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Swedish parents keep 2-year-old's gender secret

Lydia Parafianowicz · 23 Jun 2009, 16:24

Published: 23 Jun 2009 16:24 GMT+02:00

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Pop’s parents [see footnote], both 24, made a decision when their baby was born to keep Pop’s sex a secret. Aside from a select few – those who have changed the child’s diaper – nobody knows Pop’s gender; if anyone enquires, Pop’s parents simply say they don’t disclose this information.

In an interview with newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in March, the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction.

“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

The child's parents said so long as they keep Pop’s gender a secret, he or she will be able to avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female.

Pop's wardrobe includes everything from dresses to trousers and Pop's hairstyle changes on a regular basis. And Pop usually decides how Pop is going to dress on a given morning.

Although Pop knows that there are physical differences between a boy and a girl, Pop's parents never use personal pronouns when referring to the child – they just say Pop.

"I believe that the self-confidence and personality that Pop has shaped will remain for a lifetime," said Pop's mother.

But while Pop’s parents say they have received supportive feedback from many of their peers, not everyone agrees that their chosen course of action will have a positive outcome.

“Ignoring children's natures simply doesn’t work,” says Susan Pinker, a psychologist and newspaper columnist from Toronto, Canada, who wrote the book The Sexual Paradox, which focuses on sex differences in the workplace.

“Child-rearing should not be about providing an opportunity to prove an ideological point, but about responding to each child’s needs as an individual,” Pinker tells The Local.

“It’s unlikely that they’ll be able to keep this a secret for long. Children are curious about their own identity, and are likely to gravitate towards others of the same sex during free play time in early childhood.”

Pinker says there are many ways that males and females differ from birth; even if gender is kept ‘secret,’ prenatal hormones developed in the second trimester of pregnancy already alter the way the child behaves and feels.

She says once children can speak, males tell aggressive stories 87 per cent of the time, while females only 17 per cent. In a study, children aged two to four were given a task to work together for a reward, and boys used physical tactics 50 times more than girls, she says.

But Swedish gender equality consultant Kristina Henkel says Pop’s parents' experiment might have positive results.

“If the parents are doing this because they want to create a discussion with other adults about why gender is important, then I think they can make a point of it,” Henkel says in a telephone interview with The Local.

“You can talk about there being a non-stereotypical gender; if you are a girl you can do the same as a boy, and if you’re a boy you can do the same as a girl.”

Henkel also says a child's sex can deeply affect how they are treated growing up, and distract them from simply being a human being.

“If the child is dressed up as a girl or boy, it affects them because people see and treat them in a more gender-typical way,” Henkel explains.

“Girls are told they are cute in their dresses, and boys are told they are cool with their car toys. But if you give them no gender they will be seen more as a human or not a stereotype as a boy or girl.”

She says that without these gender stereotypes, children can build character as individuals, not hindered by preconceived notions of what they should be as males or females.

“I think that can make these kids stronger,” Henkel says.

Anna Nordenström, a paediatric endocrinologist at Karolinska Institutet, says it’s hard to know what effects the parents' decision will have on Pop.

“It will affect the child, but it’s hard to say if it will hurt the child,” says Nordenström, who studies hormonal influences on gender development.

“I don’t know what they are trying to achieve. It’s going to make the child different, make them very special.”

Story continues below…

She says if Pop is still ‘genderless’ by the time he or she starts school, Pop will certainly receive a lot of attention from classmates.

“We don’t know exactly what determines sexual identity, but it’s not only sexual upbringing,” says Nordenström. “Gender-typical behaviour, sexual preferences and sexual identity usually go together. There are hormonal and other influences that we don’t know that will determine the gender of the child.”

Both Nordenström and Pinker refer to a controversial case from 1967 when a circumcision left one of two twin brothers without a penis. Dr. John Money, who asserted that gender was learned rather than innate, convinced the parents to raise 'David' as 'Brenda' and the child had cosmetic genitalia reconstruction surgery.

She was raised as a female, with girls’ clothes, games and codes of behaviour. The parents never told Brenda the secret until she was a teenager and rebelled against femininity. She then started receiving testosterone injections and underwent another genetic reconstruction process to become David again. David Reimer denounced the experiment as a crushing failure before committing suicide at the age of 38.

“I don’t think that trying to keep a child’s sex a secret will fool anyone, nor do I think it’s wise or ethical,” says Pinker. “As with any family secret, when we try to keep an elemental truth from children, it usually blows up in the parent’s face, via psychosomatic illness or rebellious behaviour.”

But with a second child on the way, Pop's parents have no plans to change what they see as a winning formula. As for Pop, they say they will only reveal the child's sex when Pop thinks it's time.

Footnote: Pop is not the child's real name but is the name used in Svenska Dagbladet's interview with the child's parents from March 6th.

Lydia Parafianowicz (lydia.parafianowicz@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

02:27 June 24, 2009 by Aneud
And THIS will help fighting the good fight against an artificial construct, the gender.

What a sad, sad lot.
08:35 June 24, 2009 by apostolos1975
Reading this only thing comes into my mind. TOO MUCH FREE TIME. These guys have too much time for mental mastur..... (copywrited by an Italian friend of mine)
10:23 June 24, 2009 by Gower76
This is tantamount to child abuse.
10:41 June 24, 2009 by Baned
If the child was American, the parents would be sued (by the child) for psychotherapist fees in 10 years. I bet the story can fetch a pretty penny for one of those smut talk shows. I wouldn't be surprised if they aren't getting offers to those shows now!
12:15 June 24, 2009 by AAmaral
These guys are insane! Help the kid, for god sake!
15:14 June 24, 2009 by Bra_billie_boy
Really Really Stupid parents!! The kid is too young to decide anything on its own. Someone please rescue the kid from its crazy parents.
17:14 June 24, 2009 by Gwrhyr
I guess I'm the only one who doesn't think this is crazy. I think people misunderstand what the parents are doing. They're not pulling Pop away from gendered activities, they're just letting Pop do and wear what Pop wants to. They're not trying to 'hide' Pop's gender from Popsself. They're doing nothing wrong, and I think more people end up in therapy due to societal and parental pressures to conform than for lack of those pressures. They're actually thinking about how they're raising their child rather than just going along with what society expects, which, in my opinion, is much better than the majority of people who raise their kids to fit their own vision of what they think their kids should be. These parents are ahead of their time, so don't be surprised if all of your great-grandchildren end up being raised in a manner like this.
18:58 June 24, 2009 by Miss Kitten
Since the parents are letting the child effectively choose its own gender, it will certainly be very interesting two take a look at this family in ten years and see what has happened.

