Parents Raising ‘Genderless’ Children

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 by from Buzzworthy Bulletins

genderless baby

Baby Storm’s gender is a family secret. It’s parents, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, decided to hide it’s gender “in an effort to provide the child freedom to eventually decide on a gender identity, without the influence of societal expectation and narrow, traditional gender roles.”  

Baby Storm’s five-year-old brother, Jazz, was raised the same way and is often mistaken to be female, due to “his penchant for wearing his hair in braids and sometimes donning a dress.” And even though Jazz is old enough for school, he elected not to start last year because he doesn’t want to get made fun of.  

Witterick said, “People – children and adults – would immediately react with Jazz over his gender. That’s mostly why he doesn’t want to go to school.”

Yes, children should be raised to feel comfortable and confident with their sexual preferences and identities, whether they are typical or not. But a part of growing up includes developing an identity; and creating this “expectation-free zone” may do more damage than good. How can you create an identity if you can’t say whether you are a boy, or a girl?

Dr. Harold Koplewicz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, said, “The fact is that gender differences are not all socially invented, and they’re not all chosen – there are differences in male and female brains that show up rather early in children’s development. It’s not just a stereotype that girls tend to develop language skills earlier, and find it easier to sit still, while boys tend to be more rambunctious. Some of the typical variation in boys’ and girls’ play – the trucks vs. dolls – is based on those inherent differences between the majority of boys and the majority of girls.”

Koplewicz says that the most disturbing part of this story is the secret Witterick and Stocker have asked their sons to keep. Not only does he say it’s unhealthy to keep family secrets, but he also says, “Gender is a part of who we are, even if we hope that it wouldn’t matter as much as it often does. Pretending it doesn’t exist isn’t a good message to send to a child – or an infant. It magnifies, rather than reducing, its importance.”

What do you think? Is this the end of gender roles as we know them? Do you think Storm’s parents are brilliant and making ground-breaking gender role changes, or are they abusing their children? Could you keep your baby’s gender a secret?

What do you think? Parents Raising ‘Genderless’ Children

Kim ShannonEditor

Kimberly Shannon is a wife, a mother, an editor, a writer ... She is always working to find the perfect balance¹! After Kimberly received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism, she worked on two master’s degree programs (Creative Writing, and Marriage and Family Therapy). At various times in her life she has signed up to study Naturopathy, only to back out at the last minute, and humored the idea of returning full-time to the world of dance. Kimberly has also started 10 different children ... More

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125 comments

  1. Avatar of Emily Emily says:

    Brittany, what is disturbing is even though this is an opinion based comment section, you took it to the same low every religious extremist takes it to. What really needs to be said is the choices that the parent is making is not helping a child be boy or girl. Children and babies need us to dress them and feed them, an until they are old enough to recognize the differences of life, than we give them freedom. Yes, dress a boy in a pink polo, but put some pants on him. Put a dress on a little girl. When hormones and individuality come into play than a child’s personality will show through
    Very sad for this child that he is insecure and can’t go to school cause he is worried about being bullied.

  2. Avatar of LorieAnn LorieAnn says:

    um I’m confused. Why is this even an option? why are these parents doing this to their children. And if the child is a boy, why are you dressing him as a giril? when are toddlers able to make solid mature decisons? were the parents raised this way? if not why torture your children? you are just setting your children up to being outcast instead of allowing them to grow and be strong. Also they are being called ‘IT!!!”, that alone is ridiculous. Dogs aren’t even called it!

  3. Avatar of MrsA MrsA says:

    That’s nice. Go around calling your child an “it” instead of “he” or “she.” Let’s just take the personhood out of children. Wait… that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

    Good grief. Teach your children to be strong, not to not even know whether they are boys or girls, or to confuse the rest of the world.

    When did it become a problem for the world to know whether you are a male or a female?

  4. Avatar of Adriane Adriane says:

    I hate gender stereotypes. I’m a mother of three and an Electrician working in a male dominated job. I think it’s ridiculous to hide your child’s sexual identity. In the end I think it’s going to screw the kid up more than anything else.

