A quick glance at a newspaper reveals that many of the problems that exist in the world today are related to issues of gender inequality. So does that mean that the solution can be found in getting rid of gender all together?
A couple in Toronto has decided that they aren’t going to be sharing the gender of their child with others. After the baby was born the parents send out a message to family and friends explaining, “we’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place? …).” The couple believes that our culture is obsessed with gender and that gender dictates much of how people treat and respond to others. They believe they are giving their baby the freedom to choose who it wants to be without assigned characteristics based on other people’s understandings of gender identity. They feel like parents make too many decisions for their children, and this is a decision they feel best left to the children themselves.
After being interviewed for an article in the Toronto Star, the topic of the genderless child went viral. Commentators flooded the newspaper with their thoughts and concerns. Numerous articles have been written about it. Talk show hosts have featured segments discussing the positives and negatives of such an act.
Much of the criticism of the couples’ decision comes from concerns that the child will be a social experiment. Others express concern that by not acknowledging that the baby has a gender, parents are enforcing the idea that gender is a problem. Some argue that they are making gender a bigger deal than it needs to be by not identifying it; rather gender is just one part of who you are.
The concept of gender not being fixed is not new. In certain circles, people regularly talk about gender not being binary (simply masculine and feminine), the difference between gender and sex and gender identity and gender expression. Yet the decision to actively promote a “gender free” child seems to elicit strong feelings in many people.
Is the way to combat the ruinous consequences of placing gender at the center of someone’s identity simply to ignore gender all together? Is this the way in which to promote equality?