Personally I think the child will gravitate naturally toward children of its own sex and begin behaving in either feminine or masculine ways. Gender is not entirely socially constructed. Much of it is in fact innate.
19:18 June 24, 2009 by Puffin
It's an interesting idea to challenge gender norms and let a child naturally find their own direction.

There was an interesting dagis project in Gävle a few years ago (Brave girls and tender boys) which challenged traditional gender norms - staff who thought they treated the pre-scholar the same were horrified to see the differences on video - then the children spent a part of the day doing things normally more encouraged with the opposite sex

20:57 June 24, 2009 by jennaheartsyou
Good for them! As a transgendered person who's had to work through twenty-some years of baggage relating to gender norms, I think it's wonderful to see a family allowing their child to figure out things early on.

Maybe it's typical to impose a gender role on a child and expect them to live up to it, but I know from personal experience that it can be painful, frustrating and destructive if it's not a good fit. I wish the best for Pop. :)
21:27 June 24, 2009 by 7
nope. i don't think it's crazy either, but a heck a lot of effort and difficult to continue with if they put the child into dagis.

we treat boys and girls differently (and they act differently) which i think is a large part of nature, though certainly nurture plays a role. since "pop" is only one case study, we'll never know what the "experiment" produced.
21:27 June 24, 2009 by Bisonex
As an intersex person, I can see the advantages in that, too. I was brought up that way pretty much; although the doctors and my parents had an expectation of my gender from the start and I was steered that way and they got it wrong - as they discovered when I hit puberty! It leads to some interesting situations, such as when my eldest daughter found a picture of her aunt's wedding, and there is her dad, aged 9 years, as one of the bridesmaids!!! When she reached her teens, I had to persuade her that I really was her biological dad, which I am, and I explained to her how my anatomy was misinterpreted at birth.

To be honest, I think a better way would be to raise a child loosely according to his or her biological sex, and to make it clear that the gender boundaries are not cast in stone and they are free to try out their personality and interests as the opposite sex if they feel so inclined. I wouldn't be giving a 4-year-old girl a crew cut or putting a 4-year-old boy in a dress unless they specifically asked for it.

21:28 June 24, 2009 by iamanaccount
Not crazy, not a big deal. Let the kid have fun. Even a kid has a personality that is distinct from their gender. All the fetishizing of children as a little pink girl or a little blue boy obscures them as people.
21:31 June 24, 2009 by High Priestess Kang - Slut
I willingly admit that when I first read the article, my hetero bias took control and lead me down the path of, "these parents are very peculiar."

Thank you to those brave enough to share your points of view. You have expanded my opinion and I no longer think the parents are bananas.
21:39 June 24, 2009 by rshining
It would seem that this approach would be detrimental to the transgender community. By saying that gender is a purely social construct aren't you negating the idea that your body's gender and your soul's gender do not match? Wouldn't it suggest that you should just expect your mental identity to match your physical one and then act any way you want?

If the child is actually intersex that's one thing- allowing a freedom to explore identity, etc. But allowing your child to be identified as male or female doesn't force you to treat them one way or another- why make life harder on the poor kid?
22:25 June 24, 2009 by Random Guy
I am transsexual, so I know how it feels to be forced to grow up in the wrong gender role. But I'm not sure if this is a good idea. Raising a kid without a specific gender role may be just as bad as raising a kid in the wrong gender role.

Eventually, the kid will notice that our society is very binary gendered, and (s)he may feel like an outsider for the rest of his/her life. It's also possible that (s)he will fit in with both genders, but isn't it a bit dangerous to perform these kind of experiments on your child?

Personally, I'd raise the kid in his/her biological gender role but I would teach him/her that there's nothing wrong with cross-gendered behavior.
22:26 June 24, 2009 by Miss Kitten
Nope. In the original SvD article a father is definitely mentioned:

23:04 June 24, 2009 by a wonderful life in Sweden
I dont agree with these parents way to bring up their child, it is a total ego trip.

Let me invite you to my new blog: A wonderful life in Sweden: http://wonderfulsweden.blogspot.com/


23:04 June 24, 2009 by kenny8076
everyone just be patient, wait for "pops" first day of school and it has to go to the bathroom. then these idiot parents will be having to answer questions by other parents who dont want there boy in there daughters restrooms. the same goes for public restrooms. they wil be running into lawsuits, criminal charges, and an award for stupidity.
23:58 June 24, 2009 by Greg in Canada
Yup, it's a strange world we live in.
00:00 June 25, 2009 by 7
eh, no. not in sweden. sorry.
00:24 June 25, 2009 by jack sprat
Soitunly is Stanley,

Nowt su funny as folk!

A women in our neck of the woods sends her young son to school dressed as a girl.

Apparently the teachers say nothing and accept it as normal.
00:59 June 25, 2009 by BillyB

Secondly...why are people reporting on this? how is this news?????

a pair of eejits who shouldnt be trusted to raise a ladder.
07:52 June 25, 2009 by Puffin
We don't have boys and girls restrooms/bathrooms at any of the schools (5) that my children have attended - all toilets are unisex and located in a separate room (not a stall) with wash basin door and lock.

However my guess is that by school age the gender will no longer be a secret and that Pop will have some say in this when alone with friends
10:07 June 25, 2009 by Paulo +fab muscular than Jonnhy
Should Editor Bob increase the size of the logo - The Local Sweden's News in English?
11:04 June 25, 2009 by Random
This is cruel on the child I think, it will haunt them later in life.

The parents will prob be complaining when their child is gay, they are asking for it now tho!!

