It is entirely possible that Rónán was sending me up on one, but I can’t be quite sure. Over a long discussion this friend of mine introduces me to the idea, which he sees as quite ethical, of raising children free from gender stereotypes. According to Megan Gibson, writing for the Time (‘Parents Who Hid Child’s Gender for Five Years Now Face Backlash,’ January 24 2012), my reaction says more about my “own bias against LGBT people than anything else.” So, yeah, whatever! We’ve all been aware for some time about the kerfuffle among trendy parents over the evils of gender reinforcing toys for girls and boys, I may have my problems with this but how people enforce their sexual politics on their children’s playthings is their own business, but I am not so mellow on the thought of negating a child’s gender to satisfy mummy and daddy’s need for vindication over the social norms they happen to dislike.

The very idea of stripping an infant of its gender strikes me as a horrific cruelty; reducing a completely dependent person to an ‘it’ with the removal of any language or enculturation that would identify the human being in their care as male or female. Of course it is argued that sex and gender are different things, and this is true – they are, but much like thought and language the latter is informed by the former; physicality is the primary basis for psycho-sexuality.

We can all agree that it should not matter within a modern society whether a person is a male or a female person, but to a person’s sense of identity the physical and emotional difference between being male and being female matter. I’m not a biologist or an expert in childhood developmental psychology, and I’m not going to pretend that I am, but I can imagine that it is pretty easy to convince a toddler that it is neither male nor female. That is the easy part. The problem with a convinced neuter toddler is that it will grow up into an adolescent human being with a chemical and hormonal cocktail specific to its sex. I didn’t just make that part up. This teenager will then have about a 90% chance of developing a sexualised desire for a human being of the opposite… what? We are primates and we are subject, to a large degree, to natural biological conditioning. Let’s just say that children are not the best things to experiment with – call me what you will.

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