Cross-posted from No Lords, No Masters.
I’ve you’ve been on the internets lately, you’ve probably heard about the parents who are raising their child Storm without an assigned gender. As a member of various online transgender communities, I’ve been overhearing a lot of “everyone should do this!” under the assumption that everyone can do this. First of all, what is “this”? In the words of Arwyn of Raising My Boychick:
To start with, let’s get it clear that what Witterick and Stocker are doing isn’t “hiding Storm’s gender” or “keeping the baby’s gender a secret”: someone’s gender, like their sexuality, is something which only that person can reveal for themselves. What it seems, from the stories I’ve read (and that’s a big caveat, given how distorted a person’s life can become through the filters of media), that this family is doing is declining to assign their third child a gender of “boy” or “girl”. And while others are free, should they see Storm’s diaper being changed while out and about, to peer at the baby’s genitals and make their own assignment based on Storm’s apparent sex, they’re not revealing the baby’s phenotypical sex, either, because in this culture, in which vagina = girl and penis = boy, to do so would be to assign the child a typical binary gender.
It became obvious to me rather quickly that they either have the ability to hide the child’s diaper-changings from others, or else they have the ability to influence those who do see to say nothing. This implies that they either are wealthy enough to only need one income, thus enabling one of the parents to stay with the child at all time; or else they have the privilege of being surrounded by people who are willing to “play ball” with them, as it were, and go along with their wishes to the letter. Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t have either of these privileges. My child is frequently with grandparents and daycare workers, and I don’t even have custody anymore. Also, most people he’s surrounded by are rather conservative and wouldn’t go along with this even if I made my most convincing argument. They’d “sneek a peek” and then go with the penis-suggestive pronoun, and call me weird for protesting.
But a funny thing happens when I try to point out these simple facts, even among the transgender community: nobody seems to care. In fact, Arwyn is the only one who has even mentioned something similar:
I know that this is a path made easier by the fact that in most other respects, Storm accords with hir culture’s idea of the “default person” and hir family with the “default family”: apparently white, not visibly disabled, apparently middle class, the parents married and apparently cisgender, the children not adopted. While sexism and cissexism are hardly only middle class white people’s concerns, having privilege in these areas means this family are not being questioned about race and class and sexuality and dis/ability the way a more marginalized family would likely be, which frees up time and mental energy to approach gender and sexism, and to attempt to protect their child(ren) from the worst effects thereof, in this particular, culturally disapproved, way.
Thank you, Arwyn! And you know what? I’m tired of the pressure put on parents by others to be perfect. I’ve tried explaining to person after person “no, not everyone can raise their child this way, especially if they’re financially dependent on others to help raise the child, others who have different ideas about parenting”. But the reaction is always the same “don’t you realize the damage caused by raising children with a gender!” as if classism doesn’t come into this at all. I even had one woman tell me, in response to me pointing out that not everyone can afford to have a stay-at-home parent in the family, “that’s what welfare is for, so you can stay at home”. WTF?
I don’t need the guilt people try to lay on me about how I’m such a bad parent for binary gendering my child even though I’m genderqueer myself. No parent needs that.