Id assume the parents are totally Swedish, prob very 'in touch with their feeling' as a Swede would say

Sounds pretty gay to me!! Poor kid!
11:06 June 25, 2009 by Miss Kitten
What's wrong with being gay?
11:29 June 25, 2009 by Paulo +fab muscular than Jonnhy
Random, probably know it better than you, sweetie.
11:35 June 25, 2009 by Paulo +fab muscular than Jonnhy
So do you know exactly what's necessarily relevant during child-rearing to make someone turn into an adult gay ?
15:31 June 25, 2009 by High Priestess Kang - Slut
I wonder which is worse - parents who raise their kid as Pop's parents do or parents who raise their kids to be flaming bigots as Random's parents did.

PS: Ghey is contagious. You can catch it over the internet.
17:37 June 25, 2009 by Andrew.Dineen
Very interesting, I think I understand why the parents want to do this...because they don't want their child to be treated differently because of gender. Therefore, I presume the child has relative free choice in gender related issues. Is it possible that people will treat Pop as whatever gender they think s/he is. Is it not also possible that the parents or those who know the gender are subconsciously treating Pep as male or female? Is the child in pre-school yet socialising with other children? If so how is this kept secret and at what expense to the child? I agree with the idea that we as a society focus on gender too much. I think this is best resolved by teaching our teachers/carers/parents of the influence their behaviours have on children and to make us as adults more aware of what we are doing. This is a very complicated topic and I have only touched on some of my own ideas.

Brave or crazy??? We’ll just have to wait and see.
17:53 June 25, 2009 by skane refugee
What if the child has been born with both male and female wedding tackle?

Is the child a boy or a girl under Swedish law?
18:12 June 25, 2009 by jack sprat
The way things are going here they'll probably soon officially recognise a third sex,Middlesex,to cover the ever growing AC/DC gender.
19:36 June 25, 2009 by Bisonex
Oi!!! Some of us were born with both male and female primary sexual characteristics and we are known as intersex (previously called hermaphodites). You make it sound as though that's something negative. You can't choose what anatomy you are born with.

Skane asks:

"What if the child has been born with both male and female wedding tackle?"

He/she will have his/her sex determined by respective parents and doctors, usually a consultant paediatrician and, hopefully, they'll get it right and won't do surgery to "correct" anything. When the child reaches puberty, he/she will see the development and begin to "feel" like they belong to one sex or the other. A genetic test is available these days which takes some of the guesswork out of it.

21:22 June 25, 2009 by Nuname
So the boys can't see how far back they can get from the urinal? Or how high up the wall? No wonder boys do worse than girls in school here.
21:37 June 25, 2009 by Gustav- Fælbönnran
I have some lesbian friends who tried to raise their boy to be as gender neutral as possible. They did everything they could to encourage him to be mild, passive and conciliatory. He is six or seven now, and likes tools, fire trucks, sports, and stuff that makes loud noises. He also likes hitting other kids and throwing temper tantrums, unfortunately.
21:42 June 25, 2009 by Gustav- Fælbönnran

You have your A game today, Kodos.

Do you know that I have posted about ABBA and The Sound of Music here within the last 24 hours. And now I have referenced my Dyke friends that live down the road. You don't suppose that I have been infected do you? I won't have to give up my grey socks and generally disheveled appearance will I? Is there an antidote? I don't even like show-tunes.
21:50 June 25, 2009 by High Priestess Kang - Slut
No. You shouldn't have to give up the grey socks (I'm beginning to think that Dock and you shop at the same places...Big Boot and all). Like a good dykon or lipstick lesbian, it takes all kinds (including Bears for the men).

I wouldn't necessarily worry about an antidote, either. All you have done is broadened your horizons.

Now...if you will excuse me, I have a burning desire to shimmy on over to REI in a pick-up truck and pick up the latest, summery plaid fashions, cargo shorts and hiking boots.
22:16 June 25, 2009 by kvinna76
I believe Pop might end up in an isolation cell when 'it's' a teenager. Sorry, but this is ridiculous.

We are all human, but we are DIFFERENT!!

Apples and bananas are both fruits, but they are different! Apples can go in the fridge, but bananas don't do so well when chilled.

There is NO gender equality. While men may be bigger and stronger, women are smarter and nicer to look at. And, jaja I know some women out there can take down the biggest and meanest man ... and that there are some rather feminine (yet straight) men out there also, but get real people. Didn't ANYONE pay attention in biology class??

And no, I am not a bigot or anti-gay, I am just realistic. Good luck to you, Pop ... I hope the kids go easy on you at recess. Kids are CRUEL!!!

These parents are idiots for subjecting their child to who knows what kind of abuse from 'it's' peers.
22:35 June 25, 2009 by 7
that's very interesting to consider and very likely.

and in the end, i pretty much agree that you are who you are and how you related to it gender wise. nurture only tweaks the ground work.
23:18 June 25, 2009 by Paulo +fab muscular than Jonnhy
I think you should reconsider your generalised statement.


You were exclusively refering to your solely point of view, weren't you?

(Sorry, as I have skipped too many Biology classes, cus I was more interested to spy dirty teenagers inside the locker room --- Would you please elaborate which scientific evidences prove that women are smarter?)

Whaa? Who needs to get real?
23:39 June 25, 2009 by spy
Why not put a bag on his head and refuse to tell people what colour he is too?

Poor little tyke, he will be like a lamb to the slaughter when he eventually goes to school.
23:58 June 25, 2009 by 7
why presume pop is a "he"? and why would pop have a problem in school. kids start here pretty young and every kid is rather open to differences when presented to them as normal..

it's unlikely that pop will remain genderless for very long once in the pre/school system
06:16 June 26, 2009 by Storlom
As is sexual orientation, gender is basically genetically-driven and determined in utero by some combination of hormonal levels and other biological factors. "Pop" will likely become typical his genetic and phenotypical gender with some mild variance due to parental experimentation (or peer influence, sometimes as strong as parental influence). This article is interesting counterpoint to Bjorn Ulvaeus' assertion elsewhere in this publication that it is somehow oppressive for children to be "indoctrinated" by their parents in being exposed to religiously-based education. Either parents have a right to make these kinds of decisions and have these kinds of influence over their children or the State makes decisions about how their children are brought up. While I disagree with Mr. Ulvaeus regarding the influence of religion, I am still a huge fan of ABBA and I am likely one of very few in US that owns a CD set of Kristina fran Duvemala.
08:09 June 26, 2009 by 7
pop is presumed to be a "he" again. why is the unknown gender always presumed to be a he?
08:13 June 26, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
If the kid has a snop, then he will probably grow up to be just another normal gender neutral Swedish male.
08:24 June 26, 2009 by Aussie Swede
Hmm, I wonder if this they want their child to turn out gay? There's nothing wrong with that, what they're doing is rather peculiar.
08:48 June 26, 2009 by Random Guy
how sad... lets see if "pop" can outlive David, I wonder what kind of odds anyones offering on when the suicide will happen?

