While some may cheer the ideals of Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, others are skeptical and even fear for the development of the child. Storm, born to the Toronto couple some four months ago, remains “gender-neutral,” with very few people knowing Storm’s sex. The couple’s other two children, 5-year-old Jazz and 2-year-old Kio, are being raised similarly, with the parents refusing to guide their gender. Both Jazz and Kio are males but, due to their long hair and affinity for the color pink, are often mistaken for girls.
Kathy Witterick and David Stocker have valid points about society’s oppressiveness when it comes to gender roles, but I fear that using their own young children as counterpoints to societal gender norms could harm their development and psychological well-being. Jazz and Kio are “unschooled,” according to the couple, which is essentially homeschooling without much, if any, formal structure. The kids’ curiousity guides the learning.
What happens when Jazz, Kio, and Storm have to eventually leave the family home and venture out into the world? Hopefully, they will be quite well-adjusted. Unfortunately, with the parents’ rigid emphasis on gender neutrality, they might not be. Without the gender norm guidance received by 99.999% of the population it is difficult to predict how the three children will interpret their own gender and its societal roles at age 16, 18, or 21. If a child is intentionally sheltered from gendered life and its myriad of complexities and subtleties, how might they handle the sudden changes of puberty?
Perhaps somewhat disturbingly, this quote from the Zachary Roth article on Yahoo!News reveals that the impetus for this grand experiment may not be rooted in anything well-researched:
“Stocker came across a book from 1978, titled X: A Fabulous Child’s Story by Lois Gould. X is raised as neither a boy or girl, and grows up to be a happy and well-adjusted child.
‘It became so compelling it was almost like, How could we not?’ Witterick said.”
Hopefully David Stocker and Kathy Witterick had more to guide their idea of gender-neutral child-rearing than one book from 33 years ago that was centered around a single child. I worry that what may seem progressive and egalitarian with children under age 6 could quickly become something that creates deep-seated pyschological issues post-puberty.
Eventually the Stocker-Witterick progeny trio must leave the “unschooled” and gender-neutral nest, at which point they may be bombarded with more gendered challenges than they, or their parents, are prepared to handle. Society will expect the biologically-male children to behave as young men and the biologically-female children to behave as young women. With humans being a social species, dooming one’s progeny to a lengthy period of confusion and potential ostracism by his or her peers seems much more detrimental than allowing them to become gendered (which, by the way, most of us handle well enough).
So, to those of you who support the idea of strict gender-neutrality in children, please consider the potential future drawbacks. Do not subject a kid to this controversial experiment.