  5. Avatar of Chelsey Chelsey says:

    I don’t think it matters what a parent imposes on their children as far as gender is concerned. In the end, as a child grows they will find their own identity whether or not it’s the one the parents wants or not. I have two girls two years apart and I have raised them both the same. I dressed them both in girly clothes, they have feminine names, and they both have totally opposite identities as far as gender goes. My oldest refused to wear anything remotely feminine and has even told me several times she wants to be a boy. I thought it was just a phase at first, but I realize now it is who she is. She goes to school dressed in boy clothes and to my knowledge nobody cares. As for my youngest, she would she would ride a pink unicorn over the rainbow into fairy princess land if she could. Yes I dressed them like girls, but not to that extreme. Your child should be loved for the unique individual that they are becoming, and no more.

  6. Avatar of Megan Megan says:

    There is a fine line to this.
    I personally don’t like the set stereotypes for male/female.
    It’s totally driving me nuts that most things for girls are pink and related to princesses…
    I don’t think color is or should be gender specific, and as for the princess idea… there are better and more empowering ideals to raise your daughter with.

    It’s a great idea to help your child find their own identity, and not give them limits on what they can achieve to be… but not giving them some sort of guidance as to what those limitless options are, could back-fire.
    They’re kids… they have no idea what this world is about. You can teach your child that their gender is he or she, but that they’re not limited to society’s ideas of what that means.

    Again, a fine line… probably some trial and error, but hopefully the end results are an adult who knows who they are, are comfortable with it, and who exceeds through life without stereotype restrictions.

  7. Avatar of Nikki Nikki says:

    I believe that society is a bit closed minded when it comes to parenting techniques. I don’t think it’s right to have the other children lie about the babies gender. There are many children who as they grow don’t feel right in their own bodies. I think they should know their own gender and when they are older decide what works best for them. However you shouldn’t force them to chose gender specific toys either.

  8. Avatar of kdhodapp kdhodapp says:

    They aren’t groundbreaking parents. It is one thing to let your boy play with dolls or your girl play with trucks. That is the child’s decision and preference. It is another thing entirely to force your child to essentially lie to everyone around them by keeping a secret that big. It has to be confusing to the child and upsetting to be called “It” instead of he or she. It isn’t like there are other pronouns that could be used. Obviously the kid has a problem with it if “it” doesn’t want to go to school. If “it thinks kids will pick on “it” then “it” understands enough about what is happening to know there is something wrong with the situation.

  9. Avatar of Brittany Brittany says:

    This is sick and wrong. They are disgusting human beings. It is a god issue. God chose for those children to be the sex they are and those filthy people are trying to change that. They don’t deserve children.

  10. Avatar of Sara Sara says:

    We aren’t talking about parents Choosing gender, this isn’t a GOD issue! We are talking about the parents not telling others the gender of their child and giving them neutral names in some strange effort to avoid gender rolls or stereo types being imposed on to their child. It seems like there is something missing in whatever they are trying to accomplish since ” he (Jazz) elected not to start last year because he doesn’t want to get made fun of.” obviously he is not comfortable in his non-gender roll either…
    PS since when does a 5 year old get to elect to go to school or not? Parents be parents, you are responsible for the adult they become. When he elects to not get a job and elects not to contribute to society and elects to be a burden on the rest of us… that’s on you!

  11. Avatar of Michelle Michelle says:

    WHat a difficult question. I didn’t even read the article and I can;t get wit it!

  12. Avatar of Amanda Amanda says:

    What a difficult question. Even as a long-term student of human development, I still am not sure if there is a “right” or “wrong” way to approach the topic of gender with children. Babies and toddlers do not usually associate with gender, so arguing about a child’s potential traumatization over being identified as the “wrong” gender isn’t really worth the worry.

    Deciding to be completely gender-neutral in terms of talking about your child can be tricky and annoying… If you can’t use pronouns such as she/he, how will you discuss them? Referring to your male baby as an “it” can be more traumatizing in the long run than using the gender specific terms of he or him.

    My husband and I have decided not to share the gender of our soon-to-be babe with our family or friends yet, simply because we know that societal traditions say boys are to be covered in blue while girls are to be drowned in pink… Neither of us like the idea of walking into a baby’s room that looks like a flamingo or Smurf exploded in there.

