A few days ago I posted about the movement to make toy stores gender neutral. I wish I could say that gender neutrality is limited to toy stores like London’s Hamleys. Alas, no. Earlier this year the UK newsletters were full of stories about the case of little Sasha Laxton. Before the child was born, the parents had determined that their child would be called Sasha regardless of whether “it” turned out to be a boy or a girl. And just to prove to themselves the unimportance of gender, after labor was over the parents waited 30 minutes before asking midwives what gender their child was.
For five years Sasha’s gender was a carefully guarded secret. The parents referred to their child as simply “the infant”, scrupulously avoided gender-loaded pronouns like “he” or “she.” They were also careful about dress. One day Sasha’s parents would dress him in striped trousers, the next in a sparkly pink tutu with fairy wings and ballet shoes. Moreover, the Laxton’s home became a gender neutral zone as the parents desperately attempted to shield their child from society’s prejudices and preconceptions.
Sasha was eventually ‘outed’ as a male just before beginning school.
Just to show that their experiment in gender neutrality had achieved the desired result, the parents posted a 90-second Youtube clip where Sasha and his mother can be seen walking along a road near their home in Cambridgeshire. Sasha’s mother, Beck, asks her son if he thinks there are any differences between boys and girls. “No,” Sasha replies. The mother presses her son with a barrage of other questions, like “do girls like pink and boys like blue?” In each cases Sasha gives the only correct answer for someone who has been indoctrinated with the stereotype of gender neutrality: no, no, no.
The Laxton parents are not alone. In 2011 Kathy Witterick and David Stocker from Canada announced that they would not be revealing the gender of their third child, Storm. Only Storm’s siblings would know. Similarly, in Sweden a couple recently announced that the gender of their baby Pop would be a carefully guarded secret.