Swedish Parents Raise Child Gender-Free

Here’s an interesting story. Two parents have kept their child’s sex a secret from all but a tiny handful of people.  They are leaving it up to the child as to when s/he decides to reveal hir sex to others.  (Thanks to Rachel and Rebecca for the heads up.)

Pop’s parents, both 24, made a decision when their baby was born to keep Pop’s sex a secret. Aside from a select few – those who have changed the child’s diaper – nobody knows Pop’s gender; if anyone enquires, Pop’s parents simply say they don’t disclose this information.

In an interview with newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in March, the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction.

“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

The child’s parents said so long as they keep Pop’s gender a secret, he or she will be able to avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female.

Pop’s wardrobe includes everything from dresses to trousers and Pop’s hairstyle changes on a regular basis. And Pop usually decides how Pop is going to dress on a given morning.

Although Pop knows that there are physical differences between a boy and a girl, Pop’s parents never use personal pronouns when referring to the child – they just say Pop.

“I believe that the self-confidence and personality that Pop has shaped will remain for a lifetime,” said Pop’s mother.

Given the way adults tend to slather children with stereotypical gender expectations from conception onward, I see this as a refreshing approach to parenting. Not everyone fits into the pink and blue shackles that so many folks take for granted.  I think it would be wonderful to work toward a world in which children can simply grow to take advantage of whatever talents and qualities come naturally to them. Right now, this is clearly not happening. Gender stereotypes and their accompanying social expectations effectively serve to cut off bits and pieces of children’s personas in an effort to fit them into a pink and blue, cookie cutter world.

If you are looking for proof, all you have to do is walk into a Toys R Us, open your eyes, and see how the toys are extremely gender segregated. Every time I visit one of these establishments, I feel like coming back in the dead of night and firebombing the place. I feel like firebombing the entire corporation.  Naturally, that course of action will not solve the problem because business practices such as these can not survive unless parents buy into gender stereotypes en masse.  I place the blame squarely where it belongs: the average adult who has regular contact with children.  Learn to challenge your assumptions, for your actions and your words might be helping to stunt the life of a child you know.

~ by timberwraith on June 25, 2009.

8 Responses to “Swedish Parents Raise Child Gender-Free”

  1. Wow. that’s an interesting concept, and a fantastic social concept to boot. I’m curious to know how the child has responded to this approach, and whether they’ve begun to manifest any of the typical sex traits or not. (Though I suppose the experiment could be somewhat contaminated by gender roles assumed by those in the child’s environment… in the future perhaps a child will be raised in an environment intentionally lacking static gender ID’s on anyone to see how that changes things)

    I certainly hope the media don’t grab this and start invading those people’s lives in the fashion of that +8 show, but is there anywhere that more information is available? (I’ll look myself, but I assume you have a few sites already pegged as good sources)

  2. Even the parents, in spite of their heroic efforts, might be treating the child differently because they are aware of their child’s sex. They are certainly doing a lot to counteract this possibility—more than 99.99999% of parents, probably—but the way people treat male and female human beings varies in the most subtle of ways: body language, tone of voice, the way a baby is held, eye contact, etc. A lot of this behavior is subconscious and stems from years of socialization. Trying to totally filter out this kind of behavior is difficult because it’s such an ingrained habit.

    Transitioning across the gender divide was a mind blowing experience because of the countless subtle ways—and not so subtle ways—that people’s behavior toward me changed. On any given day, I could make an endless list of the differences I observed. Fifteen years later, I’ve forgotten most of the details and all of that change simply blended into the daily texture of life.

    The thing about this phenomena is that people’s shift in behavior inevitably changes you. It changes your perceptions of people around you and it changes your perceptions of self. So, it doesn’t take a stretch of imagination to assume that a child is influenced by this phenomena, too, even if the gendered differences in treatment are subtle.

  3. I certainly hope the media don’t grab this and start invading those people’s lives in the fashion of that +8 show, but is there anywhere that more information is available? (I’ll look myself, but I assume you have a few sites already pegged as good sources)

    The original article that I quote has a link to an interview of the parents. However, it’s not in English. Beyond this news article, I’m unable to find additional mention of the family.

  4. Your blog is a goldmine of interest for me. Gender and sexuality are not my primary interests (I’m studying social psychology), but any analysis of social issues must include gender and sexuality. I’ll be back to read around see what you have to say!

    Thanks for commenting on my page so that I can find you.

  5. Welcome, Sundjata. I hope you find the content of this blog interesting and useful. I encourage you and any new commenters to read the House Rules.

  6. […] child not as a boy or a girl, but as a child. I recommend reading what Timberwraith had to say here. You can go here to read the story in english, or here for some […]

  7. Interesting. But i think gender is what make’s a part of this world fun. Remember having your crush when you were a kid? Raising a child is very important. But it’s still up to the parents how they want their child to grow.

  8. @Raising a Child
    What does having a crush have to do with gender? Gender isn’t the same as sexual orientation- plenty of genderqueer and trans kids had their first crush just like their peers, and they would have even if they’d been allowed to be themselves. The idea also isn’t to get rid of gender completely- just to allow kids the freedom to figure out who they are for themselves.

    And I’m sure it wasn’t all that fun for the non-straight kids who’s first crush brought feelings of dread, confusion, and isolation.

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