  13. Avatar of MalouSimone MalouSimone says:

    I’m a woman, European, atheist and educated in childrens development. Genetics decides which gender you’ll have and as an infant you can be treated by others as a boy or a girl. but when a child get his/hers own voice and oppinion, we as adults have to accept their choices but then still protect them from gettin hurt. We have to give the children the room for personal development!

  14. I’m a spiritual woman n I’m raising my children to be with God, with that said is God who chooses what n who u r n my opinion is you are harming your children by making them hide what gender they are as well as you gearing them to be something they not, cause as parents is our role to guide them teach them and help them not hurt them

  15. Avatar of Jen Jen says:

    I think their identity should start with “here is what a man or woman physically is.” I don’t think there’s any shame in a boy wearing a dress. And I don’t understand why they would let them “choose their identity” at such a young age and then teach them it’s best to be ashamed of themselves and hide by not starting school right when they should. The I’ll just get made fun of for being older than the rest of his class now. Major mixed messages from those parents.

  16. “God” as some of you people say decides our gender. I also assume you are against homosexuality?
    If it is a matter of God and the Bible then wearing clothes made out of two different fabrics and touching anything, or anyone especially males while you are on your period is a Sin. These are both stated in the bible.
    I am an advocate for LGBT community rights. I believe that no matter what you are born it is your choice to choose what gender you want to be.
    It is also SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN that some babies are born with the wrong gender chromosomes that match their brain development. Causing Biological girls to have a “man’s mindset” and Vice Versa for Biological Males.
    If God chooses our gender then what about Hermaphrodites? What sin could a child have committed in the whom to
    have been granted such a sad thing as not being able to be a certain gender?
    Before you go throwing biased judgement into the above Parents choice for their children, do your research on gender identity.

    • Avatar of Surah Surah says:

      I’m a Christian. Yes I believe homosexuality is wrong. But it is between God and them, just like my problem of gossiping is between God and myself. I will be held accountable as well. But that is not what this article is about. I believe these parents are harming their children by ignoring the simple facts of life. The confusion this will cause is boundless. This is how sexual orientation is determined, by knowing which you are and learning “how the world works”. Check up with these children as teenagers and as 50-year-old adults, please. I have a feeling this parenting technique is more about the parents than the children. As for your comments Khadijah, that’s wonderful that you have found a cause to support. But do not make the same mistake that you are implying others are making. There are so many in the LGBT community that “fight” for respect and equal rights while ignoring others’. They do not want us to cast stones, but have no problem chucking a few at us. Do not mock our standards and our Holy book when you have clearly not read it. The period statement is misquoted. We are not to engage in sexual activity while on our menses. And who would? I personally find that disgusting, and don’t want my husband anywhere NEAR me during that time for multiple reasons. And before you begin to dig at me for “gay bashing”, read the beginning of my reply. Although I do not agree with it, I am NOT God, therefore it is not my job to judge, your’s neither. This article has nothing to do with faith OR homosexuality – so don’t “faith bash” us.

  17. Avatar of Joy Joy says:

    This is the most ridiculous story I have every heard. God decides our gender. Who are we to decide to be the opposite of what God made us to be. God does not make mistakes. Those innocent children will suffer ridicule and gender confusion because their parents want them to be “gengerless”. That is so sad. Their parents are leading these children down the wrong path by letting them believe there is something wrong with them because they are a boy, or a girl. I pray that these parents will stop this and allow their son and daughter to grow happy in their own skin being who they were created to be.

  18. Avatar of kimberly kimberly says:

    this doesn’t seem right.

  19. Avatar of Alanna Alanna says:

    I tend to agree with most of the mothers that have commented previously. I would personally be afraid that my child would become confused about his/her identity as opposed to having a more definitive one. I understand where these parents are coming from, but I am just not sure that it is actually going to help a tiny person to discover who they are. I also agree that a child is not at all able to determine whether or not he/she is ready for school. Parenting is about raising strong individuals with the ability to endure an amount of bullying. This poor child is fearful of his peers and others due to his parents’ actions. Regardless, everyone has a right to raise their children how they see fit. I just believe that this genderless method is counterproductive.

