Last week, the internet universe erupted with the story of baby Storm. Storm’s parents, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, have decided not to share Storm’s sex with anyone outside a small circle of people, most of whom were present at Storm’s birth, until such time as Storm and the family are ready to share.
Needless to say, the internet loves a controversy. First reported in the Toronto Star, Storm’s story has been featured in newspapers, blogs and twittered about around the world.
I admit, upon reading this story, that my first reaction was to be disturbed by the family’s choice. Even I, a child of the 1970s, whose gender consciousness was formed almost exclusively through repeated exposure to Free To Be, You and Me*, was confused. This just seemed like a truly difficult and uncertain means to put into practice something that parents have been trying to do for the last 40 years – to allow their children to come into their own understanding of who they are, as free as can be from socializing messages of what “boys do” or “girls do”.
As the mother of two boys, I tried (admittedly, not perfectly) to allow them to develop their own understanding of who they were without too much interference. As toddlers and young children, they were allowed to explore, even when that meant wearing purple t-shirts, purple snow suits and kilts, kitchen sets and dishes for birthday presents, and, for a while, renaming obviously male body parts by their understanding of the female equivalents. Both of them played with the idea that it would be better to be a girl than a boy, and eventually came to where they are now. And it occurs to me that Storm’s parents were heavily influenced in their decision not to share Storm’s sex or gender by their experiences in raising his older brother, who undoubtedly went through the same age-appropriate exploration as did my own.
As open minded as we might have tried to be, it never would have occurred to us to present them, to the world, as anything but males. They are clearly male, and they are both clearly boys, and they are who they are, in both cases, a work in progress. And upon reading Storm’s story, and being reminded of both X-A Fabulous Child’s Story and Free to be You and Me and all those similar messages which permeated my own childhood, and all of which were a product of the rise of feminism in the 1960s, it occurred to me that 1970s are long over. Those books, those references — they’re from a different time. Hadn’t we all moved on?
Judging by the outcry over Storm’s parents’ choice, apparently not.
And so, after reading Kathy Witterick’s explanation of her family’s choice in Sunday’s Star, I conclude that theirs is a brave choice. It’s not the one I would have made, but I hope (since I’m still somewhat skeptical) it is the right one for Storm.
*oh yes, and then there was this, which definitely left a mark.