Raising A Child Without A Gender: Do Or Don’t?

A couple in Sweden is raising their child, named Pop, as an “it,” and say they are keeping the toddler’s gender a secret. This decision, they said, came from their “feminist” philosophy that gender is a social construct — they believe “it is cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

What I believe is cruel, is to bring a child into the world who will be confused, picked on, and obsessed over as soon as “it” comes into contact with other kids. While “gender” may be a social construct, sex is not. “Masculine” and “feminine” may be manmade ideas, but penis and vagina come from nature, and I feel the difference between them should be acknowledged. There’s a big difference between dressing your daughter in pink dresses and lacy bows and letting her know she’s a girl.

While it’s this couple’s prerogative to raise their children as they wish, these kinds of child experiments kind of sicken me. As psychologist and newspaper columnist Susan Pinker explained to The Local, “Child-rearing should not be about providing an opportunity to prove an ideological point, but about responding to each child’s needs as an individual.”

Pop’s story is much like the one of the fictional character, “X,” in the children’s book of the same name by Lois Gould. In the book, the parents name their child “X” to keep it safe from gender pressures. The kids at school don’t treat “X” nicely, and everybody wants to know just what “X” is. In the end, everyone sees that “X” is awesome, with or without a “boy” or “girl” label.

But in the real world, kids probably won’t come to this sophisticated realization, and are unlikely to be content with an “it” label. Therefore, reenacting the story of “X” might not be the best way to protect your child from the gender-filled world. Because guess what? Pop will discover the anatomical differences between males and females sooner or later, and it will only be a matter of minutes before Pop decides what gender to associate with.

I’ve taken several women’s studies classes, and I’ve read, reflected, and discussed gender norms for longer than I probably would have liked. While I’m all for gender equality, I think it’s important to acknowledge the differences between the sexes. Biology has been used to oppress women for centuries, and I’m not about to say that women are “biologically” more inclined to cooking and cleaning or that men “naturally” gravitate towards bread-winning. But I am saying that there are differences between the sexes, and letting your child choose between dresses and trousers, boxers and undies (the couple doesn’t discriminate against any form of clothing) isn’t going to stop these differences from surfacing. The testosterone or estrogen will reveal itself sooner or later, and Pop will become a “something.”

I understand the desire to keep your child from being pressured into gender conformity, but in my opinion, the way around this isn’t to keep your child’s sex a secret. There are ways to teach your kid about gender that don’t involve subjecting him or her to a confused childhood. Instead of denying your child a sex, why not introduce him or her to the clever children’s book, X? This way, you can teach the kid a lesson, without denying the youngster a sex.

What do you think about this couple’s choice to raise Pop as an “it?” Weigh in below.