“Sexless” Babies and the Rise of “Gender Creativity”

In 2007, Beck Laxton, a self-professed “radical feminist” gave birth to a baby named Sasha.  And for five years, Laxton and her partner worked to keep the sex of their baby a secret, in the hopes of making a statement against gender stereotypes.

“All I want to do is make people think a bit.  I just want Sasha to fulfill his potential, and I wouldn’t push him in any direction … As long as he has good relationships and good friends, then nothing else matters, does it? What’s more important than being happy, and making other people happy? It’s all that matters.”[1]

Since that time, Canadians Kathy Witterick and husband David Stocker have made a similar decision regarding their child, Storm.  When Storm was born in May of 2011, they sent out an email to their close friends and family in which they said:

“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?).”[2]

Although decisions like these are still clearly outside of the cultural norm, they are not entirely unheard of.  Take, for instance, Shiloh Pitt-Jolie, the four-year old daughter of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  In recent months, Shiloh has drawn attention to herself by her unique sense of fashion.  And in an August interview with Vanity Fair, Shiloh’s mother, Angelina, had this to say:

“She wants to be a boy.  So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.  She dresses like a little dude. It’s how people dress there (in Montenegro). She likes tracksuits, she likes [regular] suits.”

Clearly, “gender creativity” is on the rise in society.  And while it is far from the norm for parents to make decisions as radical as these, there is no denying the fact that greater and greater freedom of choice is being given to individuals in the construction of their sexual identity.  But on a cultural level, this is quite confusing and even somewhat contradictory.

On the one hand, many who self-identify as being part of the “far left” want to deny the differences that gender should be allowed to play in the socialization of an individual.  They want to suggest that society should treat all people, regardless of gender, as equals, both in societal status and in access to power.  In the most extreme cases, you have parents who choose to maximize “gender creativity,” in the hopes of creating a world where sexual identity does not play a role in an individual’s ability to either succeed or be accepted.

But on the other hand, another segment of the cultural left wants to argue that the LGBTQ[3] community is entirely defined by its sexual identity, marking it out as a marginalized population.  For members of this community, matters of sexual preference are often seen as being deeply rooted in biology, and thus they serve as a defining characteristic of the individual, and one that shouldn’t, under any circumstance, be minimized or ignored.

This creates a rather interesting cultural dilemma.  If we want to suggest that socialization should not be determined by the biological sex of an individual, than how can we, at the same time, argue that biological predispositions towards certain sexual preferences form the core of an individual’s identity?  It seems to me that you can’t have it both ways.  Either sexuality should play a significant role in how people perceive us and interact with us or it should not.

If you tend to think that our biological sex should define how society perceives and interacts with us, how do you think we, as a culture, should go about deciding what are and are not appropriate gender roles?  What’s off limits to boys?  What’s off limits to girls?  And who decides?

If, on the other hand, you think that biological construction should not define us, then how can we, as a society, give any credence to notion that the LGBTQ community is a marginalized group of people? 

Whether we like it or not, these are the questions that we are facing as a society; and how we answer them, as Christians, will go a long way towards our ability to interact with those that see human sexuality in a different way than many within conservative evangelical circles tend to see it.

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12 Responses to “Sexless” Babies and the Rise of “Gender Creativity”

  1. Carrot says:

    Hrm. As someone who thought she had the option of growing up to be a boy (because they had more fun) until I was ten, yet paradoxically wanted to grow my hair long (which my mother refused because she hates long hair) – that decision didn’t stop me from growing up to marry a man and start birthin’ babies. Identity is fluid and will change as you change.

    I think that final thought is in error, though – at least in phrasing. Biological construction should not be used to define people _because_ the LGBTQ is marginalized. If no one cared how you dressed and who you slept with, the LGBTQ community wouldn’t be fighting for the right to marry their loved ones and to raise their children together or worry whether or not they’d get fired from their job if anyone discovered they like to cross-dress or (in the case of some women employees) get some harassment at work for _not_ wearing make up and nylons/heels.