(cruel I know, but in my opinion a necessary evil to properly express my opinion)
09:29 June 26, 2009 by AnimalFarm
Socially experimenting with their child. Like it or not, the rest of society isn't changing. This kid will be all screwed up and will need years of therapy later in life to fit in with the rest of society. Stupid parents.
10:30 June 26, 2009 by Paulo +fab muscular than Jonnhy
The reality is nobody knows exactly how this is going to end up. There is some people over here predicting horribly traumatic psychological consequences without having obviously any credentials to make such assumptions. I mean, who knows if Pop could cope with it perfectly? I think at this moment pop probably is totally unware and uncurious about how gender would influence upon his/her life, however at the right moment he/she will probably discover it like so many other aspects of children's lives.

Frankly, I have known personally a few children who went through much serious and difficult times than Pop and they are not dysfunctional adults, actually I probably have met much more in this category(dysfunctionals) who were raised in classic "loving" and wonderful families.
12:05 June 26, 2009 by Fariba
How they get a swedish Person Number???? this poor kid doesn't have any????

How can he/she lives in country which everything runs with a person-number???

They can not keep it hush hush for long...what a stupid act, I think the parents just try to make themselve famous...

crazy Swedes...
12:33 June 26, 2009 by 7
i'm not sure what difficult times pop is going through. pop is a child who has parents who love their child, care for their child and live their lives. we didn't make boy/girl distinctions for our children. i nearly always call my older child "bean" which most often replaces the noun "boy" and for any kid under the age of 5, the use of the 3rd person is nearly the default as in:

is pop hungry?

mommy will get pop some lunch.

all the "worrying" about pop is kinda dumb.
12:43 June 26, 2009 by Purple_Rache
So it'll be Pop's decision when they reveal his/her gender, I'd guess at about 3 or 4, if they're going to dagis.

I think it's a great idea if the parents not give a child stereotypical ideas about how they should behave, because of their gender, let them play with both dolls and trains, etc. but to deny a gender completely, this will severely mess them up. Children learn about themselves through their basic facts and figures, at first. They establish who they are by understanding their identity, and yes, gender is a big part of that. It doesn't matter what stereotypical ideas others might have and display to the child, as long as their parents can give them solid foundations, it shouldn't matter.

This is a child's life, not some social experiment! I remember the Brenda/David study from psychology, do they want their child to end up the same way? These people are not taking their responsibility as parents seriously.
17:59 June 26, 2009 by badhytten
The diffference between Terrorists and Femininists is that you can bargain with a terrorist
18:01 June 26, 2009 by elda
I grew up with some kids whose parents did just this, let them act as if there were no difference in clothing and everything else. They grew up to be misfits. Actually, they were just really messed up hippy kids. Kids need strong boundaries to grow up with confidence and a positive view of themselves. Too much attention and no attention will produce narcissism and we here in the US know what that means, you get a president and the Democratic Party with no grasp of reality.
19:09 June 26, 2009 by 7
wow, the ability to link a couple with a gender-experiment to american politics and the current administration? this is pure comedy this evening.
19:16 June 26, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
Looks like Pop will have something in common with the "King of Pop"... a messed up childhood
06:23 June 27, 2009 by Umakant

Parents are not disclosing to the world! Kid definitely knows own sex! No body taught humans their sex differences ages ago. It doesn't matter whether they disclose to others or not.
09:58 June 27, 2009 by Bisonex
I have no problems with allowing a child to play with both dolls and trains, but dress and hairstyles are are statements of identity - to define who and what we are. To give a girl a Number 1 haircut or to put a boy in a dress are to deceive others about which sex they belong to, and to invite confusion in the child themselves when they are already beginning to find their place in the world.

11:31 June 27, 2009 by pear85
Plenty of people grow up rejecting gender norms regardless of being raised as a "girl" or a "boy". I had long, curly pigtails, pretty dresses and frilly socks as I kid. I now have short spiky hair and a love of men's designer jeans, yet shockingly, I'm still a well adjusted member of society. And I don't have any innate urge to wear makeup or high heels...

Why should children be forced to act a certain way because of their gender? Why make your child into a caricature? People who dress their children as strictly gendered mini-adults are doing their children and society more damage than Pop's parents.

No-one said Pop doesn't know Pop's gender, but why does anyone else need to know? Why does a girl need to be treated differently from a boy or vice versa? There is no reasonable answer to that question. Fitting into society's narrow construct of "normal" is a pretty unfulfilling ambition for anyone.
12:00 June 27, 2009 by Bisonex
Because boys are boys and they grow into men, while girls are girls and grow into women. Males and females are different genetically, physiologically and psychologically, and our society, which is, by definition, a social institution, has societal norms for the sexes just as all societies have done since the Stone Age. Personally, I'm OK with that and I believe it enriches our life experiences or, as the French say, Vive le difference. Attempts at eradicating sex differences, like in Maoist China, have either been unsuccessful, or produced a bleak society.

12:22 June 27, 2009 by CTIDinÅrsta
Polarn och Pyret (P.o.P) have been marketing gender neutral colours for baby clothes for years.

At least, if they exist, they haven't really called their kid Pop - that would be worth reporting them to social services for.
15:54 June 27, 2009 by Tombrooks
Wow... It's Christopher Durang's Daisy!! Poor kid.

