Post 3.12 - Identity

Given the uniqueness of my own personality, the bullying I've endured, and just the androgynous nature of my behavior, I believe I've learned to be very open to the diversity of other people. I grew up surrounded by accented English thanks to the immigrant communities in which I lived, so I think I was used to people being different in a variety of ways. My mother likes to tell me the story of when I was 3 or so, and I encountered a toddler with a severe stutter. She tells me I never reacted to it, other than to listen intently until the child got his words out and then respond as if nothing was amiss.

She likes to tell me stories like that.

I think people are, to paraphrase Gaga, born with certain traits, and accepting them as who they are is a sign of affection to those who are friends and respect to those who are strangers. But then I think of the children being raised by David Stocker and Kathy Witterick in Toronto, Ontario, and I wonder what they are in for. If you aren't familiar with these names, you may have read about their child named Storm. Stocker and Witterick have opted not to reveal the sex of their child, even to family, instead choosing to let Storm discover his or her own gender identity. Storm has two brothers, Jazz and Kio, but people who meet them think they are girls. Apparently, their sex was not hidden in the same manner, but their gender identity was allowed to develop in whatever way each of them chose.

First, I have to just say, I don't know if they expect these children to grow up to porn actors or what, but English is replete with normal names, let alone other languages. I would have called their competency into question well before now.

But second is where my point really begins.

In principle, I don't see a problem with letting a boy play with dolls or a girl play with trucks. I had something like three dozen stuffed animals at one point; each had a name, and if I received more than one on a given day (their "birthday"), they became twins, triplets, etc. I also liked those little Fisher Price people, and each were named for people they looked like from my own life (I did have one African-American, and I decided he was adopted :-P). But I also loved Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels cars, and played with Lego blocks, and would build massive highways (complete with exit signs and off ramps) between my room and my brother's room.

I also liked wearing my hair long, but I was a child in the 1970s, when men frequently wore their hair long.  I never had any interest in makeup or nail polish or anything, but I was interested in clothes and definitely had my favorites, and I liked to wear religious medals around my neck. I don't think I ever played "dress up", but I do remember trying to walk in my mother's high heel shoes. I wasn't cross-dressing, so much as I was curious.

So I understand about any child having a mix of interests, or moving from one area that may be "gender appropriate" to another area of interest that may not be. But I was a boy, I knew I was a boy, and there were "boy" activities that I did gravitate toward.

I have no doubt that Jazz, Kio or Storm will go through similar developmental cycles. Having had long hair and an unchanged voice, I was frequently mistaken for a girl when I was little. But I am thinking of the various permutations that could result with these children.

Jazz is the oldest, and he is pictured in one of the articles and does look like a little girl. I did read where he wanted his parents to tell people he was a boy because he was beginning to chafe against the androgyny and confusion, as even his name doesn't give a clue. He is homeschooled, but I think once he has the opportunity to socialize, he will also begin to masculinize his appearance. Partly to fit in, but I think partly because he will be looking for an example to emulate. This will have a cascade effect down to Kio, who will naturally try to emulate Jazz as younger brothers are wont to do. But even if Storm is a girl, she may do the same to fit in with her brothers and go through the so-called tomboy phase.

I understand what the parents are trying to do, but I think they are a bit misguided. Any of their children may choose a gender identity that doesn't fit well with society, particularly in school. They could all be subject to intense bullying for this level of uncontrolled self-expression. There will be assumptions about their sexual orientations which may or may not be correct, and that complicates the matter even further, even later in life when they try to find a mate.

It seems to me that they are imposing gender crises on these children without realizing it; they are potentially creating transgendered children. Gender identity and expression can be fluid, and transgendered adults -- as well as they lesbian, gay, and bisexual brethren -- can struggle for years to find themselves and the level of expression that is most accurate to who they are inside.

But gender identity isn't just about self-expression. I believe it to be biological. People have their attractions to the sex/gender they do for biological reasons. Among heterosexuals, at minimum, it's a matter of reproduction. Among the other folks, it's a biological variation and an instinctive response, physically and emotionally. Even bisexuals may be attracted to each sex/gender for different reasons, but it is still biological.

If your gender identity doesn't match your biology, that is typically described as gender dysphoria, and some of these individuals choose to change their physical sex to match their gender to resolve the conflict. It's a painful process of discovery and resolution, and cannot be taken so lightly and treated so dismissively as a societal problem with gender perception.

So I am picturing Jazz, who grows up to be some level of effeminate in dress if not behavior. How easy will it be for him to find a partner? He may very well be heterosexual, be attracted to a woman, but she looks at him and sees a man in drag, or some sort of strange man/woman amalgam, or possibly another woman -- but likely with none of the cues that she expects or would attract her to him as a man. Is she now forced to participate in his parents' social experiment?

I just don't see this ending well for any of them, and I think the parents -- while well-meaning -- have no idea what problems they may have wrought.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

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