Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

A Child Is Not A Billboard

It is very disturbing when parents fail completely to see their children as actual human beings and use them as billboards to advance their own ideology. Look, for example, at these irresponsible and horrible parents from Toronto:

No one knows the sex of Storm Stocker, a 4-month-old baby from Toronto. Only the parents, midwives and two older brothers have ever peeked beneath the diaper. That’s because his — or is it her — parents, Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, want to raise their child genderless. When Storm came into the world in a birthing pool on New Year’s Day, they sent out this email: “We decided not to share Storm’s sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a standup to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime.” Even Storm’s brothers, 2-year-old Kio and 5-year-old Jazz, have been sworn to secrecy, as well as one close family friend.

The poor newborn, who was obviously not consulted in the matter, has been turned into an object its parents are using to become famous and advance some very dubious goals. Their justification is that they don’t want to make choices for their kid. Apparently, creating a huge drama about the child’s sex does not count as making a choice, while not concealing a choice of sex that nature made for the kid somehow does. Of course, the simple solution of using their own lives to protest gender dichotomies does not occur to these horrible parents. Why go to the trouble when you can use and abuse a little baby instead?

It always disgusted me when parents used children as pawns in their ideological battles. Vegetarians and vegans who refuse meat to their miserable kids (who, once again, are never consulted in the matter), parents who parade their kids around in T-shirts with Che Guevara’s portraits or take them on anti-choice marches with them, quasi-feminists who refuse to buy their daughters anything pink, pseudo-liberals who deny their children certain kinds of toys on ideological grounds (don’t like guns? Don’t play with them. But let others make their own choices), fundamentalists who force their kids to go to church – these people couldn’t care less about their own children. They see them as objects who need to serve their parents’ purposes and political agendas and make themselves scarce the rest of the time.

My heart goes out to poor Storm who has 18 very miserable years ahead of him or her.

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102 thoughts on “A Child Is Not A Billboard

  1. el on said:

    I think they intend to make this point only for several months since afterwards I am sure the child’ll reveal the secret ***self.

    • I’m sure they will find it very easy to bully the kid into not revealing. These are attention-mongers and media freaks, they will not let go of this little cash cow so easily.

      • Really? Do you have any proof that they’re going to bully Storm into not revealing Storms’ own gender identity? I think it’s pretty obvious that they’re trying to let their children make their own choices. You sound to be projecting quite a bit of motive here.

        • What choices? The child’s biological sex has already been “chosen.”

          As for the evidence that they will bully the child, make an effort and read the passage I’m quoting. The evidence is right there.

          • I’ve actually read the whole article more than once.
            Why do you privilege “biological sex” over gender identity? And, this oh-so-important “biological sex” just boils down to genitals, so I’m wondering why you think that the friends and family have a right to know about what’s in this baby’s diaper. Because that’s all there is at this point–Storm cannot articulate Storm’s own gender identity at this point, so Stocker & Witterick would be doing nothing but saying what genitals the child has if they disclosed this. Doing this would coercively gender Storm before Storm has a had a chance to speak about Storm’s own identity.

            • For the gazillionth time, how can parents, friends and family coercively gender anybody if they don’t want to do so? Let’s say I’m blond. We all know there are stupid jokes about blondes everywhere. Should my parents have taken me everywhere with my hea covered to prevent such jokes from conditioning me to be stupid? Or is there a much simpler way that consists in telling relatives a friends to abstain from such jokes and explaining to the kid that people who make them are idiots?

              • You apparently don’t know the definition of “coercive”, which means, “Something that a person or people does/do to another person that the individual has not consented to.” Asking how someone can be coercively gendered if they don’t want to shows a lack of understanding of how people do things in a manner that can be described as coercive.

                People coercively gender infants the minute people ask, “Is it a boy or a girl?” after the ultrasound and the parents reply. From that moment on, particularly post-birth the child is being coercively gendered because people use pronouns and identifiers that the child is not able to consent to or disagree with. This coercive use of words can affect whether or not a child is able to come out to their friends and family.

                There are a couple of things wrong with your example.
                1) If you are blonde and want to change your hair color, there will little resistance (there might be some in certain situations, but most people won’t give a shit). There is very seldom so when a person is born with certain genitals, has been referred to as a certain gender based on those genitals, then tells the people around them that those words are wrong.
                2) They aren’t hiding the child’s genitals to prevent ridicule–they are not disclosing Storm’s genitals because it’s no one’s business and Storm cannot yet decide who is allowed to have that information, so it’s on a need-to-know basis (and most people don’t need to know).

              • According to your logic, the kid’s very existence has been an act of coercion. It isn’t like anybody gets consulted on whether they want to be born. Being put into a diaper, breast-fed or bottle-fed, dressed in any way, etc. etc. are all coercive acts because the child cannot possibly consent. So is calling it “Storm” or “Clarissa.” Saying “boy” or “girl” at least reflects the kid’s physiological reality. “Storm”, however, only reflects its parents’ horrible taste. Do you see how what you are saying makes absolutely no sense?

                Also, please, explain to me how sticking a newborn in front of the cameras is not coercive. Do you suggest that anybody consulted the baby’s wishes about this?

          • Yonmei on said:

            “The child’s biological sex has already been “chosen.””

            And you know this how? You’ve done a genetic analysis of baby Storm’s cells and you know? Because, actually, five chances out of a hundred, baby Storm’s biological sex has not already been ‘chosen’ – and even if it has (as others have already pointed out to you) biological sex does not equate to gender, and no one knows what Storm’s gender is: Storm will articulate that when able to.

  2. I don’t see how this really compares with vegetarianism. If the parent genuinely believes that meat products are unhealthy or immoral for some reason, they would be wrong to feed them to their child – just as it seems perfectly reasonable to teach a child right or wrong according to one’s own notions in the grey areas of polite behviour (‘don’t kill people’ is not a grey area, ‘it is important to write thank you notes when you are given a present’ is something which families disagree on so is a grey area) rather than some norm prescribed by an outsider or outside rule.