21:16 June 27, 2009 by Bigbunny
I think this decision is completely healthy for the child up to Age 2. After that, it will cause as many socialisation issues & emotional scars as it is intending to avoid. Again -- UP TO AGE 2, I might do the same. By that time, the child's personality is well formed and 'learned limitations & expectations' (as a boy or girl) have been avoided, in my opinion.
03:23 June 28, 2009 by Random Guy
Oh, shut up, Pinker. Really. If it's in Pop's *nature* to behave a certain way, or have certain preferences, Pop doesn't need to be taught what those behaviors and preferences are. Pop can do what's in Pop's nature without prompting. Saying that children, who are taught to behave a certain way depending on gender, behave the way expected of their gender proves nothing about the *intrinsic nature* of girls and boys. It just proves that young children can be taught things, which we already knew. 2-year-olds aren't pure creatures, unaffected by our culture. Studies have shown that they have *brand recognition*, ! I suppose recognizing the Starbucks logo is written into our DNA too?
11:06 June 28, 2009 by GirlLookAtYou
I think that these parents have done something amazing. Not forcing gender upon their child during its earliest years will not damage its psychological development, as I have little doubt that it will encounter what its biological sex acts like once at school. Before this, however, it will be interesting to see what stereotypical characteristics of its sex that it doesn't develop or, crucially, which it does. The latter gains increased importance as it sheds light on what behaviours are, in fact, gender specific and intrinsic. Of course, it will not be scientific, but it will certaintly by interesting, nonetheless.


Well Girl! Look At You!
13:31 June 28, 2009 by shpongle
Really, one could argue why the state must know the sex of a person. other than perhaps conscription laws , what does it matter? And it is not like genitals will magically disappear from thechild if the state doesn't know.
16:02 June 29, 2009 by PicaQ
There are two girls as my high school who are dressed up as boys. I only found out about their gender after covertly panicking after they entered the girl's restroom as I washed my hands, and asked my friend if she saw them after scurrying to a relatively inaudible distance. Then she explained it to me. I was relieved and amazed about their willingness to do this (it's not really hard actually: baggy clothes and a hat), but I do wonder how the teachers and administrators will be able to distinguish between students once people no longer dress or act sterotypically according to their gender. My middle school years as a tomboy failed to continue as my mom insulted me and bought me girly clothing (I hate shopping, but she loves it so she does it for me, even though I tell her not to...)
13:35 June 30, 2009 by heinrich5
Typical liberal Swedish nonsense. They're the nation in the lead when it comes to this kind of stuff. Must be hormones in the water or something.
17:26 June 30, 2009 by Joe Magarac
Pop must be a boy. They wouldn't do this to a girl.
20:26 June 30, 2009 by Johnluke
Comment: Living organisms have instinct. But humans are different. Humans can think, that is were the problem starts. We are who we are. We can't change it. If I want to change my gender, or change my form of existence from a human to a bird, or a ant. I can not do it. I am who I am. I have no super powers. If I do not except who I am. I would create a fantasy world that would not hold to all the rules or reality. If I said that I didn't have to eat. It would be fantasy. If I didn't eat I would die. It would take a little time, but I would die. It is true with other fantasys. They just have different effects. And what is worse is when we hurt others with our fantasys. It is time to get real!
07:55 July 2, 2009 by Lavaux
It is creepy to exploit children to make a political statement. I was going to say its even creepier to exploit one's own children in this way, but then I thought better of it. If the two moronic hippies were warping my children, that would be far creepier.

And by the way, what's the point of the entire exercise? Is it to allow Pop to choose his own gender rather than having one chosen for him? Who would like to make book on the following proposition: Pop's hormones and bits-n-bobs will motivate him to chose the same gender that society would have chosen for him on that same basis.
21:54 July 3, 2009 by vlarie
I'm amazed there are negative reactions to this. This isn't genital reconstruction. These parents aren't manipulating their child to be something s/he isn't. On the contrary, these parents are giving their child the opportunity to develop an identity free of direct social stereotypes. The idea is not for Pop to be ambiguous for the rest of his/er life. The aim is for Pop to develop his/er identity rather than having it predetermined. I'd be willing to bet that these parents will be 100% supportive of whatever identity Pop chooses because they will confidently know that it was Pop's choice and no one else's.

Sex can be classified in many ways: genetic, hormonal, chromosomal, genital, etc. A single person may have conflicting classifications based on levels examined. It's high time we stop putting so much emphasis on gender. Why does it matter? Particularly in this case. What difference does it make if you don't know a child's sex? Why is this so offensive?
08:27 July 4, 2009 by Deedk
I don't know from Swedish law, but it's a good question. I see a lot of posts here that seem to be more 'projections' of the writer's insecurities -- why is it that so many people are alarmed at this? This is a toddler, age 2. Please. I think it takes guts for these parents, who have probably discussed this and have strong feelings about the whys and whatnots of society and its preconceived ideas of sexuality. Gender identity in most cases is for convenience (i.e. stereotyping).

As you asked, what if the child IS a hermaphrodite? It may well be, which may be what caused these parents to undertake this path. WE don't know, and frankly, it's more interesting to see how strongly people are reacting to this story.

11:58 July 4, 2009 by Bisonex
Children born with intersex conditions (hermaphrodism) invariably prefer to be anchored into one sex or the other rather than as androgynous beings. When they reach puberty, it will become obvious to all, including the child themselves, what sex they wish to be, or if they want to maintain an androgynous identity. Children need to feel that they belong to groups, and those groups are determined largely by their sex. Raising a child androgynously denies them membership of both sexes. I speak from personal experience.