    Why should I have to wear crappy uncomfortable shoes to work? I was on my feet just as much as my male co-workers. How come I was the only one expected to wear heels? I can rock the wing-tips as much as the next man, and I look awesome in a suit with my French cuffs and my tie pin.

    To address the first part of it, some times you can go to far in championing your unique snowflake. However, I can see why the idea has appeal now faced with the ongoing avalanche of pink butterfly encrusted clothes and baby doll toys at every holiday now that I have girl child. I am roundly pleased when my daughter throws the baby doll out of her crib and cries instead for a light saber so she can run around the room with her brothers. The same brothers that shoot aliens and play with an Easy Bake oven.

    Personal likes are personal likes. Doesn’t stop us from being human. We love, we cry, we hurt – the details are what makes us who we are, but we’re still human. If people stopped obsessing about the details – the things that make people “other” and therefor not “like us” – things to be “fixed” or “corrected” or “saved” – and just concentrated on “I love you for being human”, things would be a lot better.

    • Hey Carrot,

      Sometime later this week, I’ll be putting up a post that I think you’ll be really interested in. It gets to the heart of the confusion within the broader culture. Cynthia Nixon (actress from “Sex in the City”) believes that she is “gay by choice” and not by biology. This statement has brought on all sorts of criticism from within the LGBTQ community that believes it has a vested interest in rooting sexual preference in biology.

      And that really is the heart of what I was trying to talk about here in this post. On the one hand, culture wants to say that our biological make-up determines who were are and what we become. But another segment of that same culture wants to say that our biological make-up should play no role in determining who we are. And I think this is a confusing message in a culture that is uncertain of where it should be standing on these issues.

      And for Christians, this should be something that we are discussing, because our belief in a “revealed Word of God” appears to put us squarely at odds with certain cultural stories and ideas. And I’m not sure that we have done all the thinking we need to do on this subject and how it pertains to the Christian life.

      • Carrot says:

        I think I’ve read that article. Or something like it – essentially choosing a better life because she and her girlfriend have this perfect harmony where they’re not hampered by gendered roles like “Who is responsible for taking out the trash”? I found the article a little insulting.

        I think the conflict in the Biological Identity vs Chosen Identity is actually a problem rooted in language. In growing up, I didn’t want to be a girl because girls stayed at home, were quiet, didn’t run around, couldn’t call boys, couldn’t have legos/matchbox cars as toys…the list goes on. But its not that I didn’t want to be a girl its that I didn’t want to be a Girl: All Duties, Limitations, And Responsibilities Included. Oh – I would have loved long hair and swooping big skirted party dresses (not in pink) and quite possibly a tea set. But even if my parents had indulged in that, it probably wouldn’t have been enough to keep me from climbing trees with Kevin and playing in the mud.

        There are only two words – Boy and Girl – for what is essentially thousands of spots on a sliding scale between Ultra Girly Girl and Uber Man. That’s just personality, it gets even more complicated when you add sexuality to the mix and then you might have the Ultra Girly Girl Lip Stick Lesbian, which tends to fly in the face of the general flannel wearing tomboy Lesbian archetype.

        Friends more bible savvy than myself do mull over the fact that the Old Testament was fairly specifics on the Shall Nots of certain activities, yet Jesus was silent on the topic all together. Not being bible savvy, I would think to fall back on the Love One Another is a fairly safe call. After that, does it really matter if the woman you’re sitting next to in church dresses like a man? Or a man in a skirt? Chances are the woman is going to get more of a pass than her cross dressing fellow, but does his skirt impact his ability to know God?

  2. Rebecca says:

    I too refuse to wear too much “stereotypical” clothing that is, no doubt, designed to maximize the viewing pleasure for the men in the workplace. I won’t wear high heels because why do I have to have cold, wet and uncomfortable feet because I am a woman. I won’t wear little sweaters or skirts if it’s cold outside for the same reasons. If I want to wear my Doc Marten-type boots to the courthouse, I do just that. If I want to wear my motorcycle jacket, I do that too. My fiance seems fine with it, so there you go. Like Carrot above, I thought boys had more fun and none of the Green girls played with dolls. We did, though, make bows and arrows out of the bushes next door and hooked the Labrador up to the sled and wagon and made her pull us down the street.