    • How about offering a poor creature a choice as to what food they put inside their own body and what food they feel like they need and want?

      • Marle on said:

        Newborns aren’t consulted on anything, yet parents have to make decisions for them. I wish my parents had raised me vegan, especially since it turned out I’m allergic to milk and possibly beef. I started asking to go vegetarian at age 6, but they just thought it was a phase and ignored me. But do I think they were bad parents? No. It doesn’t matter what gender a kid is, and choosing to conform them, or excessively not conform them, to gender roles has its pluses and minuses. So let them make their choices.

  3. Tim on said:

    You forgot the parents of wannabe beauty pageants who speed up the loosing of baby teeth because a real smile looks so much better.

  4. Nope, still don’t get it – you are saying vegetarian parents should buy food they won’t eat themselves in case their children want it? Even if they think the food is unhealthy/immoral? Should Jewish parents buy bacon for their kids in case they want it? I don’t see the difference… probably being thick, I am in the middle of grading, every paper steals a few more IQ points

    • It isn’t all that hard to bring a kid to the supermarket and let them choose, is it?

      Good luck with grading!

      • Yonmei on said:

        “It isn’t all that hard to bring a kid to the supermarket and let them choose, is it?”

        I was weaned about nine months old. The notion that a just-weaned baby can be brought to the supermarket to “let them choose” the food they’re going to eat is really complete nonsense.

        My parents did, of course, take me along on shopping trips when I was older, and were moderately amenable to sensible requests for preferred foods (and one non-sensible request per shopping trip, not more). But your idea that I would have begged for meat and fish because I was so miserable eating only luscious vegetarian food, is as complete nonsense as your claim that you somehow have a right to know what’s under a strange baby’s nappies.

      • Well, with all due respect, if my sister allowed her daughter to choose everything she wanted to eat, she’d be living on candy, soda, and french fries. Kids don’t come out of the womb ready or able to make their own decisions. The line between allowing your child agency and decision-making, and forcing a lifestyle onto them is very muddy.

        • That’s not necessarily true. My sister lets my niece choose her own food. At the age of 1,5 years, she prefers blueberries, peaches, organic yogurt, and bananas. Kids only choose to eat crap after they have been taught to think it’s the best food ever. And that happens as a result of prohibitions and restrictions. Nobody ever prevented me from eating candy, cookies, ice-cream, etc. As a result, I’m completely indifferent to them in adulthood. This food never had the “forbidden fruit” quality for me.

    • Well, if a child never eats meat when they are little, they will never develop the enzymes required to digest meat and you are effectively depriving them of a chance to ever eat meat later in life without serious digestive issues. I personally do not care what any adult eats, it’s their choice, but with little children I think the best thing is to expose to them to everything and let them choose. It’s the healthiest thing to do in the long run.

      I am an adult and I eat absolutely everything. I have a few acquaintances/friends who are vegetarian and they are always a pain in the ass to have over for dinner because I have to invest a lot of time and energy into finding recipes and cooking something they would find acceptable (and my husband wouldn’t find completely tasteless), or I end up cooking double (the meat and the vegetarian version). They would never extend the courtesy and make a special meal for me, now would they? The husband of one of them eats meat (in theory) but from the reaction I saw she had when she saw him helping himself to a piece of pepperoni pizza, that dude is not getting any meat evah even though he may want to. He’s not a kid but I still feel for him.

      I am completely with Clarissa here — the things some people force on their kids (or people close to them) just because they can are unforgivable. While I may disagree with some people’s personal choices — in the sense that I would never make them myself — as long as they are their own, made by them as adults, and affecting no one else, that’s fine. The problem is, of course, that many personal choices (food choices, religion, the idiotic genderless upbringing nonsense in the post) are sources of all kinds of zealotry and have been shown to bring everything from mere annoyance to oppression to people who don’t make the same choices.

      • Yonmei on said:

        “Well, if a child never eats meat when they are little, they will never develop the enzymes required to digest meat and you are effectively depriving them of a chance to ever eat meat later in life without serious digestive issues. ”

        I thought this as well, but I mentioned to my brother at one point and he reminded me gently that he eats meat, now, though he was brought up as strictly vegetarian as the rest of us: he started eating meat gradually when he was about fifteen (personal preference / a way to annoy our parents / all his friends ate meat), and while he tends to eat a fairly vegetarian diet, he does not experience serious digestive issues when he does eat meat.

        (I do, whenever I accidentally eat meat, but it’s interesting to know that if I ever have to go carnivore, if I just tough through the first few times, my system will re-adapt.)

        “They would never extend the courtesy and make a special meal for me, now would they?”

        I know people who take that aggressive attitude towards vegetarians, and I prefer not to eat in their homes if they’re going to resent preparing food for me so much – if we’re going to share a meal, we usually eat out.

        • I don’t think my attitude towards vegetarians is aggressive — I would say quite the opposite, that I am responding to the attitude of my vegetarian acquaintances. All the vegetarians I know in real life are absolutely unyielding about their food as well as other issues (a few are collaborators, and are also insufferable about having to have the last word on everything, the exact wording in research papers etc). I do always prepare the meals that they can enjoy (and obviously bitch about it in people’s blog comments but not in real life), but I have never seen from their side anything but disgust towards the people who eat meat. Whenever we go out it’s always their choice of a restaurant because they are also extremely picky about where we go — it’s always largely vegetarian places, there is no concern about where I might want to go, so when with them I end up eating vegetarian anyway, which I presume is the point (to show me the error of my ways).

          Bottom line Yonmei — I am sorry, but all the vegetarians among my acquaintances are quite militant about their choice and disgusted with meat eaters… So yeah, I am a bit ticked off. I do not know any live-and-let-live vegetarians in real life, but I really hope they are out there.

          • I especially love it when a vegetarian asks me in a dramatic voice while I’m eating my meal, “Don’t you ever feel remorse about eating dead bodies of animals?” Or gives a lecture on the horrible treatment of chicken when I offer my non-vegetarian guests my Chicken Kiev that takes forever to prepare.