If parents wish to avoid locking in their child's sexual identity too stringently, that can be done by giving them maximum opportunities to explore gender norms. If a little girl wants to be a tomboy, wear lumberjack shirts and play with trucks, let her. If a boy wants to be a bridesmaid at a friend's wedding, let him (I never understood why males can't wear dresses anyway in a world that lets females wear pants). Allow and even facilitate experimentation, behaviour and, where applicable, identification, that is normally attributed to their opposite sex, but trying to make them sexless is making them stand out and appear freakish to their peers, and that is cruel.
17:26 July 5, 2009 by prose
There is no hint that the parents are choosing Pop's gender. They know what zir gender is. Crazy how many people seem to be more interested in Pop's gender than ze is. All of us naturally gravitate to those with whom we identify. Pop will be no different. To all who are suggesting Pop be away from loving parents, I would ask if they're perfect parents, or if there are decisions ever made with their children have ever caused people to raise eyebrows. The response is MYOB. Little Pop, and zir younger sibling are going to be fine. What will all of you be saying in 10 years when Pop is as healthy as ANY other child from zir age group? The only pity I feel is for the family being subjected to this brand of idiocy by people who are historically responsible for undermining the very family values they insist on promoting by telling others how they should live their lives.
18:43 July 5, 2009 by Nomark
MYOB is an admirable sentiment when it concerns adults. Where children are involved, the rest of society has a responsibility to take an interest.

These parents are effectively performing an experiment on their child. Shame on them - children aren't guinea pigs and shouldn't be treated as such. When it comes to medical experiments there are strict ethical rules applying. Its a pity similar rules don't apply for this experiment, especially since it concerns a critical phase in the baby's emotional and mental development. Furthermore, this family has already appeared in the national media talking about this case albeit under false names. However, anonymity is often a rather fragile thing - this has the potential to follow Pop through his/her life whether he/she wants it or not. Not only can this coverage affect the "experiment" its also ethically dubious.
19:58 July 5, 2009 by prose
No, society has NO role of responsibility, unless the situation is one of abuse - to assume otherwise is unspeakably arrogant and intrusive. What you're interpreting as an experiment is nothing more than a parental decision to keep Pop societally gender-neutral and there is nothing "negative" about that. Everyone who is insisting that Pop's biological gender is the world's business are, in effect, the only real abusers. Anatomical gender is a fact of biology and chromosomes. The gender binary WE identify is a societal construct that develops when we are children - OLDER than age 2, though - and is often reinforced by well-meaning parents and others.

"We are born naked...all the rest is drag." ~RuPaul
21:41 July 5, 2009 by Nomark
Writing words in upper case doesn't strengthen your argument - rather the opposite in fact.

What is happening is that a parenting strategy is being trialled for which there are little or no data available and the outcome and potential risks are entirely unknown. This is an experiment - I'm a scientist, I do such things for a living. Furthermore, as mentioned, the experiment itself is tainted by the ethically dubious publicity surrounding it.

Furthermore, if you wish to make statements regarding societal and biological aspects of gender please supply references to works in internationally respected peer reviewed journals to back them up. Otherwise your post comes across as (using your own words) being unspeakably arrogant in assuming the correctness of your assertions.
23:15 July 5, 2009 by prose
Okay you're a scientist. Are you a parent? I ask is because parenthood is a petrie dish. Babies aren't born with manuals and there is no single "correct" way, short of ensuring that a child isn't abused or neglected - that their fundamental needs are met, and that they're given a lot of love. Maslow's hierarchy, if you will, and love. Beyond that, it's all an experiment. Most parents do screw up their kids in some way. That's just a reality - since as human beans, we're all *human* - we're human before we're male or female.

As a parent, and as a doctoral scholar, I will provide the peer-reviewed documentation in gender studies if you really desire - my approach to how I write and speak (with some authority on the subject) is not designed to be offensive. I speak from a bit of experience and knowledge. Using ad hominem approach with me, rather than countering with the same documentation you request is just slightly hypocritical.
23:48 July 5, 2009 by Nomark
Please do provide the references - i.e. applicable publications in internationally recognised peer reviewed journals. All too often I've found armchair experts to be lacking in the knowledge base that they supposedly possess, be they Ph.D. students or not.

Also, be careful of the strawman arguments. Nowhere did I imply there was a manual for raising children. However, this is an extreme approach for which, as already stated, there exist risks and no or little applicable research. In other words, an experiment, and one potentially flawed by publicity.

I find it ironic that you would accuse me of an hominem approach - I merely used one of your phrases and pointed out that your using upper case didn't help your argument. I suggest you reread your own posts and apply the same ad hominem criteria to judging those.
23:53 July 5, 2009 by prose
You want internationally-respected, peer reviewed documentation - start here:

Zucker, K. (2007). What is the best therapeutic care for children and youth with gender identity issues? (the last word). CrossCurrents - The Journal of Addiction and Mental Health (10)4.

In this article, Dr. Zucker, head of the Gender Identity Service in the Child, Youth and Family Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, asserts that, "[s]ome clinicians have decided that a child as young as three has a fixed cross-gender identity and that parents should therefore allow their child to move into a cross-gender role (e.g., at school). This has left many parents confused about the best approach to helping their child," due to the fact that, "that there is more plasticity in childhood gender identity than was previously thought."
00:05 July 6, 2009 by Nomark
I'm not sure how this helps your case. The article you quoted addresses uncertainty and "some clinicians". You, however, write with quite some certainty. There seems to be a discrepancy.

In fact it all seems to be support my own position which is that this is an experiment with an uncertain outcome and undefined risks, and is therefore ethically dubious.
00:06 July 6, 2009 by prose
When you address my emphasis (given as caps since, being new to this site I don't know if I can use html tags for ital/bold emphasis) - when you simply use words I've said that are not relevant to your own assertion (comment 77) - and not directly address my assertions in comment 78 - that would be attacking *me* - not anything in particular I've asserted. You still didn't answer the question of whether you're a parent - which is curious to me - because academic knowledge and experience are two very different things.

Oh, and my doctoral studies aren't philosophical in nature. I'm not aiming for a Ph.D. - not to be an academic snob, but I've no desire to be a professional scholar, if that makes sense.
00:15 July 6, 2009 by Nomark
The reason I didn't answer the question is because its not any of your business. Also, it has no relevance to my point, which is the acknowledgement of uncertainty, something all scholars should be aware of. Whether I'm the old woman who lived in the shoe or an eunuch, those parents are still trialling a new approach and therefore conducting an experiment for which little data exists.
00:21 July 6, 2009 by prose
In the end, all of this is irrelevant. You requested peer-reviewed doc and received it - without providing any for a counter. You've neglected to answer the implied question of why ethical consideration be given to the "experiment" of parenthood by ignoring the direct question of whether you have experience as a parent. All of this persnickety debate on "fine points" takes away from the bigger question of whether these parents are causing Pop any harm. Which I assert (boiled down) that they're not - and that the rest of the world should MYOB.

