The trailer for an upcoming episode of 60 Minutes Australia featuring families who are raising genderless “they-bie” children has gone viral on social media.
The show, airing Sunday, takes a look at the latest trend of gender-neutral parenting in which parents use they/them pronouns for their child and keep the young one’s sex a secret from everyone in their community. This is done with the intention of allowing the child to choose their own gender.
“We didn’t assign a gender at birth,” explains one mother in the trailer who is later shown reading a book to her child that imparts the wisdom that “you can’t tell what your gender is by looking at your body.”
“I’m letting this little person be who they want to be,” says another mother about her child. When asked what some of the biggest challenges are to being a “gender creative parent,” the mother responds that it is interactions with strangers.
“Strangers in the street have had quite a strong response, Why are you so obsessed? Why do you need to know?” the mother replies.
“It is an experiment. What they’re doing is unprecedented,” says an expert in the preview.
While the experiment may now just be gaining popularity, the concept of the genderless child has been around for over a decade.
In 2011, a Canadian family hit the headlines after going public about the decision to raise their third child, Storm, genderless.
Kathy Witterick and David Stocker refused to tell even their closest friends the sex of their baby, reported the Toronto Star at the time.
“We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now - a tribute to freedom and choice in a place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place?…)” read the email sent out to friends and family shortly after Storm was born.
Their story was met with backlash from both those close to them and strangers, who accused the couple of imposing their own political and ideological beliefs on a newborn.
Dr. Ken Zucker, who was at the time considered a leading expert on child gender identity issues, called the parents’ choice a “social experiment of nurture,” arguing that by not making a choice about the child’s gender, the parents have still made a choice, and one that can impact the child.
When asked if any psychological harm could come from keeping the sex of a child secret, Zucker replied: “One will find out.”
Zucker’s Toronto gender clinic was shut down in 2015 after being targeted by trans activists who accused him of conversion therapy for his approach of using psychotherapy and watchful waiting for children who suffer from gender dysphoria.
In an update on the family five years later revealed the impact of the choice the parents made. Storm had confidently chosen “she” as her preferred pronoun. The sex of the child, however, remains a secret.
The couple also had 7-year-old twin boys at the time of the update, and one calledJazz identified as a “transgender girl” while the other, Kim, identified as non-binary with they/them pronouns.
There is now a growing online community of parents making the same choice for their children.
But Lise Eliot, professor of neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School questions the impact of such a decision on the child’s life.
“Once your child meets the outer world, which may be day care, or preschool, or grandparents — it's pretty much impossible to maintain a gender-free state,” Eliot told NBC News in 2018. “And depending on how conventional your community is, you could be setting your child up for bullying or exclusion.”
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