    Gender “identity” is an interesting concept. And I’ve never really understood why what is men’s clothing is men’s clothing and why what is women’s clothing is women’s clothing, for any other reason than “viewing pleasure.”

    • Hey Bec … If you are really interested in the subject, I would love to recommend a great book I recently read. It’s called “The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are.” It’s one of the those great books that refuses to root its argument in typical rhetoric of either the left or the right. You should check it out.

  3. lamehousewife says:

    Ever since I read Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the part where Lady Macbeth wants to be “unsexed” so that she can murder another human being or at least participate in that murder, I began to see what destroying gender is for…and it’s not good.
    Femininity is sacred. Masculinity is sacred. Why are women so afraid to be women with all the beautiful blessings that entails? Why are men so afraid to be men? Could it be that our lack of chastity as a society has caused this identity crisis? Chastity entails the matured integration of a person’s sexuality into his or her personal identity, as the Catechism says. I rather see this as an extreme problem of puritanism. People hate their genders so much that they would rather sterilize, flatten, and dull out differences. “Let’s throw everything out!” The easy way out.
    Gratitude goes such a long way because then we realize that femininity and masculinity are not beasts to avoid but gifts to be thankful for. With Jesus, all is redeemed, beautiful, and sacred!
    ps-I get a lot of my ideas from JPII’s Theology of the Body. Absolutely magnificent!
    Thank you for the engaging topics.

    • Carrot says:

      Can I be a woman in jeans and a t-shirt? Or must I wear heels and crinoline? Am I a woman for giving birth to three children? Or am I man for engaging in combative sports? Was I not feminine while being the primary bread winner for the family and was my husband not masculine for being the stay home care giver of children?

      You have not defined femininity nor masculinity as assigned spheres of behavior.

    • I think Carrot raises an excellent question to your comment. And it’s a question I tried to raise in my post. How do we define what is feminine and what is masculine? Bear in mind, I’m not trying to deny that there are differences. I’m simply asking the question: how do we define the terms and live that out in a cultural environment that is experiencing greater degrees of sexual fluidity.

      Thanks for commenting. And by the way, any chance you were an English major in college? That’s two comments referring to classical works of literature. 🙂

    • Alright, friend, you’re not allowed to drop an article on the site and only say “crazy.” What makes it “crazy?” Is it a child that is transgender? Is it a society having to deal with this scenerio? What is it?

      • Darn, should have known you would say something like that! ;).

        Anyways, I think it’s crazy that his family is encouraging it. Who knows how that all even started with him! Maybe he thinks that if he acts like a girl, his family will accept him more? I don’t know his family and don’t know the little boys heart, but I find it VERY hard to believe that the he was like that all his life. Something must have started it all…

        It kind of reminds me of the show on TLC called “Toddlers and Tiaras.” The parents put their kids into beauty pageants in order to win 10,000 dollars. And, in most cases, the parents get more crazed and emotional before the pageant than the kids do! All for fame and money. Sometimes the kids scream and cry to their parents because they don’t want to be in the pageant.

        In this case, it isn’t for “fame and money.” But maybe the boy really doesn’t want to go into “girl scouts” or act like a girl, but the only way to win his family’s affection is by acting like he is? I really don’t think the little boy is transgender by heart, though he tends to act like it. Influence from family members plays a big part in a kids life.

        And though I don’t agree with how Girls Scouts handled this situation, it’s understandable. At first, the Girls Scout organization rejected letting the boy in, but than finally accepted later on. So I would assume the family threatened to sue the organization or made it a bigger deal than it should for publicity, when he was rejected. Openly accepting this little boy into a “Girls Scout” group would cause problems and same with rejecting. It’s risky in both cases. I really don’t know what I would do if I were in the shoes of Girls Scouts.
        There’s alot of danger that can happen to the family, organization, and the other girl scout kiddos.

        They should have kept this more private…
        What do you think?

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