*laughing* And the likelier reason for avoidance is nothing of *my* business - it is likelier that you're not a parent, which is perfectly fine. I might well be wrong about that - but I doubt it. One thing I've noted over the better part of my past two decades as a parent is that the most critical people toward parents are those who aren't.
00:39 July 6, 2009 by Nomark
These are strange interpretations although I understand why you choose to make them.

You provided the peer reviewed work and I provided a comment as to why it failed to support your position - in fact it rather supported mine. Nowhere have I ever pretended to be the expert - rather the opposite. My argument is that this is unchartered territory and an experiment.

The parent question is irrelevant and carries a simplistic implication that in any discussion between a parent and a non-parent on child rearing, the parent's opinion always represents the best practice. While this is itself ridiculous, I'm also quite sure there is a diversity of opinions within the parenting community regarding the case of Pop.

As for the fine detail.. well the devil is always in the detail. Often research doesn't say what we think it does and we have to accept that we simply don't know as much as we thought.
01:23 July 6, 2009 by prose
I'll concede a couple of things. I agree that we don't know a lot and that whether or not a person is a parent doesn't answer the hard questions. The article I pulled was from an academic library (not public access) - if you have access to academic library sources, I'll post you the permalink so you can read the article in full. It does support the point I was making. Any case, when talking ethics in parenthood, we could dig into areas of religious indoctrination by loving parents, which is a long-standing practice - but it's safer to leave that subject be. It also might be helpful to know that aside from being a parent (which is ultimately irrelevant but doesn't change the other point I was making), my area of interestis in gender disparity and sexual identity which might explain why I speak to the subject with some authority. To that end, I applaud these parents for trying to do right by their child even in the face of international scrutiny.
18:16 July 10, 2009 by Thiefree
Every childhood is unique, and therefore experimental. I think that this conscious decision to spare Pop from the traditional gender roles is not cruel, it's not abuse, and I'd be very surprised if Pop suffers from it at all, actually.

It isn't really anybody else's business what genitalia a child has. When Pop gets older, then it'll come into play. For now, let Pop wear dresses, climb trees, play with trucks as s/he sees fit.
20:50 July 12, 2009 by conboy
Utter and complete bollox is what it is. I have a son and a daughter and if I knew any of their close friends were being subjected to this kind of nonsensical hoo ha I'd retain the right to ask their parents what the hell it is they are trying to prove and if I felt it necessary I would bring it up through pre-school discussions.

There are a shower of intellectually empowered, ultra feminist bawlbags promoting this mumbo jumbo. Every child should be allowed the opportunity to develop within their wider social environment with as normal an upbringing as possible. Those of you who believe you can programme children into some kind of gender neutral bubble are doing them a diservice and who gave you the right to do it anyway? I note the usual insinuation from prose that because a man has an opinion on this somehow one's argument is rendered automatically redundant. Criticising religous parents so as to achieve some kind of relativist defence of the indefensible is just another typical red thread for the genus drivel so popular in Swedish third level universities and elsewhere. Absolute shite from start to finish.
21:09 July 12, 2009 by 7
sorry if this sounds offensive, but what was it that you were trying to say? those were a whole lot of "interesting" words to say you don't agree.
21:13 July 12, 2009 by conboy
Judging by your last sentence it looks like you got the idea in the end
19:39 July 28, 2009 by Urodi
It's hard to get a real reading on what the plan of the parents *is* in this article, but I suspect the main plan is to let Pop choose hir gender expression, and I approve of that.

The writers' selection of Pinker as the expert here seems a little odd to me, especially as what is put forth dodges the entire nature vs nurture nature of gender, which seems to be pertinent here.

Many condemnations of the parents seem to be veiled expressions of a wish that Pops be punished for the parents causing people to question transphobia.

All biases born of privilege seem to assume that the marginalized identity needs explaining/rationalizing/defending whereas the privileged position does not. The parents are being asked to justify a child rearing strategy that doesn't assume a specific gender identity, and the trauma one imagines that that could bring, but it's accepted that raising kids in a fashion that will traumatize them if they discover themselves to be GLBT is ok.

I think that as long as the parents support Pop if/when Pop decides what gender expression zie wants, that this is a healthy thing, and I think that if the parents of other children can refrain from poisoning their kids against Pop, then it will probably happen before Pop is very old, and Pop will be fine. If it turns out that Pop would have had gender confusion, then at the very least, Pop will know that zie has parents that have hir back.
20:21 July 28, 2009 by Nomark
What errant nonsense. The condemnations of the parents are certainly not veiled expressions of a wish to punish Pop - rather the opposite. You should try to be far less prejudiced and narrow minded in your treatment of those who may seek the best for Pop but who have opinions which differ from yours.

However you may wish to dress the whole case up in pseudosociological jargon, this remains a situation in which parents are making an experiment on a child. Furthermore, this is now public and, pound to a penny, everybody in Pop's district will know all about it. I pity poor Pop when he/she goes off to school. You seem to be under the naive belief that children will only bully if "poisoned by their parents". This is nonsense, as many good, loving parents who have learned that their child has engaged in bullying - could testify.
22:32 September 4, 2009 by sarahdorian
I can see how it's culturally weird to deny other people information about your child's gender. I ALSO know that it's incredibly frustrating to try to bring your child up in a non-stereotypical fashion and have that constantly thwarted by well-meaning relatives. I wanted no pink for my daughter, I told people no pink. You should have SEEN the ridiculous nonsense people got her. Now that she's older and she can express her own wants, I'm totally comfortable letting her wear fancy dresses all day, but when she was a baby I was grateful to the sister-in-law who went out and bought some boy's onesies for me to balance out all the frilly crap.

