In La La Land, on 5th May 2020, Canadian music artist Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) welcomed her baby boy, provisionally entitled X Æ A-12, into the world. Before giving birth, she revealed in a livestream that she intended to raise her child according to the trend for "gender neutral" parenting, which included not revealing the child's sex. People who believe in gender ideology habitually conflate sex and gender, and end up hopelessly confused.
"I don’t want to gender them in case that’s not how they feel in their life," she said, carefully adopting the nonbinary pronoun 'they."
It's great that Grimes wants to be sensitive to her child's individuality—what mother doesn't?—but when it comes to pretending sex isn't real, or important, we have a problem.
Gender is a social system, not something parents arbitrarily assign to their child, like the sorting hat in Harry Potter. If sex wasn't real, and unchangeable, Grimes could presumably have asked the baby's father to do at least half of the gestation and birth.
X Æ A-12 was observed, at his birth, as male, and that fact will shape his life in myriad ways, whatever his mother does.
So why does Grimes, like legions of other liberal parents, believe it's her job to keep her child's options open in terms of choosing their sex? Isn't that just hopelessly at odds with material reality?
According to the gender neutral childrearing fashion, which was last popular in the nineteen seventies (see Angie and David Bowie's son, Zowie), if parents avoid "gendering" their kids by dressing little girls in pink, giving them dolls to play with, and telling them not to get dirty or climb trees, and vice-versa for little boys, then they will magically escape the social impact of their sexed bodies. Children will then be free to develop individual personalities, unrestricted by gender stereotypes.
While well-intentioned, there are limits to the usefulness of gender neutral approaches to parenting, and it arguably invites risks to children's development and wellbeing. Children's safeguarding requires that they can clearly identify the sex of an adult, and a stable sense of self requires that they can perceive their own sex. Just ask mother Canadian Pamela Buffone whose six year old daughter became distressed when her teacher told her she had no way of knowing whether or not she was a girl.
Full disclosure: I, too, have attempted to parent gender neutrally, but not in the sense of denying my children knowledge of the reality of sexual dimorphism. Being non-judgemental about choices of clothes and toys seems sensible, because none of us can know in the early years to what extent our kids will grow up to fit the mainstream mold, and we wouldn't want to shame them for failing to act like miniature Barbies and Action Men. In fact, not identifying too closely with those gender stereotypes is a marker of good mental health.
However, when it comes to the birds and the bees, I absolutely reject the contemporary fad for pretending that children can, and should, be free to "choose their gender" which, for most people, is interchangeable with sex. Kids should be able to choose what clothes and activities suit them, but that's the limit.
If Grimes' son prefers pink and sparkly things, she would presumably be on board with labelling such gender non-conformity "trans." From there, the pathway established by gender clinicians is social and then medical transition of the child to living as though they are the opposite sex. To my mind, that's tantamount to child abuse. The growing chorus of young female trans desisters suggests that the costs of concretising gender confusion grossly outweigh the alleged benefits. Sex cannot be treated as a consumer choice.
The father of Grimes' baby is the tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, who has had six sons with three women. Far be it from me to suggest that he might harbour Jeffrey Epstein-like eugenicist fantasies about seeding the human race with his supposedly superior DNA, but others have been so bold. Of course, by that metric, even Boris Johnson might be in cahoots with the transhumanist cabal.
Musk is serious about transhumanism, though. In 2016, he founded the company Neuralink, the decidedly sci-fi objective of which is “developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.” The implication of this business venture is that consumers will need to be convinced by marketers that we need our gadgetry to interface with our biology, and that buying such gadgets will distinguish us from peers with crude hardware you have to operate with your fingers.
It is fascinating that the baby boy's parents publicly represent the soft and hard elements of transhumanism - gender ideology (the belief in a mystical, subjective gender essence), and implantable Artificial Intelligence devices. Both elements hinge on biohacking, the idea that people can optimise their bodies to achieve certain ideals, and that the intelligence nature has built into our bodies is second rate. It's a contemporary iteration of a mind-body dualism which views the flesh as corrupt and in need of continual upgrades. Absent the flashing lights and data streams, it's old hat.
And this is where we see the connection between Grimes' gender neutral parenting aspirations and Elon Musk's transhumanist business agenda. We can only speculate whether, if little X Æ A-12 shows an interest in dollies and wearing tutus, his mother will interpret that as a sign he has a "pink brain" trapped in a male body, and that he should be assisted by medical professionals to alter it to more closely resemble a girls'. However, we do know there is money to be made in selling people pharmaceuticals and surgeries when they are not diseased, and gadgets which interface with their bodies. If tech entrepreneurs can persuade enough people without bio-mechanical or medical problems that they need to have machine parts fitted to take part in life, the market will be exponential.
Capitalism's last remaining frontier is the human body. The World Economic Forum predicts the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be
"characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human."
I, for one, want to live to see a revolution in which women are recognised as fully human. The idea which really needs challenging is the one which was dreamt up by patriarchal religion millennia ago, and endures to this day: that to be female is to be second rate, and naturally subordinate to men. Toys and gadgets won't get us there, but they will make some rich men even richer, while leaving a trail of damaged bodies and lawsuits in their wake.
Personally, I hope little X Æ A-12 rebels against his parental influence by renaming himself Dave - just like Zowie reverted to Duncan - and embracing his mortal, imperfect, amazing body. I hope he plants his feet on the ground and rejects transhumanism and the patriarchal, body-hating, nature-wrecking, anti-woman values it is based on.
Commodification of human life has always been wrong, and stamping a bar code on people will hardly improve our species' relationship with the living world, and our collective chances of survival. Who wants to live in a half-baked dystopia, anyway?