Okay, I’m not the most rational person at the best of times, but the more I think about gender and society, the more my ideas about how I would raise a child have changed. I don’t plan on having children, but I don’t want to rule anything out completely. Besides, what is life if you can’t think about hypotheticals?
Parenting websites and society in general seems obsessed with baby gender. As soon as a couple announces that their child has either male or female genitals, their gender is decided. Girls get pink things. They get dresses. Boys get blue things. They get outfits with trucks and machines on them. There is no in between, there’s no third gender, there’s no room for a child that’s intersex.
When shopping for baby shower gifts, I became very familiar with the way that baby aisles are divided. There’s a sea of blue for the males, sea of pink for the females, and a few green or yellow items for the parents that wanted to be surprised by their child’s sex and made gift shopping all the more difficult. With the reality of gender being something that people can do and choose, it makes the pink and blue bibs look all the more limiting.
Now granted, there are problems with gender in society. However, I don’t think a good way of dealing with this by ignoring it. Two parents decided to raise their baby without letting anyone know what the child’s sex is. Only the parents and the midwife that delivered the baby know the sex. While I can see their point, I don’t think that this is going to be helpful for the child.
Having gender isn’t the issue here. Every child should be allowed the freedom to explore and discover gender for themselves. I wonder if a child raised genderless will come to regard gender expression has a bad thing or something that’s off limits to them. Also, there are biological differences between males and females that a child needs to be made aware of.
This doesn’t mean that they have to be taught that biology is destiny or that they will be required to live as their sex dictates in a society that nurtures gender to the extreme. But simply to be made aware of the very facts of being a human with hormones that does crazy shit to your body. I also don’t believe that intersex children should be raised genderless.
While they’re small, e.g. infants, dress them however seems appropriate. When they become old enough to choose, let them pick out what they want and find their own path. While we shouldn’t force gender onto our children, we shouldn’t keep them from it either.
Besides, we live in this tiny place called the real world, where gender is infact a thing. Even if I try to raise a child genderless, schools, the media, and the rest of the intrusive world is right there to remind them that their genitals carve the path to their futures. As idealistic as I like to be, I also recognize that you have to be practical.
Raising a child that’s genderless in a society that isn’t is going to create social and emotional problems for the child that no one was expecting. The child should be given the knowledge and tools that other children have when they head into the world, starting with school. So raising a child that’s genderless would not be an asset as soon as they reach school age.
Part of the problem is that babies are born with expectations. As soon as soon-to-be parents find out that they’re having a girl, they imagine her attending debutante balls and getting married in a white dress and bringing over the grandkids to spend the weekend. For a boy, he’s pictured playing war with his friends, then playing football in high school, achieving a high-level career and marrying a beautiful woman that will give him aesthetically-pleasing offspring.
But this makes no room for children that even slightly unconventional. What if your daughter doesn’t want to have children? What if your son is gay? What if either of them are trans? What one of them wants to devote their lives to working with orphans in a developing country and never returns to the US except for holidays?
It’s far too easy to foist our own dreams onto children and not leave any room for them to be individuals. I know that when I was born, my parents never considered that I would be an underemployed Hello Kitty fanatic with crazy views on gender and entirely too much time spent writing. But this is how I turned out.
If I ever have a kid (and I have names picked out, just in case) I will have to keep reminding myself that no matter what my dreams are for my child, they will have their own dreams and their own journeys and their own mistakes. I’m here to help them be the person that they were meant to become. That’s it. As much as I’d love a child that would have my interests or completely opposite interests, they would be their own people and might not be anything like I ever imagined.
Raising children is no small thing. For the parent or the child. But when it comes to gender, children need to know what is expected of them so they can choose to do what they want. Showing children the way some people choose to express their gender won’t hamper their own expression. In fact, it might just help them find their own way.