          • Yonmei on said:

            Well, obviously, GMP, I don’t know you in RL, so take this with a pinch of salt and maybe a sprinkling of black pepper.

            In my experience the kind of non-vegetarian who complains that they’ll cook vegetarian food for their vegetarian “friends”, but their vegetarian acquaintances decline to cook food with meat or fish for them, is the kind of aggressive non-vegie who’ll complain all the time about what other people eat – a habit I detest in anyone.

            I can’t cook meat or fish. The few times I’ve prepared non-vegetarian food it’s been frozen stuff out of a packet with directions on the packet, for children I was babysitting: and when providing meals for someone on Atkins (cold cuts, also bought packeted: we’d discussed it and this was her solution). I can’t cook the stuff because I never have and I can’t eat it (see note above that I could if it was a choice between that and starving, but I’ve fortunately never been in that situation).

            I don’t like to invite people to my house who are going to be nasty about what other people eat, so you would likely never get invited, once I realised you were one of those aggressive non-vegetarians. (Seriously. Nothing is more likely to put me off someone than having them comment, rudely, on my choice of food: militant non-vegies do this at least once a meal, and it’s offputting and boring.

            But if we had to eat out, common sense and courtesy dictates that we pick a place that has something on the menu for everyone. If it’s me I like to choose a place where I will get to choose between multiple dishes on the menu rather than being faced with the single vegetarian option, like it or lump it, but with an aggressive non-vegie I’d figure it was worth doing without the complaints to go somewhere nice even if I didn’t get to choose my meal.

            If you know no “live and let live” vegetarians in real life, I’d seriously suggest you think hard how your behaviour and attitude may well have created that situation for you.

            • Things such as where we eat or who cooks what for whom are at the end of the day just annoyances; while I bitch about these annoyances online, I don’t share them with my vegetarian acquaintances in real life as it would be rude, so I don’t think they are hurt or inconvenienced at all (and we end up eating where they want all the time anyway).

              I never said vegetarians should eat meat (the only thing I said is that no exposure to meat in early years may yield digestive problems later in life if one turns omnivorous, but that looks like it’s not universal). However, I have no problem with people’s choice to eat a vegetarian diet per se and would never try to convert them. In contrast, I am routinely told or hinted (see Clarissa’s comment above) by vegetarians I know in real life that my eating habits are morally wrong and/or disgusting and there is always a push to somehow convert me/convince me to give up meat. At the end of the day, this is what my problem boils down to: none of the vegetarians I know in real life are live-and-let-live because they do not accept that someobody else — anybody else — eating meat is OK. In their eyes, eating meat automatically makes a person immoral or otherwise repugnant. The fact that I am annoyed by this attitude seems a perfectly appropriate response.

              If you know no “live and let live” vegetarians in real life,

              Honestly, from your comments you really don’t sound like one either.

              • Yonmei on said:

                Well, like I said initially, I don’t know you in RL so I have no idea if your anti-vegetarian aggressiveness comes across as clearly in RL as it does in these comments. But it’s clearly what you feel, and it would certainly explain why you tend to get that reaction back from vegetarians: you may not be as good at concealing your resentment of their dietary preferences as you think you are.

                Honestly, from your comments you really don’t sound like one either.

                I guess not, if your standard of “live and let live” for vegetarians is meekly acquiescing to the superiority of the carnivorous diet. My standard for “live and let live” is that I want to enjoy my food without other people making rude comments about it, and I don’t make rude comments about other people’s choice of food. Yours is evidently a lot more territorial, seeking submission and agreement rather than the simple “You eat what you like, I’ll eat what I like.”

              • GMP on said:

                At the end of the day, this is what my problem boils down to: none of the vegetarians I know in real life are live-and-let-live because they do not accept that someobody else — anybody else — eating meat is OK. In their eyes, eating meat automatically makes a person immoral or otherwise repugnant.

                How exactly did you get “territorial” and me “seeking submission” and requiring that vegetarians “meekly acquiesc[e] the superiority of a carnivorous diet” from the comment above? What I want is that my eating meat not be equated with me being immoral and I want my food choices not to bring up rude comments.

                But, I now realize that you are projecting, so I am done discussing this issue with you as it’s clearly pointless.

              • I have arrived at the same conclusion about this commenter and stopped responding too. This person is clearly unable to process and respond to another person’s text.

              • Yonmei on said:

                Clarissa, people are wondering why you’re making use of Shameless Self-Promotion Sunday at Feministe, when your political views are so much against it.

                Contrary to your presumption, I both listened to you and understood you: I just don’t agree with you. By linking your blog on Feministe, you are deliberately attracting readers who will not agree with you.

                Most of them, faced with your abuse, will not stay to argue, of course; but why invite people over, only to abuse them?

                That’s my feeling about GMP’s dislike of showing hospitality to vegetarian “friends”, too.

              • My political views are not against self-promotion Sundays or Feministe. I don’t even understand how anybody can have political views against blog promotion or a website.

                I think it’s great to have people around who disagree. Don’t you? There is hardly a point to say something if everybody agrees with it. That is just a waste of time.

                Of course, this doesn’t mean people like you who are simply incapable of addressing anything but their presumptions and assumptions.

                Forget about these mysterious “other people” and concentrate on the fact that you have very low discussion skills, that’s my advice to you.

              • Yonmei on said:

                I said that:

                – “complain[ing] all the time about what other people eat [is] a habit I detest in anyone”

                – “I don’t like to invite people to my house who are going to be nasty about what other people eat”

                – “Seriously. Nothing is more likely to put me off someone than having them comment, rudely, on my choice of food”

                – “with an aggressive non-vegie I’d figure it was worth doing without the complaints to go somewhere nice even if I didn’t get to choose my meal.”

                As you informed me in response to these statements that “Honestly, from your comments you really don’t sound like one either” evidently your standard of “live-and-let-live” isn’t mine.

