Some months ago I wrote about an American couple that decided to raise their child “gender neutral.” Little “Storm” (who looks like a boy to me, unless his parents are particularly broad-featured) doesn’t know if he/she is a boy/girl.
But it turns out that our adventurous couple is behind the times. Five years ago a British couple began raising “Sasha” in the same way. Now they have finally revealed that “Sasha” is a boy.
Sasha, of course, is aware of his personal equipment, and in fact “took to running around their garden naked” in a bid for self-expression. He also has “been banned from sporting combat trousers,” which makes it sound like he asked to wear them. However, his progressive parents make him wear “a blouse with ruched-sleeves and a scalloped collar to school from the girls’ uniform list,” and he is “encouraged to wear flowery tops at weekends.” He is also only allowed to play with gender-neutral toys.
So it sounds like the gender-free experiment is a bit more like a pressured-to-act-at-least-partly-female experiment.
Here the life story of David Reimer might be instructive. When his circumcision as a baby went terribly wrong, destroying his male member, his parents took the advice of a psychologist and decided to raise him as a female, including the use of female hormones and surgery. Reiner rebelled against this in his pre-teens, and came “out” as a male at age 15. Later he let his story be told, to discourage similar gender meddling. The story has a sad ending, as Reiner eventually committed suicide. You can read more on Wikipedia or in the book As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised a Girl.
Our “gender free” pals are missing the point. There’s nothing wrong with little boys acting like little boys. (So far, the “gender free” experiments seem to be carried out on boys; I suspect because of unconsciously accepting the “boys are bad” meme that has infected our society.) If a little boy likes flowers, or playing with dolls, or making clothing, or art — as some of them do — there’s also nothing wrong with that. Some men even grow up to be florists, or screenwriters, or tailors, or artists. Still fine.
But there’s a huge gulf between being cool with a small child’s own (often passing) interests, and forcing him into a feminist mold in which normal boy-like activities and clothing are forbidden. That’s not “gender free.” That’s gender jail.