Commentary: Can a baby be raised genderless?

With the long Memorial Day Weekend in the rearview mirror and the summer doldrums rising up fast to greet us, there is no doubt we need something to shake us out of our stupor. Enter the genderless baby.

Storm is a cherub-faced blond with a winsome smile — and enough controversy to match its name. That’s because its parents, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker of Toronto, are keeping their 4-month-old baby’s sex a secret. Only a close family friend, two older brothers and the midwives know if it is a he or a she.

“If you really want to get to know someone,” Stocker told a Toronto Star reporter, “you don’t ask what’s between their legs.”

Witterick and Stocker seem to be earnest non-conformists. She delivered her baby in a birthing pool. The two older children, Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2, are allowed to pick their clothes from the boys and girls sections of a store. The family co-sleeps on two mattresses pushed together on the floor of the master bathroom and practices “unschooling,” an offshoot of home-schooling centered on the belief that the curriculum should be determined by a child’s curiosity.

In other words, this couple challenges our long-held notions of how boys and girls should behave and also how parents should raise their children. My hat’s off to them. They’re braver than I would ever be. But I wonder if they truly understand the consequences of their actions.

If they did, they wouldn’t have been surprised at the reaction their story elicited when it went viral, hours after it was published by their local paper. Many readers were outraged, accusing the parents of turning the child into “a bizarre lab experiment.” In a newspaper letter defending her family, Witterick later wrote that the couple has declined more than 100 interview requests from all over the world to protect their children from the “media frenzy” that has ensued and states that the strong, speedy and “vitriolic response was a shock.”

Why agree to the first interview then? If you want to poke the sleeping giant, then get ready for his rumblings. As any transgendered (or otherwise different) person will tell you, our expectations of how the sexes should behave has been established for centuries and society doesn’t take kindly to changes.

To read the complete column, visit www.miamiherald.com.