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Surprising Science

The Baby Who Had No Gender

Beyond the online condemnation for two Toronto parents who reportedly refuse to make public the gender of their youngest child, there’s a deeper question on how gender forms, scientists say.

What’s the Latest Development?

In order to keep gender-based stereotypes from affecting their youngest child, named Storm, a Toronto couple is refusing to tell anyone “its” gender. “‘We thought if we delayed sharing that information, in this case, hopefully, we might knock off a couple million of those messages by the time Storm decides Storm would like to share [his or her gender],’ Storm’s mom Kathy Witterick told the Toronto Star.” Katrina Karkazis, an anthropologist at the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University, says the child’s gender neutrality won’t last long. Because of children’s strong sense of gender difference in others, Storm will self-identify as soon as she has the verbal capabilities to do so. 

What’s the Big Idea?

To what extent are Storm’s parents keeping the child from harmful gender stereotypes and to what extend are they avoiding the inevitable, possibly at the risk of confusing their child about what its role in society should be. “It’s unclear whether the experiment will work out, said Karkazis… That’s because gender messages are inescapable in our society, she told LiveScience. However, Karkazis said, Storm’s parents are correct in thinking that people treat children differently based on gender, sometimes in very subtle ways.”


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