Boys will be Boys

Apparently in America, there’s a new craze for ‘birth parties’.  Here’s how they work.  Mum and dad poddle off for the ultrasound, but aren’t told the gender of their child.  Instead the stenographer picks up the phone and calls the local bakery to let them know the results. The parents-to-be  then throw a birth party, where guests are invited to come dressed in pink or blue, depending on what they think the baby will be.  After suitable merriment, the cake is unveiled and they slice into it to reveal either pink or blue sponge.  Dad then retreats to cry alone because he hasn’t got the little boy he wanted, but other than that, the party continues.

This is the opposite approach to that taken by Kathy Witterick and her husband, David Stocker.  Based in Toronto, they are the proud parents of a four month old baby – but are refusing to reveal the child’s gender to the outside world in case it grows up constrained by gender stereotypes. They already have two other children – Jazz, aged five and Kio, aged two, both of whom chose their own hair and clothes.  The decision came after Jazz, who loves pink and paints his nails, was bullied by the other kids for looking like a girl.

Stocker commented, ‘If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs’.  But whilst I haven’t yet got Mr Bun the Baker on speed-dial, I’m not sure I agree.

Recently I watched a documentary on the Canadian, David Reimer, who was born as a healthy male, but was ‘sexually reassigned’ and raised as a female after his penis was accidentally destroyed during a botched circumcision. The psychologist John Money oversaw his case and used it to support his theory that gender identity is learned, rather than given. Reimer was raised as a girl yet never fully identified himself as female.  He was ostracized and bullied by peers, and neither the dresses nor female hormones made him feel female.  By the age of 13, Reimer was experiencing suicidal depression, and told his parents he would commit suicide if they made him see John Money again. At age 15 his parents told him the truth and he decided to begin living as a male (again, major surgery was required).  He later married and then went public with the story to show how it had wrecked his life.  Tragically in May 2004, aged 39, he committed suicide, after suffering from years of severe depression.

The report and subsequent book about Reimer fuelled debate about the biology and psychology of gender.

Are we really sovereign over our gender?  Who is the “me” who is outside my body – able to reassign my sexual identity via surgical means?  And which is it: Is my gender so important that I have a right to have it reassigned to the correct one?  Or Is it so fluid and inconsequential that I can treat it as a gloss on the real me?

7 thoughts on “Boys will be Boys

  1. I can’t get my head round the weird freakiness of parents who won’t tell the world what sex their child is, but are more than happy to tell the world that they won’t be telling. It makes them look like gender obsessed attention-seekers.

  2. … which is what they are!

    Our identity is so entrenched with our gender, and our parents can either affirm us in who we are and what we do or make it into such an issue we are bound to have problems!

    I was the girl whom when her mother put her in a pink dress stamped her feet and told strangers her name was “Andrew”.

    I quit ballet to be able to do more bike riding and tree climbing.

    I spent my whole childhood being told “gosh, what a little tomboy”.

    Now, I’m quite proud of that. Now I am a girl who can wear a dress and heels but knows how to change the fuse in a plug and mend a puncture.

    Whatever else my parents did/ didn’t do i’m grateful that they got that right!

    It’s time we start to step away from the stereotypes and be affirming to the younger generation about who they ARE.


  3. Hi Jojo

    Rants very welcome!

    I can empathise all too well with your traumatic childhood. I was actually named Matthew before birth, so convinced were my folks that I would be a boy.My dad, (inspired by the Beatles) used to cut my hair in a perfect bowl shape and strangers would say ‘let the little lad through’ when I got on the bus. Sounds like you’ve got the balance better than me now tho – I still can’t change a tyre.

  4. So let me get this straight, You can go to jail for spanking your child, at least in america, but letting a child choose their own gender in not child abuse? What a madhouse we now live in!

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