Back in May, a Canadian couple ignited a news firestorm when word got out that they were raising one of their children, Storm (pictured right, with older brother, Jazz ), as “genderless.” They believed that gender is unimportant when it comes to getting to know a person and gives them the right to choice.
“When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or boy?'” Kathy Witterick, the mother said, “If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs.”
Raising children without “gender bias'” is becoming quite the rage worldwide. Now a preschool in Stockhom, Sweden is being marked on the maps in the gender debate. At the “Egalia” preschool, the staff avoids using words like “him” or “her” and addresses the 33 kids as “friends” rather than girls and boys. Instead, they’ve adopted the genderless word “hen,” which doesn’t exist in Swedish but is used in some feminist and gay circles.
“Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,” says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher. “Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.”
Director Lotta Rajalin notes that Egalia places a special emphasis on fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. From a bookcase, she pulls out a story about two male giraffes who are sad to be childless – until they come across an abandoned crocodile egg.
Jay Belsky, a child psychologist at the University of California, Davis, said he’s not aware of any other school like Egalia, and he questioned whether it was the right way to go. “The kind of things that boys like to do – run around and turn sticks into swords – will soon be disapproved of,” he said. “So gender neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness.”
Egalia school does not however deny the biological differences between boys and girls but they hope children will understand that these differences “don’t mean boys and girls have different interests and abilities,” Director Rajalin says. “This is about democracy. About human equality.”
So readers, what do you think about the “genderless” debate issue? Is gender an important part of a child’s identity, or can it be discarded? Is this the ultimate expression of free will and equality or will this lead to confused children? Does gender matter?
We want to know what you think!