That is how Kathy Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, announced the birth of their third child, Storm. They are keeping their four month old’s sex a secret from most people. Their other children, the midwives who delivered Storm and a close family friend are the only folks besides mom and dad who know what Storm’s genitalia looks like. Those who don’t know are not happy about it. Neither are strangers who read about the family on the Internet or see the story on TV.
“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” says Stocker. People consider it a burden to have to treat children as individuals rather than sets of stereotypes. But it’s Witterick and Stocker–not the neighbor who says, “So it’s a boy, right?” every time she sees the baby–who are cast as freaks. And basically everyone believes Storm is a boy, either because boy=default and there is not a gigantic flower headband on Storm’s skull, or because “Storm” sounds like a masculine name. Either way, people are going to make their gendered assumptions whether you like it or not, mom and dad!
When I saw a teaser for the story on the Today Show this morning, my heart sank. Not because I don’t love what the family is doing, but because I know how the media will handle it and I know how the audience will react. Comments on the original story accuse the parents of being irresponsible and damaging. For not imposing gendered restrictions on their child. Matt Lauer said it is the most commented-on story the Today Show has ever had.
Every mainstream media outlet starts off by conflating sex and gender. The family is not keeping Storm’s gender a secret. They are keeping hir sex a secret. Raising a child without telling the world hir sex is not the same as refusing to allow the child to have a gender. The Today Show had some sort of “expert” on (forgive me, I can’t find the clip) to declare how foolish Storm’s parents are being. At once he claimed gendered traits are inborn and that parents must guide their children in appropriate gendered behavior. Nature doesn’t need strict guidance. You can’t have it both ways.
“There are differences between the sexes!” he insisted … which is not an argument against keeping a baby’s sex secret. What is he so anxious about? He should be confident that he–and everyone else–will soon know Storm’s sex by observing hir behavior. Right?