                Mine is, as my comments above make clear, “I don’t make rude comments about other people’s choice of food: Kindly don’t make rude comments about my food: I’ll eat what I like, you eat what you like.”

                Since you regard that as insufficient, I presume you insist on submission rather than polite acquiesence.

              • Yonmei, people are telling you that nobody wants to talk to you because you have no idea how to conduct an argument. Try to listen. Your “presumptions” and “assumptions” make you useless as a partner in a reasonable debate. You need to stop presuming and start listening.

  5. I actually grew up vegetarian in an omnivorous household (I didn’t like meat and my parents didn’t force it on me) until I was 16, and I’ve had no trouble digesting meat since I’ve become more omnivorous. I really appreciate that my parents let me make that choice, even as a tiny kid, and I agree that this “genderless” thing is pretty ridiculous, but, Clarissa, I think you’re going a bit too far in your ideal of how many choices parents can or should leave open to children. Parents have to make some choices for their children, and passing down culture, religion, morality, ethics, is part of that. I think you can do this in a respectful way as a parent, and that it’s especially important to encourage children to make their own choices as they grow older, but the idea that you should somehow present all possible options without bias seems unhelpful, not to mention impossible.

    • I’m all for passing down culture, religion, morality, ethics, etc. when done verbally (in a non-screaming way). Talking about why you are a feminist, liberal, vegetarian – perfect. Imposing things, however, is not the same.

      Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy begins with the protagonist as a little boy standing on the corner with his street preacher father and feeling completely humiliated by the whole thing. And there are still people who do exactly that and think it’s fine. Talking to the kid about your religious beliefs is very different from dragging them to a street corner to preach.

      • Pen on said:

        The original post kind of confused me, so I’ve been following the discussion trying to determine your point of view.

        From what I’ve seen, it’s kind of like banned books week: “I don’t care if you choose not to read these books, but don’t you dare try stop me from reading them, too.”

        I agree with that.

        • Yonmei on said:

          Well, except Clarissa’s idea seems to be “I don’t care if you think no one but Storm’s immediate family should know what Storm’s genitals look like: don’t you dare stop me finding out, or I’ll complain you’re using Storm as a billbaord.”

          Plus she’s got some odd thing about how vegetarian parents bring up miserable children who secretly long for meat, but I think (reading her later comments about how she wanted to be vegetarian as a child and wasn’t let) that this is just jealousy of those of us who were lucky enough not to be forced to eat meat.

          • And now you are what, some sort of a shrink? :-)

            Maybe you should first learn to read people’s texts and respond to them instead of voices in your head. Seriously.

          • Things that “seem” to you, are all in your head, buddy.

            • Yonmei on said:

              I note you have not yet edited your post to acknowledge you were wrong to verbally abuse the parents, so it’s really not “just in my head”, petal, that you want to know what baby Storm’s genitals look like and are mad that the baby’s parents aren’t letting you.

              • Projections, projections. . .

              • Yonmei on said:

                *reads your post*

                Nope. I’m not projecting. You’ve got a lot of anger and hostility there, and Storm’s parents haven’t done a thing to you except deny you your imagined “right” to know what their baby’s genitals look like.

  6. The original story seems pretty extreme – not necessarily the actual choice of not overtly gendering the baby in public, but the making a big media thing about it, which seems highly unnecessary.

    Take child to supermarket, let it choose – sorry, but in my limited experience that would mean buying a lot of branded items (e.g. Disney Princess Spaghetti) and candy and the least meat-like of processed meats. Take the child shopping and involve them in the choices being made and the reasoning for those choices, sure. Also, if the parent was Jewish and the child chose non-kosher meat, isn’t that still a problem in that the dish has to be cooked and eaten in the home?

    Along the banned books line, fine, don’t stop ME reading them, but is it OK to make choices about what is best for a child – about what age that individual is emotionally and intellectually capable of dealing with something scary or violent or morally repugnant without some kind of parental filtering. The same idea as having some control on the computer and TV.

    Re: vegetarian. I am one, by choice from an early age. My parents followed me a couple of years later. My sister was a teenage omnivore in a veggie household (and apart from using it as an argument for staying at her boyfriend’s house for meals most nights, I can’t see that she suffered). I do indeed usually cook two or three dishes whenever friends come to supper, for every course, because there are all sorts of dietary issues that come up unexpectedly. And depending on the mix of friends (or if my brother-in-law who only eats one kind of vegetable, frozen peas, and that under protest. He won’t even eat tomato sauce on a pizza. Now that man is hard to feed!), that includes meat or fish dishes (I admit to resorting to Marks and Spencers prepared joints – and friends do the equivalent for me if I go to theirs and they don’t want to cook vegetarian/cook two meals – a pre-prepared main along with the side dishes is easy to do). I am genuinely fine with salad and bread and maybe dessert and good company at a dinner party [note to the very few readers of my blog, unless I’ve been repeatedly told that there will be food I can eat and then there isn’t and I have no choice of leaving an event for three hours], I don’t care what YOU eat. I know several people who were raised vegetarian and adapted easily to eating meat/fish with no gastric consequences. I ate meat and fish until I was in my early teens, and about two times in three if I unknowingly eat something like a risotto cooked with meat stock (served by others or bought by me not having read labels/asked questions) I spend 48 hours seriously regretting it. The point is, we’re all different.

    The other point is, why the HECK would anyone make a big media thing about ANY of these choices?? That’s what baffles me about the original story. Maybe it’s not being American…

    three assignments to go…

  7. Agreed agreed agreed. Things like this always anger me to no end. When children are old enough to have their own opinions, they should have the freedom to express them. But parents should not use their kids to express their OWN opinions. A child is a person.

