Unless you've been hidden in a cupboard for the last week you'll have heard of 4 month old baby Storm, the child of a Canadian couple. Storm's parents say it's none of the world's business to know their baby's gender and so refuse to answer the most instinctive of questions, "is it a boy or a girl?"
Kathy Witterick said her 4-month-old baby should be able to develop its own sexual identity without having to conform to social stereotypes or bow to predetermined expectations associated with gender. "We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now – a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation," says Storm's father.
So, what I've been trying to fathom is this; are they raising an important issue or just being plain silly?
If Storm's gender can indeed be concealed from visitors and strangers, in these early formative years, what will be the reward (or cost) of doing so? Is gender identity vital or destructive?
My small and un-certain 'gripe' with Storm's folks is that they seem in mild denial of biology. Where we might fight against gender (as in, our perceived roles and stereotypes), sex (that which is prescribed to us and is obvious from our genitals) is absolute and certain and the rejection of this could be viewed as an act of disdain for oneself.
I'd be fooling nobody, least of all myself, if I told you that I treat my children, my boy one and my girl one, identically. I don't, and other people don't either. There's been plenty of fascinating research on this, some looking at how people react once they know a newborn is a boy or a girl.
That said I make a conscious effort to ensure they have the same opportunities and to not presume they'll like something over another based on their gender.
Ever since I did my psychology degree many years ago I've been fascinated with the field of Evolution Psychology. It offers huge insights and at times a fair degree of amusement too. As a student I found nightclubs hysterical once I'd learnt that the reason dancing is a popular 'courting ritual' is because during this activity we can best assess an potential mate. We're looking at posture, buttocks and rhythm. Hmm survival of the fittest, in action right before my very eyes in the raves of the 90s in Brighton.
Fascinating too is the observation of our closest ancestors. A couple of years ago psychologists watched male and female chimps at play with human toys; dolls, trucks and the likes. They found that male chimps liked stuff with wheels, and the females opted for dolls which they nurtured. Sorry but they did.
Thing is, we're animals. I love learning all this because I like being an animal, it's kinda cool and it keeps your feet on the ground if you think about it. Denying sex and gender is saying we're above all that animal stuff and we ain't.
I think Storm's parents are doing a grand job at getting us thinking and chatting about gender; challenging how we treat our boys and our girls, good on them for that. I think in reality though this denial, for Storm will be neither manageable or helpful and I'm sure her/his parents will soon focus their efforts on ensuring Storm has support to become her/his own confident person regardless.