitor it at all.
3: This is definitely going to hurt the child
This one pisses me off most. As the American Psychological Association said in the Fox article, there's little, if any, research in this area. That doesn't stop people, including the noted homophobic bigots at the American Family Association, from issuing dire statements about this child's future. (On a side note, hasn't it become apparent that we shouldn't trust an organization with the word "family" in its name? Between a powerful group that wants to make the U.S.A. a theocracy, the guys that said that Spongebob Squarepants was gay and therefore evil, the guys who recently predicted the world would end and profited off this prediction, and the various criminal organizations, it's pretty apparent that "family" is the new "communist") The fact is, we can't tell what will happen, and have no precedents regarding this. In fact, I almost hope this is an experiment, except for the fact it would be quite unethical and slightly illegal. The data gained from such an experiment would be extremely valuable, is all I'm saying.
My Thoughts On The Story
I wholeheartedly support the parents here, and not just the "experiment" factor. Nor is this simply a case of supporting the parents' freedom to choose how to raise their children (I don't, not totally, but that's a subject for another time). No, the fact is that this is a logical progression. When humanity began, we needed some sort of gender roles in order to survive. They didn't have to specifically be divvied out by sex, but it makes enough sense. After all, we needed someone to take care of the kids, and since women already give birth to them and come equipped with breast milk, so why not make them the child-care workers? And since taking care of children keeps one at home, why not make women the home-makers? That left getting food and building stuff and protecting things to the men, who didn't mind, what with all the testosterone and all that.
But, as time went on and we advanced technologicall, the necessity to have specific "gender roles" has lessened to the point where only cultural conservatism keeps gender roles in place. In fact, such traditional gender roles are quite clearly limiting to individual freedom - women are still struggling to assert themselves as capable leaders in the realms of politics and business because leadership is a "masculine" thing, and men lose child custody battles at alarming rates because "women are better parents". Even in small things, gender roles are inescapable. If you're a man, you only watch romance films if your girlfriend forces you to, and you aren't allowed to enjoy them without being labelled as weak; if you're a woman, you only watch action films if your boyfriend forces you, and you can't enjoy it without being "one of the guys" and thus being thought of as "not sexy". It's as if your life's direction is set by your genitals.
In conclusion, traditional gender roles need to continue to shrink until they dissolve completely. I hope that raising one's child without a gender, and allowing the child to choose their own identity, really catches on.
Also, fuck the American Family Association. Seriously. These people are bastards. This cannot be stressed enough.