  8. cat on said:

    So it is okay to force a sex assignment and gender presupposition, but not okay to do the opposite? The question of why we gender children too young to have expressed their own gender identity needs to be asked. Nothing has been said about restricting the child’s self chosen/expressed gender identity when ze is growing. Maybe you can ignore the brutality caused by assigning sex and presuming gender at birth, but not all of us are cisgender and cissexual. Gendering an infant is a restriction and a imposition in and of itself, it is just the normative imposition. Letting a child chose hir gender assignment freely as ze grows is not forcing a gender on a child, assigning and presuming gender at birth is.

    • Physiological sex is assigned by nature. Gender cannot be assigned at birth since it’s a social construct that has a huge variety and takes time to coalesce and become internalized.

      • Right, but that’s the whole point. The parents are keeping the child’s sex a secret from other people in order to avoid having other people assign the child’s gender for his or herself. I’m not sure the point is to keep it a secret from the kid until they move out of the house. The kid will more than likely know what they want to call themselves within the next couple of years when they start really experimenting with what they like to do, and who they identify with. I don’t think it will be the doom and gloom scenario you’re afraid of. But, only time will tell.

        • How can those other people “assign gender” to an infant? I keep asking this question and nobody is willing to provide any answer.

          Have you noticed that these parents are also planning to keep the kid out of school?

          • Wednesday on said:

            How can other people “assign gender” to an infant? Lots of ways. Two examples:

            1) If you show people an infant in boy clothes, they’ll say things like “look how strong he is”. If you show them the same infant in girl clothes, they’ll say thinks like “look how delicate she is.”

            2) My nephew was taught to giggle when he farted before he could even speak; his girl-bodied cousins were taught as infants to make faces when they farted.

            If people know the child’s sex at birth, and then at age 5 the child starts presenting as the opposite sex, then people will know the kid is transgender, and the kid will be exposed to all sorts of mistreatment because of it.

    • Amanda on said:

      YES. What cat said.

      • Would you do this to your kid? Do you think that kid would be thankful to you in adulthood? Do you think that children love being different? This different? Might the price for such a profound difference turn out to be too huge for a little kid to pay?

        Transgender adults go through literally heroic feats to establish their right to their own gender identity. Should a small child be expected to undertake something so huge?

        • cat on said:

          Children already do. I am genderqueer/non-binary presenting trans myself. So, not only did I go through childhood non-normatively presenting and trying to explain that I was different, I did it burdened with an expectation that I fit into one of those boxes and with an unaccepting homelife. The way they are raising Storm is the best way to raise a trans kid, and I would have killed for parents like this.

          Besides, this logic that we should only raise and have children if we and them can fit social norms would rule me out as a parent to start out. I am disabled, genderqueer, bisexual, and polyamorus. So, should I automatically be considered a bad parent because there may be bullying as a result of the fact that I am not socially normative? What about parents of children of color, children with disabilities, girls, queer children, etc. who are targets of oppressive attacks? My father’s brother took heavily after his mother’s Cherokee heritage and was bullied with extreme brutality as a child because of his color. Should my grandmother not have had children out of fear that one of the four would turn out too dark to pass as white (though she married a pale, pale white man to avoid just that, so she did have more than a bit of that attitude)? Should political minorities, cultural minorities, religious minorities be considered bad parents merely for not fitting with dominant culture?

          • The problem is that nobody knows if this is a trans kid. And statistically, chances are it isn’t.

            I don’t suggest making children fit into any norms. I actually suggest the opposite. What I have a problem with here is that these parents are using what belongs to this child only to become famous and make a statement. And that is not their place to do.

            Parents can belong to any political, religious, cultural minority they want. It is not their right, however, to force their children into that minority.

            I have a student who was forced and bullied for years to attend church by her parents. She has now been disowned by them and is clinically depressed. Her parents’ church is a minority church in this country. Do you think these parents were right?

            • cst on said:

              Except, by your logic, raising your children “free to choose their own religion” and not grouping them with their parents as is the social norm would also be abusive.

              “What I have a problem with here is that these parents are using what belongs to this child only to become famous and make a statement. ” Except you have no real evidence that this is the case. Considering that the way they have raised their other children is pretty close to what they are doing now, it seems as if they have had these opinions for years.

              • I’ve been trying to decipher this strange collection of words but have come up with nothing. Is this a spam comment or something? Does anybody know?

            • brandy on said:

              Please don’t refer to a person (child or adult) as “it.”

        • I would have been incredibly grateful if my parents had refused to gender me before I could articulate an identity for myself. And your argument about, “BUT THEY’LL BE DIFFERENT!” is bullshit. Stocker and Witterick aren’t going to say, “No, you have to be trans*!”–they are letting Storm make up their own mind. There are some children who know they are trans* from a young age and automatically learn to hide this fact because their parents non-consensually gendering them according to their genitals has told them that their true gender identity is unacceptable. These parents aren’t saying that Storm can’t have a gender; actually, they’re saying, “Storm is not yet able to articulate Storm’s own gender and we aren’t going to force identifiers on our child before the child is able to tell us how they identify.”
          Stocker and Witterick are raising children who are able to love the things that they love without being told that they can only take interest in things that society considers okay for them to like. That’s very likely going to get them treated differently. But they have two parents who are willing to stand up for them and who love and accept them just as they are. As cat said, children already *do* go through huge feats to establish their gender identity and some do it without parents like these three children have. Children are going to be different and raising them in a household where any and all differences are welcome and nurtured is the best thing a parent can do for their child(ren). That’s what Storm’s parents are doing and I think it’s great.

          • Make their own mind about what? The child has already been born with a certain set of genitals. That’s a fact of objective reality.

            Please try to get your terminology right before you start trying to participate in discussions. Sex and gender are completely different things. Biological sex is what you are born with. Gender is a social construct that is not directly related to one’s genitals. It gets constructed and adopted gradually. Concealing the shape of a child’s organs has no relation to what their gender will look like when it coalesces.

            Please try to educate yourself at least about the most basic concepts in gender studies before you assault other people’s with inanities. You can try to conceal your blinding ignorance with profanity but it doesn’t make you look any less unintelligent.