  20. Avatar of Kim Kim says:

    When I was in college I began developing some very strong ideas about how I was going to raise my children and all of the things I was going to do to “protect” them from the dangers I saw lurking in the world, but then I graduated, married, had children. Basically, I got out into the real world and I my eyes were opened. I realized that some of the things that seemed so obvious to me in school, really were not the best options after all. Listening to the story of this family saddens me, it makes me think of the kids as science experiments rather than people and it seems cruel. They will be the butt of jokes later and they are being allowed to make adult decisions while they are only babies. Permission to start school or wait is a question that is too mature to be answered by a 5 year old. An adult should make such a responsible decision, but it doesn’t seem like these parents are the appropriate people to offer a decision in this case. I believe gender & sexuality are not choices we make after birth but determined at conception or before. I hope that these children can get past the scars their parents are causing them.

    Parents have a right to pass on thier views to their children but their needs to be some measurement to determine when it becomes abuse. I am sure that they intended for this to show their children how much they love them but with all of the outside influence, as well as, the internal issues that will come up from the identity issues revolving around the fact that they didn’t have any idea of gender relations would be during early childhood.

  21. Avatar of Kim Kim says:

    When I was in college I began developing some very strong ideas about how I was going to raise my children and all of the things I was going to do to “protect” them from the dangers I saw lurking in the world, but then I graduated, married, had children. Basically, I got out into the real world and I my eyes were opened. I realized that some of the things that seemed so obvious to me in school, really were not the best options after all. Listening to the story of this family saddens me, it makes me think of the kids as science experiments rather than people and it seems cruel. They will be the butt of jokes later and they are being allowed to make adult decisions while they are only babies. Permission to start school or wait is a question that is too mature to be answered by a 5 year old. An adult should make such a responsible decision, but it doesn’t seem like these parents are the appropriate people to offer a decision in this case. I believe gender & sexuality are not choices we make after birth but determined at conception or before. I hope that these children can get past the scars their parents are causing them.

  22. Avatar of Layne Layne says:

    Personally i believe this isn’t healthy, I believe that the true secret to gender equality is letting your kid choose without judging. My daughter knows she’s a girl, and my son will know he’s a boy. My daughter identifies with princesses, and ballerinas, and monsters. She also is praised as much for her mind as for her appearance. If my son want to play barbies or dolls with my daughter then he can. My daughter already has a box filled with matchbox cars, and if she want’s to play cars with our son, that’s fine too. Boys and girls are physically different and that shouldn’t be ignored. That doesn’t define someone’s individuality, unless you make it a big deal

  23. Avatar of Katie Katie says:

    I think your child not knowing the difference in a boy or a girl or not know if he/she is about or agitprop will do way more damage than you expect. What are you going to do when your child comes home with a black eye because he/asked a boy if he was a girl? Or when the child gets older and is mistaking for a boy, gets in a fight with a boy, then are you going to be mad because a boy beat your daughter up?

  24. Avatar of Cocuh5 Cocuh5 says:

    This is causing more harm to the child then helping. I just don’t get why the parents think this is smart ?

  25. I totally disagree with this & I am very accepting of kids not totally fitting in with the social gender norms.I have a 4 yr old son who leans more towards female traits. From birth he was raised as male with the color blue and toy trucks. Not long after his 2nd birthday he started wanting make up and painted nails. I wrote it off as normal. As time went on he became more and more determined for anything girl like. His father of course is a mess over it. We have explained to him its not very common and some ppl mayhave a problem with it. He couldn’t care less. He proudly takes his lalaloopsy ragdolls with him everywhere he goes. I decided its better to support him and give him a safe place to fall when life knocks him down. The only wish of his I won’t grant is allowing him to make his outwardly appearance. No dresses, make up, girl shoes, ect. When he is an adult he is free to choose how looks. I will be there next to him fully supporting whatever it is he wants to do or be. Its not always easy to balance giving your child artistic & emotional freedoms to find themselves and still parent, guide, & at times control them.

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