Wednesday, May 25, 2011

child x

This is an amazing story. I get what they are doing, sort of. I mean, I understand that they don't want to box their kid into stereotypical roles, or have assumptions imposed on the kid. But, once again, I feel like sex and gender are getting tangled. Let's say the kids has a vagina and no penis. (The article says there is no biological ambiguity.) So, in conventional terms, we'd call that kid a girl. The parents are worried that the girl would face undue expectations of female gendering -- that grandma would buy a doll, or that people would talk about how many hearts she'd break later in life, or that nobody would ask her dad if he planned to toss a football with her. But isn't this something we all manage by saying "she can do what she likes, and we'll see what her tastes and interests are, not decide based on her sex."

The parents already have two biological boys who like to wear their hair long and wear pink. And the parents are "unschooling" (an extra loose version of homeschooling) them. Which, I guess removes them from some social strictures as well as some forms of socialization. But, still, the boys face difficulties, because people don't know how to "read" them. So, the boys ask their parents to please let people know they are boys. The boys don't think ambiguity makes their life any easier. And, despite wearing long hair and pink, they do not perceive themselves as girls. They believe they can be pink wearing, long-haired boys. And so do I. But somehow the parents feel that isn't enough, that removing the "stigma" of sex would help them more -- despite the fact that the kids say they feel bad about not being able to be in a conventional school and that they ant to tell people they are boys.

Now, the new kid, Storm, will not be assigned a sex. Therefore, the parents reason, nobody will impose definitions. But, in not assigning a sex, aren't the parents assigning their own definitions. If Storm is a biological female, and it turns out that she likes things that have historically been gendered masculine, then does that mean she is not a girl? Only by assuming that our gender and sex have to match do we decide that sex is something to be re-named.

Once again, I have to ask whether the parents' sense of gender ambiguity is too narrow. As with the kid on Oprah I discussed in an earlier post, I feel that the parents here are imposing stricter gender definitions by denying sex than if they let their boys be gender bending boys and let Storm, whoever and whatever she is, be whoever and whatever she is, without worrying about whether who she is fits or does not fit conventional gender stereotypes. Wouldn't the parents serve him/her best not by turning his/her sex into a guessing game but by allowing her to be herself, wearing pink or blue or green and playing with dolls and balls and dinosaurs and tupperware, or whatever s/he likes. Break the stereotypes by all means. But don't impose stereotypes of your own by removing labels like "girl" and "boy" as if that fixes everything.

No comments:

Post a Comment