Sun, May 29, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Canadian mother defends approach to child gender

AP, TORONTO

A Canadian couple say the gender of their baby is none of the world’s business, despite a firestorm of criticism over their decision to keep the infant’s sex a secret.

Kathy Witterick said her four-month-old baby, Storm, should be able to develop its own sexual identity without having to conform to social stereotypes or bow to predetermined expectations associated with gender.

Witterick, 38, and her husband, David Stocker, 39, have faced a backlash since the couple’s story first appeared in the Toronto Star last weekend. Witterick says their critics are being judgemental.

Witterick said in an e-mail on Friday that the idea that “the whole world must know what is between the baby’s legs is unhealthy, unsafe and voyeuristic. We know — and we’re keeping it clean, safe, healthy and private [not secret].”

Witterick said Storm has a sex that those closest to him or her acknowledge and said they don’t know yet about the baby’s color or dress preferences.

Witterick and her husband have also been criticized for the way they are raising their other two children. Five-year-old Jazz and two-year-old Kio are well aware that they are boys, but have been encouraged to shun gender norms and express themselves in whatever way they wish.

Witterick said Jazz has the right to choose his clothes and hairstyle and said he chooses freely to wear pink despite criticism.

“Jazz has a strong sense of being a boy, and he understands that his choices to wear pink and have long hair are not always acceptable to his community,” she wrote.

Witterick said the argument that children need a sex taught to them in order to feel safe in the world does not hold up in their experience.

She said an infant at four months is still learning to recognize himself or herself and it’s not appropriate to force a sex on them.

The couple have been criticized for imposing their ideological values on a newborn and subjecting their kids to ridicule.

“Storm will certainly need to understand his/her own sex and gender to navigate this world (the outcry has confirmed that clearly), but there has never been any question that within our family, the issues of sex and gender and the decisions relating to it are always open for age appropriate discussion,” Witterick wrote.

Witterick said it’s important to challenge traditional thinking.

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