sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

January 22, 2012

Helicoptering Son’s “Gender”

Filed under: parenting, politics, society — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 3:33 pm

Here’s a crowd-pleaser if there ever was one:

It’s a boy! And he’s five. Beck Laxton, 46, and partner Kieran Cooper, 44, have spent half the decade concealing the gender of their son, Sasha.

Laxton might think of Cooper as a “partner”, but for the rest of the world he’s either a husband or, considering that marriage is a patriarchal, homophobic institution, a baby-daddy.

“I wanted to avoid all that stereotyping,” Laxton said in an interview with the Cambridge News. “Stereotypes seem fundamentally stupid. Why would you want to slot people into boxes?”

Good question.  Male and female are only boxed in bureaucrat’s paperwork because in real world sex differences are a source of creativity and joy.  The only individuals stereotyped in this news story are the Cooper/Laxton family — or whatever social unit they consider themselves to be — who sound like people who took one Gender Studies class too many.

Laxton, a UK-based web editor, and her partner, Cooper, decided to keep Sasha’s sex a secret when he was still in the womb. The birth announcement stated the gender-neutral name of their child, but skipped the big reveal. Up until recently, the couple only told a few close friends and family members that Sasha was a boy and managed to keep the rest of the world in the dark. But now that he’s starting school the secret’s out.

Note how it’s somehow up to Sasha’s mom and dad to reveal their boy’s “gender”.  I’m surprised the boy didn’t divulge because unless the five-year-old is not potty trained, he must know.  The idea that Sasha doesn’t talk about being a boy is a bit strange because pre-schoolers tend to be all but obsessed with such matters.  I can’t say I pushed my daughter towards pink tutus, but that’s all she wants to wear.  And while my son imitates his big sister, he exhibits an inexplicable (to me anyways) fascination with trucks.  Early childhood is when gender-specific behavior is most stereotypical, and I pity the parents so blinded by their ideology that they are incapable of enjoying that stage.  I worry about their children.

Sasha dresses in clothes he likes — be it a hand-me-downs from his sister or his brother. The big no-no’s are hyper-masculine outfits like skull-print shirts and cargo pants. In one photo, sent to friends and family, Sasha’s dressed in a shiny pink girl’s swimsuit. “Children like sparkly things,” says Beck. “And if someone thought Sasha was a girl because he was wearing a pink swimming costume, then what effect would that have? “

A boy in a girl swimsuit?  I think sunbathing vacationers can tell the difference.

Gender is frequently defined as a social construct whereas sex is biological.  Sasha’s sex is male.  There are different ways of being a man — a gentleman, a warrior, a scholar, etc — that’s your social construct.  I hope Sasha doesn’t rebel against his parents by keeping a harem full of hijabed concubines.

Sasha’s also not short on dolls, though Barbie is also off limits. “She’s banned because she’s horrible,” Laxton says in the Cambridge interview.

In other words, he can be a like girl as long as he’s not too much like one.  Talk about freedom to choose his gender!

On a macro level she hopes her son sets an example for other parents and makes them reconsider buying their own sons trucks or forcing their daughters into tights. She’s seen how those consumer trappings affect how and who kids play with in the sandbox.

Children in pre-industrial societies still play with toys, so I’m not sure what the horrid gender self-segregation has to do with consumerism.  Girls tend to nurture dolls, it’s hormonal.  Boys usually like large moving objects, it could be the hunters in them.  Boys and girls naturally gravitate to kids who share their interests.  To deny children something as innocent as gender play is cruel.

But the sandbox is just a precursor to the classroom. When Sasha turned five and headed to school, Laxton was forced to make her son’s sex public. That meant Sasha would have to get used to being a boy in the eyes of his peers. Still, his mom is intervening. While the school requires different uniforms for boys and girls, Sasha wears a girl’s blouse with his pants.

“I don’t think I’d do it if I thought it was going to make him unhappy, but at the moment he’s not really bothered either way. We haven’t had any difficult scenarios yet.”

The mom let her guard down here.  A boy expressing his desire to dress like a boy is, for her,  a”difficult scenario[]” something to overcome.  She’s a selfish ideologue who wants to control every aspect of his being to deny his natural desires.