            • cat on said:

              “Gender is a social construct that is not directly related to one’s genitals” No, gender is a social construct assigned almost entirely on one’s genitals. We as a society do gender infants based on their sex. Shit, why else would anyone ask questions about the genitals of an infant? The people throwing fits here are not trying to swap diaper changing tips, they are throwing fits about Storm’s gender.

              • How do people “gender infants” in your opinion?

              • Dressing boys in blue and girls in pink. Making infant girls wear a pink headband thing with ruffles so as to avoid apparently traumatizing mis-gendering by strangers. By roughhousing with little boys who can barely talk, telling them to stop crying, etc., while being delicate with little girls and encouraging dolls over educational and “adventurous” toys. Plenty of ways.

              • I’m against the things you list completely and I blogged about it on numerous occasions. My sister is avoiding all of that with her little daughter. But she manages to do it without creating a media circus around the kid. I’m sure you can appreciate the difference.

              • I think it goes without saying that the parents of this child are doing those same things. They’re trying to avoid other people doing it to their kids, and keeping the kid’s sex a secret is one way to do that.

                I agree with you about the media circus, either way. I think that will do far more damage to the kid than simply not telling people the kid’s sex and leaving it at that, rather than inviting the media, and therefore the rest of the world, along for the ride.

              • If my terrible sentence structure didn’t make sense, I mean that I’m sure the Toronto parents are parenting similar to your sister, but are trying to avoid other people from treating their child in a stereotypical manner based on sex.

              • To prevent people from doing that all you need is ask them to. A media circus is decidedly unnecessary.

            • Actually, only certain parts of gender are socially-constructed. There are some things that arise from a bodily biological place. My dysphoria does not come from not wanting to be a woman or not wanting to be treated like a woman by others and therefore having issues with the “parts” that I have; bodily wrongness came first, then societal identifiers (specifically, I ID as neutrois).

              A large part of the socially-constructed parts of gender is associating a certain binary gender with a certain set of genitals, then coercively identifying infants based on those genitals. Storm’s parents can’t say that Storm is a boy or a girl, and, in reality, that’s not the question. Because that can’t be the question. The only valid identity is an identity that has been personally articulated by the individual. Storm is not old enough to do this, so the only thing that Storm’s parents could do is say, “Storm has a vulva/has a penis/has intersex genitalia.” But what would this prove? The people who are around Storm would know nothing of value about the child; they just what genitals the kid has. Thinking that you have the right to that information is creepy as hell (yes, I used “profanity”–*le gasp*! I’m obviously trying to hide a lack of knowledge and not just using words!).

              Let’s say for a moment that Storm has a penis, just for speculation’s sake. Stocker and Witterick cave and tell everyone that Storm is male. Even if Storm’s parents did not allow people to treat Storm in a stereotypically “boy” fashion (like telling Storm to “be a big boy and don’t cry” when the child gets hurt or forcing Storm to play with Tonka trucks instead of Barbies) they will still coercively gender Storm by saying penis=boy. Now, statistically speaking, if Storm has a penis, Storm will probably ID as a boy because cis gender folks outnumber trans* folks. But what if Storm doesn’t? What if Storm is a non-op trans chick? Or a genderqueer kid who feels misgendered by masculine pronouns? By allowing people to use words that Storm may or may not end up identifying with, Stocker and Witterick would be telling their child that what’s in the kid’s pants is more important than how Storm feels about what Storm’s own body should look like or how Storm identifies personally. Like I said last time, I know trans* folks who say that they knew from a young age that they were trans* (even if they didn’t have the words to describe their own identity yet). They knew their body was wrong, but they also knew from the way that people were coercively gendering them (because using pronouns and identifiers such as “boy” and “girl” for someone who has not told you that those pronouns and identifiers are acceptable is coercive) from the start (“We were so excited when we finally found out whether you were a boy or a girl!” and related nonsense) that feeling this way would be at the very least disappointing to their parents and the people around them. And when children disappoint parents, they get guilt-tripped or punished because doing things that disappoint your parents is considered a Very Bad Thing To Do.

              The “choice” I was talking about was whether or not to disclose Storm’s own supposed “biological sex” (if you want to know how I feel about “biological sex”, read Kate Bornstein). Because the shape of Storm’s genitals are none of anyone’s business unless Storm wants them to be. Because Storm is still too young to go around telling people the shape of Storm’s genitals, nobody gets to know. And honestly, do you NEED to know what genitals an infant’s diaper is concealing to interact with that infant? I can’t think of a single interaction the people around Storm could have with the baby that would enhanced by knowledge about the infant’s genitals.

              • It’s like talking to a brick wall, seriously. I don’t NEED to know anything about this kid. I wasn’t going to know anything about this kid. That is, until its parents stuck it in front of reporters and TV cameras. Apparently, in your strange world this is somehow less damaging to a newborn than informing a very tiny group of friends and relatives that It’s a boy / girl and, most importantly, avoid announcing the whole thing to the media.

                I have never seen parents who teach a newborn to say penis=boy or penis=anything. Most parents I know take quite a while before they teach the word “penis” to their kids at all. By that time, the only way of preventing the kid from discovering what a penis is and who usually has it is through complete and total isolation from other children of the same age. Which is obviously what these abusers are planning to do since they announced their plans to keep the kid out of school.

              • I would like to take a moment to point that you used pronoun “it” to describe a person. “It” is a word used for things that are not people; some people don’t even want you using “it” for their pets. People use “they” for others that they do not know the gender of.

                You say that you don’t need to know what Storm’s genitals are, but you apparently think that other people around Storm have the right to know. They don’t. The fact that people are mad about not knowing this is ridiculous.
                You don’t have to explicitly say, “Penis = boy”; when you call a child that has not yet articulated a gender identity a boy and use masculine pronouns because they have a penis (likewise with a vulva-possessing child and words like “girl” and “she”), you are telling them that boy is someone with a penis and that if they feel differently they are wrong.

