Genderless Baby: A 'Tribute to Liberty' or Unwilling Conscript Into War on Sex Roles

But psychologists say parents' choice could hurt the child's development.

ByABC News
May 29, 2011, 6:20 PM

May 29, 2011— -- Five months ago, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker gave birth to a blond-haired, blue-eyed, baby named Storm. We know all the basics about this baby except whether it's a boy or girl.

Storm's parents decided not to share the child's sex, they say, because they want to allow the baby to develop without the constraints of gender stereotypes. It has being kept so under wraps, the grandparents do not even know if their latest grandchild is a granddaughter or grandson.

When the baby was born, Storm's parents sent an email to friends and family explaining their decision.

"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," they wrote.

But ever since this Canadian couple said the gender of their baby is none of the world's business, suddenly, the world wants to know and feels entitled to criticize their parenting style.

Baby Storm has caused a blizzard of criticism on the Internet, where bloggers are calling Storm's parents stupid and referring to the baby as a science experiment.

"I applaud their overall goals here," said psychologist Michale Bradley. "But you know this child is not asking to be this thing, and the parents are imposing this role on the child, which is an imposition of identity. This kid is being drafted into a war that may hurt him or her terribly."

But Storm's mother is defending their decision to keep the baby's private parts private. In a letter to ABCNEWS she said, "The strong, lightning-fast, vitriolic response was a shock" and that "Storm will need to understand his/her own sex and gender to navigate this world (the outcry has confirmed it!)"

Cheryl Kilodavis experienced a similar backlash earlier this year for allowing her 5-year-old son to dress up as a princess for a preschool Halloween party. But the big difference in that case, psychologists say, is that her son made the decision. Storm didn't choose to be genderless.

"The parents are making huge decisions for this child that can cause it to be ostracized," Bradley said. "It can cause it to feel humiliated, to cause it to feel a lot of doubt and uncertainty about who it is."

This concept of raising a sexless baby dates back to the 70s, when a story called, "The Story of X" appeared in Ms. Magazine. It's a fictional story about a baby who's raised not as a girl or boy but as an X. The parents decide not to tell anyone whether X is a boy or a girl. Sound familiar?

The notion of "Baby X" has also been studied before.

In 1975, researchers put 42 men and women in a room with a 3-month-old baby. The baby was dressed in yellow, and the participants didn't know whether it was male or female. There were also three toys in the room, including a doll, a little football and a rubber ring.

The study found the participants always wanted to guess the gender and typically gave the baby gender specific toys based on their guesses.