Gender Bent or Gender Rent?

Posted on 25 May 2011

Never will I forget the true tale of the newborn boy whose doctors … how can I put this delicately? … accidentally circumcised him to within an inch of his life.  When they were done, the poor kid didn’t even have an inch.  Devastated, the parents seized upon a radical and yet logical solution.  They had their son surgically altered to become their daughter.  When the child approached puberty, the parents planned to complete the transformation with hormone treatments.  As they awaited this final passage into femininity, they dressed and treated their child as if he had been born a girl.

According to the sociologist who’d authored the essay, the child appeared to be completely healthy from a psychological perspective.  When I read this story years ago via a reputable source — the most widely adopted sociology textbook in the college market, a book I’d helped to produce — the child in question was still a toddler.

What happened in the succeeding years, I will never know; thankfully, the author did not expose the child’s identity.  I do know that under those impossible circumstances, the parents acted in the best interests of their child. The same cannot be said of Kathy Witterick and David Stocker of Toronto, Canada.

Witterick and Stocker are keeping the sex of their four-month-old a secret from the general public, neighbors, and the child’s own grandparents.  They’re not doing this because some medico’s hand slipped during a routine procedure, leaving the child minus his genitalia.  They’re doing it, they say, to give the kid choices.

Their rationale?  They don’t want the gender-neutrally named Storm to be limited by societal perceptions of how a boy, or a girl, should dress, wear his/her hair, play, or otherwise live.  Since the couple is already raising their two older boys in this manner, their move doesn’t strike me as a ploy to score their fifteen minutes of fame.  But it does strike me as terribly harmful to the child’s psyche.

Sociologists sometimes refer to children as “developing people”, for the little ones are indeed evolving.  As children move through the process of maturation, they require guidelines from their parents and/or other responsible adults charged with their care (note the word “responsible”).  This structural foundation enables children to form a strong sense of self as well as respect for others. It allows them to understand right from wrong.  Without this basis, how can children arrive at decisions that will impact their lives in the long and short term?

By concealing and bending Baby Storm’s gender, his parents will have robbed him — or her — of the very choices they seek to give their child.   In place of a strong groundwork for critical thinking skills and a true sense of identity, Witterick and Stocker have given Storm little of value.  They have ransomed their child’s normal developmental process for political correctness. They have mistakenly deemed the blurring of gender to be the sole route to strength, creativity, spirituality, and ultimately, happiness.  I know this because, although born and raised as girls in traditional Italian-American households, the women in my family have broken gender stereotypes while still retaining their femininity and enjoying their lives.

My grandmother, who spoke no English when she arrived at Ellis Island, became the sole support of two families: her parents and siblings, and later, her disabled husband and four children.  Legally, with her own blood, sweat, and tears, and with no help from anyone, even during the Great Depression, my grandmother earned a respected position and more money than most men of her social class.  And, she single-handedly broke the back of a corrupt union.

My aunt, who was compelled to drop out of high school to help support the family, completed her education many years later, attaining her diploma as well as a paralegal certificate.  She did this as a widow, with no other means of financial support.  She went on to run the law firm of a former New York Senator who shall, for reasons of privacy, remain unnamed in this article.

My aunt’s two daughters have, for many years, held Black Belts in karate.

Another cousin of mine, a woman, has, for the last thirty years, managed a company in the male-dominated construction industry.  Everything she touches turns to gold.

As a child, I played with dinosaurs, dump trucks, live reptiles, and anything else that did not resemble a doll or other traditionally female toys.  And I’m proud of my own accomplishments … which, out of humility (☺), we’ll forego mentioning here.

Be he a boy or be she a girl, I fear that little Storm will never have such opportunities.  I fear that he or she will never break free of the mold that, ironically, his or her parents have created in their quest for gender equality.  Shame on them!

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One Response to “Gender Bent or Gender Rent?”

  1. Kailey Horne says:

    Too bad people can have babies without first applying for a license to do so. If that were the case, these two parents would never have been allowed to procreate.

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