                Again, you are projecting motives and actions on strangers. I had no idea that you were so psychic. Should I expect frequent instances of telepathy if I continue to read this blog? Lots of people homeschool their children. Just because they choose to go about it in a different way doesn’t make them abusive. When I try to make psychic predictions, I tend to go with Tarot cards or past behavior. Let’s go with behavior thing here though. These children seem to be happy and aren’t isolated, so I find no reason to believe that they will isolate Storm. You say “obvious” as if there is evidence that they have done this to their other two children when they haven’t since, despite also being in homeschool, Jazz apparently knows and interacts with other children.

                I didn’t say that the media surrounding this was a good thing. But, once again, Storm’s parents could not actually tell anyone whether Storm is a boy or a girl because Storm cannot tell them that. That people find the formation of Storm’s genitals to be important enough to criticize Storm’s parents for doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. The thing is, though, that the parents didn’t say one sensationalist thing in the interview that I read. If damage is caused, it’s going to be people’s reactions to the news that Storm’s parents aren’t disclosing the shape of Storm’s genitals, not to what Storm’s parents have said. I don’t support putting the child in the news, but I find people’s reactions much more damaging than the exposure.

              • I consider homeschoolers to be child abusers and I blogged about it extensively. The only way to prevent this kid from being bullied by other little children is to isolate it or hover around it constantly. (By the way, in my culture, it is totally acceptable to use “it” to refer to a baby and I do it every day. So keep your cultural imperialism to yourself.)

                Another problem is that this kid has two siblings who are boys and know it. Can you imagine the kind of sibling rivalry that will arise from this situation? The elder siblings are old enough to observe the media circus. It is difficult as it is to prevent kids of that age from feeling jealousy towards a newborn. With all the media attention, this is likely to intensify.

                And you want an actual human being to be exposed to all this for the sake of pronouns? Seriously?

              • I apologize for the cultural fail; however, that’s the only thing that I’m going to respond to because I’m not engaging in this discussion anymore. I’m running low on spoons and this going ’round and ’round is giving me a headache.

              • Yonmei on said:

                “Jazz doesn’t mind. One of his favourite books is 10,000 Dresses, the story of a boy who loves to dress up. But he doesn’t like being called a girl. Recently, he asked his mom to write a note on his application to the High Park Nature Centre because he likes the group leaders and wants them to know he’s a boy.”–parents-keep-child-s-gender-secret

                This is the earliest story I’ve found about the parents of baby Storm, and in fact they sound about the least coercive parents I ever heard of…

  9. Yonmei on said:

    So it’s OK to force a little kid to eat meat and fish, regardless of the child’s own preferences, but it’s not okay for vegetarian / vegan parents to make the same food they eat for their child?

    Look, as far as I know, the parents didn’t do a thing to create this media storm. It just happened, caused by people who think they have a right to know the gender of a baby.

    News for you: they don’t.

    No one outside this child’s immediate family need have any knowledge what this child’s gender is. I think the parents point is well made: why do you care whether Cute Lil Baby is a boy or a girl or intersex? Baby, healthy, cute, is all that should matter to anyone.

    A child is not a billboard. Therefore, no parent should broadcast the physical sex of their child – doing so is using the child a billboard to tell the world what’s under the child’s diapers and allowing people who barely know the baby to impose their own preconceptions about gender on a defenseless baby. Declaring that you have no right to know something private about a baby is not using the baby as billboard. Broadcasting intimate personal details about the baby’s body bloody well is – it’s just it’s such a commonplace presumption, you take it for normal and get outraged when parents deny you the privilege of knowing what’s in the baby’s diapers. Poop on that.

    • Yonmei, I know you have a tendency to flood people’s blogs with useless verbiage. No, it’s absolutely not OK to force a child to eat anything. Either find proof that I suggested in any context that people should be fed against the will or acknowledge that you are ascribing to me some completely outlandish ideas that I never expressed.

      As for these particular parents, I’m surprised that mentioning something to a few friends basic like “my kid has brown eyes, is female, has her grandma’s chin” is, in your world, “broadcasting.” While giving endless interviews in papers and TV is not.

      In the future, please try to read the texts you respond to or keep your logorrhea to yourself.

      • Yonmei on said:

        “I suggested in any context that people should be fed against the will”

        You argued that it’s completely wrong for the children of vegetarian or vegan parents to get the same food their parents are preparing for themselves. You appear to feel that there’s some special virtue to eating meat and fish that children ought to have, regardless of what their parents are eating. “Vegetarians and vegans who refuse meat to their miserable kids (who, once again, are never consulted in the matter)” – No, Clarissa, I was not consulted (for one thing, when my mum weaned me I hadn’t yet learned to talk!) about whether my mum was going to feed me vegetarian food or prepare me and my brother and my sister special meat-loaded meals that she and my dad wouldn’t eat. But the notion that I was made unhappy by getting to eat luscious vegetarian meals… No.

        The logical corollary, if you believe so hard that eating meat is apolitical but eating vegetarian is a political imposition, is that happy vegetarian children ought to be forced to eat meat since their vegetarian diet somehow makes them “billboards” for their parents. But I’m happy if you’re illogical about this, and withdraw the accusation.

        • Once again, I kindly ask you to take your assumptions and projections away. I have no need of them. People should not be forced to eat against their will. When I tried to be a vegetarian as a kid and was forced and bullied into eating meat, that was very traumatic to me. I developed an eating disorder as a result. So, once again: forcing people to eat or not to eat anything against their will is abusive and wrong.

          • Yonmei on said:

            “So, once again: forcing people to eat or not to eat anything against their will is abusive and wrong.”

            Then why are you saying in your original post that it’s wrong for children not to be made to eat meat – that vegetarian parents aren’t allowed to make vegetarian meals for their children?

            • Please quote where I said “it’s wrong for children not to be MADE to eat meat”. Can you even read?

              • Yonmei on said:

                “Vegetarians and vegans who refuse meat to their miserable kids (who, once again, are never consulted in the matter)”

                You seem to have got the notion that kids are miserable eating the same vegetarian / vegan food as their parents, and to be made happy, need to be made to eat meat. (An adult stranger insisting I eat meat would have made me very miserable as a child. I speak from personal experience, sadly.)

