Storm of controversy
A Toronto couple are hoping to settle the question of nature vs. nurture once and for all. They're raising their four-month-old baby, whom they've named Storm, without telling anyone whether the child is male or female.
"In not telling the gender of my precious baby, I am saying to the world, 'Please, can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what (s)he wants to be?'" the child's mother, Kathy Witterick, 38, told The Toronto Star.
Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, 39, say that reinforcement of gender stereotypes begins at birth. If told a child is a boy, people will say, "What a big, strong boy!" and give him a toy truck to play with. If told it's a girl, they'll say, "How beautiful!" and give her a dress and some dolls instead. Without such clues, the parents say, the children will grow up to be more confident individuals because they will be the people they want to be.
The couple's other two children also have non-gender-specific names: Jazz and Kio. Both are boys, and both have been allowed to choose their own clothes from the boys' and girls' sections of stores since they were 18 months old. Five-year-old Jazz paints his fingernails and has a pink dress that he really likes. Two-year-old Kio has long hair and a pink and purple tricycle.
Friends and family have expressed concern that the children may be bullied. Already, Jazz says he doesn't want to go to school because of the way adults and children react to him. Stocker and Witterich say they prefer "unschooling" anyway. That means letting children decide what they want to learn at home, "not something that happens by rote from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays in a building with a group of same-age people, planned, implemented and assessed by someone else," as Witterick puts it.