People keep relating this to the David/Brenda issue, and I don't think that's entirely fair. David was lied to his whole life. Pop hasn't been told s/he has no gender, and I strongly suspect that the parents aren't going to stop Pop from telling other people what's under those big boy/girl underpants when s/he wants to spill the beans. Honesty is huge. I wish Pop and the parents luck in all this, and i hope their community is more accepting than the comments section on this site.
10:22 September 8, 2009 by YAY 4 SWE
Gender nondisclosure ?


But srsly it's a great experiment , can't wait to see what happens! And is this "ideological upbringing" really worse tahn catholic/nationalist/religious fundamentalist upbringing that is practiced by sooo much of ppl around..?

No f&^kin' way...

Soo let us watch in amazement and all you playa haters STFU!!!!

*in Sweden, actually.;p
12:19 September 13, 2009 by Mok
On one hand, I appreciate Nomark's hesitance to condone this foray into the unknown, but on the other hand, it is important to take the feelings of actual GLBTQ people into perspective here, as it is this group that is most affected by restrictive gender norms. I myself am a female-to-male transsexual, and I can say with absolute certainty that raising a child in a specific, limiting gender role is indeed very psychologically damaging if that role clashes with its innate gender identity. As I child I was totally sure I was meant to be male; I played rough pushing games with the boys, loved hockey, and crushed on women. When I entered adolescence, I began to feel very self-conscious about my male gender identity, and a terrible religiously-motivated guilt took hold of me. I began dressing and acting more like a woman because I was frightened to death of displeasing God. Yet, I always felt awkward; this was the beginning of a long, intense depression and self-hatred. I recently started on testosterone therapy, and I feel a bit more like myself now. But all those years of self-imposed exile from what I was meant to be stayed with me, and I don't feel as totally male as I did in childhood because I spent so much time engaged in feminine activities. Now I beat myself up constantly over not having the same level of confidence as biological males - I am not mechanically inclined, I am not as assertive as the average North American male, and I am a random, abstract thinker. So, in summary, both nature and nurture play powerful roles in shaping one's personality. It would have been nice if, in my case, the two could have matched; perhaps I'd have ended up with less psychological issues in the present.
14:06 November 16, 2009 by LadyJunkie
I find it brilliant. Could there be a better way to give a child maximum freedom? This is not a sick experiment with a baby's identity, as I see it.

What would you sue them for? For trying not to fall into old conventions?

In my feminist poker blog I tie this idea to poker =)

22:37 December 21, 2009 by freshencounter
Excellent! These parents are great and we have a lot to learn from them. Imagine being 2 and being free of the bounds of a gender identity. What's true is that the real you will come out. Some children lean strongly to one gender or the other, while most children are forced to equate their sex with their gender.

If only Pinker could see past "Telling" children what their identity is and letting them live it out and/or play into it, she'd be a really wonderful child psychologist. But because she doesn't trust their nature she's doing a dis-service to children. I'm betting these parents are following the child's lead.

School may be hard for this child, what's new about that? Fat boys and girls, kids of different skin tones, kids with different-abilities, kids who are really smart, kids who have learning issues - all kids have trouble in school.

This child however may be more open to difference and I'm guessing will have creative advantages because the won't have to work at opening/expanding the box especially if their sex is female.

We must all begin to trust that we were created perfect, with the ability to choose our own genders.
10:41 March 9, 2010 by J.Darling
I don't understand why people are afraid to see that there are differences between genders? As spiritual beings we have no gender, however as spiritual beings in PHYSICAL bodies we do. There are differences, there is nothing wrong with that, why try to avoid it, or ignore it? This is just confusing the child who will no doubt have numerous problems relating to self and others.
18:15 June 17, 2010 by coconnel51
The real question is - will Pop's gender secret be revealed via stove-top or microwave? Stay tuned.
07:22 June 22, 2010 by dheth
Dressing children in gender-neutrally until a certain age is not a new concept: it was practiced for centuries in the West and didn't turn out gender-confused individuals, or at least no more so than dressing little boys in jeans and little girls in skirts and bows seems to. I for one have seen enough little girls dressed in nauseating amounts of pink and ruffles - that they can't get dirty - to last me a lifetime.

As for the rest? It really is impossible to tell if not interacting socially as a male or female will affect Pop, but I don't imagine it will be detrimental. Maybe I'm wrong, but as long as there's no harm to Pop then does it matter if it's not "normal"?
06:37 May 26, 2011 by manrush
Are any of you mouthbreathers even fit to raise children?
05:17 May 30, 2011 by Alex Vicia
I think this is great.

The comments I have read so far, being mainly against the parents of this child, show a mass of those who judge without even thinking about it. They don't need to think about it as they are programmed to think within the boundaries.

In my opinion let them be, observe if you wish to, and in 20 years time when the child has been making his or her own choices, judge. Although, it is still not your right to do so.

02:05 May 31, 2011 by georgeandersson
Reminds me of the movie Dumb and Dumber. Or as Forrest Gump would say "Stupid is as stupid does". Poor child.
17:35 May 31, 2011 by tadchem
"It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead."

How cruel is it to "bring a child into the world" with the word "FREAK" tattooed on the forehead?
19:04 October 19, 2011 by Kahmoudi
It's odd but as long as they're not doing anything to curtail Pop's natural development I'm sure things will turn out fine. They only people with a problem are those who feel slighted because their curiosity about Pop's gender hasn't been satisfied. As a girl I was a "tomboy" who loved to build model airplanes, was always picked first for dodgeball because I could hit the boys so hard it would make some of them cry. However, I also liked some girlie things but not as much. In my forties I own enough footwear, clothes, accessories and makeup to open my own store but I can still lift a couch by myself and fix most anything.The point is to let people develop as individuals as nature dictates and people should stop trying to assign roles to others. I think it's crazy at the same time for people to negate that there are significant differences between the sexes and trying to make one conform to the other is nuts. We just have to understand, accept and respect that just because we're different, neither is lesser nor more valuable than the other.

Amazon that I am, Dumbo makes me cry every time and I will never watch Bambi because that stupid, orphaned cartoon deer will probably get me put on a Prozac drip. We are who we are, and unless we're hurting or interfering with others, society should just let people be.
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