Privacy on privates stirs gender storm

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2011, 12:00am


It seems unbelievable, but an obscure couple from Toronto have caused a worldwide media storm by simply keeping a secret.

Blogs are abuzz, the New York morning talk shows are calling. All because Kathy Witterick and David Stocker are refusing to tell the one thing that people love to ask about of a newborn: Is it a boy or a girl?

The Toronto Star reported that the couple have chosen to keep four-month-old Storm's sex unknown to almost everyone but the baby's two older brothers. 'We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now - a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place),' the couple wrote in an e-mail to friends and family.

Witterick, 38, who describes herself as shy and idealistic and works in abuse and violence prevention, says she was inspired by son Jazz, who is 5 and chooses to wear pink. 'He wondered if people would respond differently if they didn't know the baby's sex,' she wrote in the Ottawa Citizen.

Psychologist critics harrumph that Witterick is doing Storm untold harm by making him/her an object of an unwitting social experiment. Furious readers accused the parents of undoing evolution.

But really, where is the harm? Why is it so important for the outside world to imprint its ideas about gender onto the youngster? What is so wrong if he or she experiences boyhood or girlhood from the inner self, rather than through society's signals?

The more interesting question is, why are the rest of us so unsettled by the ambiguity? Why are we so desperate to slot the kid into pink or blue, trucks or dolls, short hair or long?

What is so insecure in us?