          • Yonmei on said:

            “When I tried to be a vegetarian as a kid and was forced and bullied into eating meat, that was very traumatic to me. I developed an eating disorder as a result”

            I’m really sorry to hear that, but why so much anger against the parents of children who were fortunate enough to grow up vegetarians? Why describe us as “miserable” because we never had to eat meat?

            • I’ll answer this one last comment but please try to read and understand instead of spamming, OK? Children I talked about are miserable not because they don’t eat meat. They are miserable because they are refused it. “Refused” means they asked for it and were denied something they wanted. Is it clearer now?

              Please take a moment to consider how often you proceed to leave completely meaningless comments because of your carelessness as a reader.

  10. Yonmei on said:

    “Make their own mind about what? The child has already been born with a certain set of genitals.”

    But why do you think you have some right to know what that child’s genitals look like?

    You really, really don’t.

    • Once again, you are ascribing me things I never said. I have no interest in any child’s genitals. Suggesting I do is libel. Please control yourself. These parents are the ones who went on TV and made the kids physiology discussed in several different countries. Had they not done that, we wouldn’t have known the kid exists. I, as a person who doesn’t know these people, was not expecting to be informed by them about the kid’s sex.

      • Yonmei on said:

        “I have no interest in any child’s genitals. ”

        Yet your entire post and most of your comments here are devoted to what you appear to be the outrageous behaviour of this child’s parents, in deciding to keep this child’s genitals private from you and the rest of the world.

        “Suggesting I do is libel.”

        Then I suggest you edit your post to make clear that you now realise you were very, very wrong to say so strongly that you and everyone else in the world deserve to know what baby Storm’s genitals look like, and that the parents have a perfect right (unusual though this is) to keep them private.

        “I, as a person who doesn’t know these people, was not expecting to be informed by them about the kid’s sex.”

        Then why are you complaining that you weren’t?

        • Once again: please read the post and try to respond to it, not to the weird voices in your head. Debating with you is like being asked to answer the question “When did you stop beating your husband?”

          Thousands of babies are born every day. Does “everyone in the world” know what sex they are? Do I think that I write to these babies’ parents and demand they keep me informed? If not, then what is the point of your questions?

          • Yonmei on said:

            “Thousands of babies are born every day. Does “everyone in the world” know what sex they are? ”

            So why do you think you – or anyone else but Storm’s immediate family – should get to know about Storm?

            “If not, then what is the point of your questions?”

            Trying to get you to understand that your complaints that you don’t know what Storm’s genitals look like and Storm’s parents are being “political” by not letting you, is as much nonsense as your complaints that the children of vegetarian parents get to eat vegetarian meals.

            • Once again: I wouldn’t have known about this baby’s existence if their parents hadn’t made it the focus of media attention. Once again: I do not care about this or any other child’s genitals. These parents turned this poor kid into a media freak. That’s what is disgusting to me.

              • Patrick on said:

                My condolences on this particular thread. Much more painful than it ought to have been.

                For the record, I thought it was pretty clear what disgusted you about Baby Storm, and it had nothing to do with genitals.

              • Thank you. It was clear to everybody who took the trouble of reading the post before firing off numerous unintelligent comments.

              • Yonmei on said:

                “I wouldn’t have known about this baby’s existence if their parents hadn’t made it the focus of media attention. ”

                And once again: If you don’t care what baby Storm’s genitals look like, why are you complaining so loud and so long that the baby’s parents won’t allow you to?

                If your complaint is about the media storm, I agree, there should be no media storm whatsoever over parents declaring that it’s no one’s business but the immediate family what a baby’s genitals look like. That there is, is clearly because of people like you who think parents ought not to keep their baby’s genitals private.

              • Please, dear troll, quote me where I said that I’m complaining that these parents don’t allow ME to know this baby’s sex. A clarification for our particularly gifted reader: the operative word here is “me”. Either provide a quote or go learn some basic rules of responding to other people’s texts.

              • Yonmei on said:

                Your entire post about these poor parents, who have done literally nothing to you except deny you what you feel is your “right” to know what baby Storm’s genitals look like.

                If you genuinely feel that it’s none of your business, why the hell are you accusing these parents of being abusive because they say it’s none of your business, either?

                Silly talk. Either apologise to the parents whom you have so roundly abused, or else continue to look like you’re frustrated that you don’t know what Storm’s genitals look like.

              • So no quote, eh? That’s exactly what I expected. Tons of verbiage to hide the fact that you are nothing but a troll.

              • Yonmei on said:

                Your entire post is one long complaint that the parents won’t allow you to know what their baby’s genitals. I could have quoted it in entirety, and will if it will get you to quit calling me a troll for asking you to justify why you think you have the right to tell other parents how to raise their children.

  11. Pingback: Gender-free Parenting « Brute Reason

  12. Yonmei on said:

    From nine days ago:–parents-keep-child-s-gender-secret

    It sounds like they didn’t expect to create a media fest. Baby Storm was born four months ago, and because people were getting on their case about their letting their sons dress and have their hair how they liked it (and coercively misgendering their son because he likes to wear pink and sparkly jewellery) they decided then just not to tell anyone.

    And because that’s not on, the flurry about it just grew, till it even got into the Toronto papers, and from then on worldwide.

  13. i tried reading your website from my xperia x10 but it wasnt visible your website mobile supported?

  14. Pingback: Cannibalizing Motherhood « Clarissa's Blog

  15. Grant Mann on said:

    You are SO right. Like when parents try to paste their nutty anti-vax and dangerous homebirther nonsense on an innocent little baby. Those people should be arrested!

    • Anti-vax and homebirth crowd is, indeed, dangerous. However, there are many methods of dealing with this danger productively without screeching “arrest!” all over the place.

      Hysteria is sad and useless when coming from either side of the debate.

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