Published May 24, 2011
A Toronto couple raising their 4-month-old without identifying the child as a boy or a girl have created a media firestorm in Canada, where some have likened the scenario to a "bizarre lab experiment" that seeks to undo thousands of years of social evolution.
Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, are raising their third child, Storm, to be free of societal norms regarding gender. Is Storm male or female? The parents won't say, so no one knows except Storm's older brothers, Jazz and Kio, as well as a close family friend and two midwives who helped deliver the baby, according to the Toronto Star.
Since publishing a story about the couple on Saturday, the newspaper has received a "rush of responses" from readers, including some who believe the Toronto couple is acting "very selfish" and "very inconsiderate" in their attempt to undo evolution. Others, meanwhile, told the newspaper that "breaking social norms" is not synonymous with bad parenting.
Attempts to reach Witterick and Stocker -- who reportedly works as a teacher at City View Alternative, a small middle school in Toronto -- were unsuccessful on Tuesday. In a follow-up Toronto Star story on Monday, the couple told the newspaper that they have decided not to conduct any additional interviews.
"We don't want them to feel like exotic bugs, and when consulted, they said no thanks to more media attention," Witterick wrote the newspaper in an email.
Clinton Anderson, director of the American Psychological Association's Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office, told FoxNews.com that while the organization supports gender nondiscrimination, there is no research available regarding potential harms or benefits to raising a so-called genderless child.
"I don't think the APA has any basis for concluding one way or the other on that issue," Anderson said. "In the short term, in the long term, there's really just no basis for saying. This is not an area of research that exists, to my knowledge."
What is certain, Anderson said, is that a "supportive" environment for any child is one that provides them love, nurturing care and a "good enough" context to develop.
"Gender is, of course, hugely important and that is what these parents are trying to challenge," he said. "Gender is hugely important to people, and for most people, a fundamental part of their identities."
Other mental health professionals contacted by FoxNews.com said they saw several advantages to the atypical scenario, including true self-determination for Storm.
"The child has self-determination as to what its interests may be in life, the goals for that child and what direction the child wants to go in as far as all avenues in life, as well as sexuality," said Jeff Gadere, a clinical psychologist and contributor to HealthGuru.com. "They're banking on the child being genetically predisposed to its sexuality, as well as its station in life."
A potential downside, Gadere said, could occur when the child looks to its parents for guidance in areas of self-discipline, education and other topics associated with gender. But overall, Gadere sees little potential for psychological or emotional damage to the child.
"If the parents are able to fulfill all of the needs of the child and are able to meet the child's needs in terms of guidance and nurturance, I really doubt that there's going to be any real damage to the child," he said. "I'm more concerned about how other people are going to react to the child."
Gadere added: "We're looking at something that is different. Certainly when we're dealing with changing the status quo as far as raising children, people become fearful of that. And let's give them the benefit of the doubt because they're fearful of the impact on the child."
Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for government and public policy for the American Family Association, a Mississippi-based "pro-family" organization, disagreed with Gadere's assessment, claiming the child will grow up "terribly confused" regarding sexual identity.
"I don't think there's any question that this is going to do severe harm to this child," Fischer said. "That child is either a male or female, and it’s a tragedy that his parents or her parents are apparently unwilling to base their approach on scientific and biological truth."
The attempt to keep the child's gender a secret is simply a "terrible disservice," Fischer said.
"The vast majority of people have enough common sense to recognize that this is lunacy," he continued. "The vast majority of people are motivated by a deep level of concern of what's going to happen to that poor child."