Last year another couple, Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, of Toronto made a similar decision when they had their baby, Storm. At the time, certain psychiatric experts voiced concern over their decision. “To have a sense of self and personal identity is a critical part of normal healthy development,” Dr. Eugene Beresin, director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, told ABC News. “This blocks that and sets the child up for bullying, scapegoating and marginalization.”

At which point the parents run to state and local bureaucrats and demand “anti-bullying” human sexuality classes in kindergarten.

But as parents well know, bullying is hard for any child to avoid. It’s more important to raise someone who’s confident enough in himself to overcome peer pressure. It’s also important to have his parents have his back (remember the mom who defended her son’s choice in a Halloween costume?) Maybe Sasha’s early years will be character building, maybe he’ll have a higher emotional quotient being raised with dual perspectives on gender. Or the reverse could be true: Sasha may have less of a formed identity because of his upbringing, and feel angry at his mom for dressing him in flowery shirts and telling the world about it. Then again, maybe he’ll get over it.

I have a feeling Sasha already formed his identity, even with his family standing in his way.  Five years is pretty old no not know that men and women are different.  I’m sure there is a lot going on in that family that the article didn’t report on.  I’m sorry this boy can’t have a normal childhood.

Much has been said about today’s parents being hell-bent on controlling every aspect of their children’s lives.  Laxton and Cooper outdid us all by precluding their son from saying: “Mommy, I’m a boy!”



  1. My kids never paid much attention to gender roles until they were much older. My middle son wore sparkly beads for six months when he was a toddler but played with cars and trucks. And wore his clothes backward for a year. Squish has a doll AND a Lightning McQueen car that he sleeps with. They like what they like until they outgrow it. I’m kind of the same way (this is where I confess that I liked Twilight). But I would never be on board with not telling my child what gender they are.

    Kids need to develop an identity. In order to survive in the world and be successful, they need to develop an healthy identity. One of the most basic building blocks is gender. I understand what the parents were aiming for. It would be great if people were more accepting of another’s differences, but knowing what I know about child development, I couldn’t use my kid to address the issue.

    Of course, who am I to say? My kid peed in the litter box. I have fallen short somewhere.

    Comment by becomingcliche — January 22, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

    • I hear reports from as far back as the 70s that gender-neutral upbringing doesn’t work. By the time kids are 3-4 y/o they become virtually walking stereotypes. Doesn’t mean that they never pick up a toy that’s intended for a different sex or wear big sister’s sparkly boots, but girls will be into babies and pretty and boys will be into pirates and villains. I’ve seen my share of girls who like trains, but they are an outlier.
      I don’t think people can’t get along with each other because sex differences exist.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — January 23, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

  2. I’m sorry this boy can’t have a normal childhood.

    I had that same thought.

    Honestly, these parents sound like wackos.

    Comment by Always On Watch — January 24, 2012 @ 5:28 am

  3. I remember writing about some other family that was trying to do this. I can’t understand why people just don’t let kids be kids instead of weighing them down with their silly political BS. I also find it hard to believe that it took until this kid was 10 for the ‘truth’ to surface.

    Comment by Harrison — January 24, 2012 @ 8:20 am

    • I remember you had a story about two lesbians who are going ahead with their 10-year-old adoptive son’s sex change. That was the most outrageous of all.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — January 24, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

  4. LOL it’s a good thing that this lefty couple didn’t have one of mine as an offspring. Cuz dang,they woulda been a thorn in their sides. One’s obsession with women in bikinis started very early, that’s all I can say. And the other one, well. I remember him gesturing emphatically with a crayon one day at play group, and I was puzzled. Yeah, that was his gun. Nevermind he had little or no exposure to such.

    “Gender is a social construct,” my behind.


    Comment by nooneofanyimport — January 31, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

    • I’m seeing lots of differences too. My daughter might be more active (and I’m convinced she’s been like that from before she was born), which usually means that she’s tip-toeing and twirling all day. My son is a mellow guy, on the other hand, but he for a while had this habit of plunging head first into his favorite people. We had to teach him not to do it since it was actually painful. I’ve never seen a girl do anything like that.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — February 1, 2012 @ 11:39 am

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