Opinion Brief

Should a baby's gender be kept a secret?

A Canadian couple isn't telling whether their 4-month-old baby is a boy or a girl. Will that foster personal freedom, or just create confusion?

Two Canadian parents are making headlines, and courting controversy, for attempting to raise a genderless baby. Kathy Witterick gave birth to baby Storm four months ago, but she and her husband, David Stocker, have yet to proclaim "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!" Rather, they're keeping Storm's gender a secret, telling friends and relatives "we've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation." The only other people who know Storm's sex are his or her two young brothers, the two midwives who helped in the delivery, and one close family friend. Will this secret allow Storm to duck society's gender expectations, or just confuse and damage the kid?

What a compelling idea: "It's a fascinating experiment," says Madeline Holler at Babble. While keeping the baby's gender a secret sounds like a big hassle — I certainly wouldn't try it — the uproar over this decision, and "the fact that people get emotional about it, proves the parents' point." Strangers shouldn't care what gender this baby is, and really, it shouldn't be of such great import to anyone outside the family's inner circle. Pronouns aren't worth getting worked up about.
"Is it a boy or girl? This 4-month-old's family isn't saying"

This will only confuse the poor kid: "These parents might be doing the wrong thing by their child," says Dr. Manny Alvarez at Fox News. I'm all for letting children make choices about their gender identity and sexual orientation, but this seems like the wrong way to go about it. "The parents are introducing undue doubt from the beginning of the child's life, which may lead to an entirely new form of identity crisis — the crisis of not being able to identify with any gender at all."
"Are parents creating a gender identity crisis in 4-month-old?"

Not to mention harming Storm's siblings: What about the genderless baby's older brothers? asks Lisa Belkin in The New York Times. I worry about the message they're getting, with their new sibling's gender being treated as an "unspillable secret." "Doesn't that in itself give gender the all-defining importance that these parents are trying to avoid?"
"Is this baby a boy or girl?"

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