Sunday, July 12, 2009

Swedish couple decides to keep their toddler's gender a secret

Since I began identifying as a feminist, the idea of gender and its implications has been a growing fascination of mine. In my readings (for classes, blogging, and other research) I have learned about how socialization can lead to boys and girls have very different ideas about everything from toys, to food, sex, and even life goals. And that says nothing about the concerns faced by individuals who do not fit comfortably in the often-problematic gender binary.

When I read this piece from The New York Times website about a Swedish couple that decided to keep the gender of their toddler a secret, I was really interested.

The toddler's mother is quoted as saying:

“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet last spring. “It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

The piece then quotes Anna Nordenström, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Karolinska Institutet, as saying (emphasis added):

“It will affect the child, but it’s hard to say if it will hurt the child,” says Nordenström, who studies hormonal influences on gender development.

I don’t know what they are trying to achieve. It’s going to make the child different, make them very special.”

She says if Pop is still “genderless’” by the time he or she starts school, Pop will certainly receive a lot of attention from classmates.

“We don’t know exactly what determines sexual identity, but it’s not only sexual upbringing,” says Nordenström. “Gender-typical behaviour, sexual preferences and sexual identity usually go together. There are hormonal and other influences that we don’t know that will determine the gender of the child.”

I think that Pop's parents are trying to be proactive about the problem that gender often presents. Granted, I have not studied hormonal influences on gender development (and I'm not even sure I believe there is much of an influence), but I think that these parents should be given a lot of credit for trying to take this matter into their own hands instead of giving their child up to a gendered society that often works to limit the abilities and opportunities of people who are not gendered as male. Even if Pop is biologically male, I can see many benefits for the child not growing up gendered in that way.

What do you think?


Saranga said...

Interesting idea. I support it but think that by the time the kid gets to school it may not be feasible to continue.
If the set up in Sweden is like the UK, during PE lessons the kid will have to change into sports gear and then surely the other kids will notice ( at some point) his/her sex and Pop will get labeled male or female?
I've often thought about what I'd do were I to have a kid that had both male and female sex parts, would I want them operated on and
made male or female, or would I want to give them the choice as they got older? I think I'd want to give them a choice, how could I choose which is better for the child? How could I condemn them to the male/female specific life and associated dangers that entails? Which I imagine is that this Swedish couple is concerned about.

dammit janet said...

I think I remember hearing about a family in the US - for some reason, I'm thinking Kansas, but I could be wrong - that did the same thing, but upon having their child enter school without a gender, Child Protective Services took the child away.

I can't seem to find it online, but it was a year or so ago, I think

Amelia said...

Really? Taking the child away? Umm, what?

I would be really interested to read about that if you happen to find an article about it.