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Is Sasha Laxton, the Boy Brought up ‘gender-neutral’, a Social Experiment Gone Too Far?

Posted on the 27 January 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost

Is Sasha Laxton, the boy brought up ‘gender-neutral’, a social experiment gone too far?

Sasha Laxton, the boy brought up "gender neutral." Photo from

Is gender important?

Beck Laxton and Kieran Cooper are the couple who, five years ago, decided not to announce the gender of their child, Sasha Laxton. They referred to the sprog as “the infant”, and never used gendered pronouns, referring to, er, it, as, er, “it”. Only a few close friends and family were told that “it” was a boy. His gender was only revealed to the wider world when he had to attend primary school and the family decided it would be too difficult to keep his gender a secret. They are not alone: a Canadian couple have named their child the gender-neutral Storm; in Sweden there is the two-year old Pop. Also in Sweden there is a “gender neutral” school called Egalia, where teachers avoid using “him” and “her” and use the Finnish gender neutral pronoun “hen.”

The Laxton-Coopers are facing an internet backlash as commentators line up to attack them over their parenting. So are the family liberated utopians, or misguided fools?

“I am sick of the way girls are socialised into loving pink and Barbie, and how boys are forgiven the worst behavior because ‘boys will be boys’,” fumed feminist Julie Bindell on The Independent.

The difference is between gender and sex. Megan Gibson was sympathetic to their cause. She wrote on Time that Sasha’s room was “painted yellow.” Dolls and all kinds of toys were pressed upon him, and his clothes consisted of whatever fitted him – even tutus, wings, or “a pink two-piece swimsuit.” She thought the reaction from commentators was “extreme”, considering that Sasha himself thinks “gender-based rules … are silly.” Commentators are failing to separate the “difference between gender and sex.” Sasha knows he’s biologically a boy – it’s just that his mother didn’t want him growing up amongst all the gender stereotypes associated with being a boy. Sasha won’t feel “ostracized or different” because of his “mother’s choices” – he will because of “the anger leveled at him for being raised differently.”

“Stereotypes seem fundamentally stupid. Why would you want to slot people into boxes? It affects what they wear and what they can play with, and that shapes the kind of person that they become,” said Beck Laxton, quoted on Time.

It’s wonderful. Yvonne Roberts on The Guardian was jubilant. She said that the Laxton-Cooper family’s actions were no more strange than taking a five-year-old girl to a suntan parlour. What Sasha has enjoyed is a “childhood divorced from the crippling expectations of boys and girls ought to behave – and that’s a rare freedom.” However, she then suggested that the reason pushchairs now look like “aeronautics gadgets” is because more men are involved in childcare – which Periscope thinks comes pretty close to gender stereotyping.

“Are dolls and frilly blouses ‘gender neutral’ hmmClearly she is as mad as a box of frogs,” commented a Mumsnet user.

Toddlers play games. Lorraine Candy on The Daily Mail spoke in a heartfelt manner from her own experience. She said that her toddler used to love dressing in girls’ clothes – even running his “imaginary boutique ‘Slinx’”, as well as his “hairdressing salon ‘Slapchicks’”. He loved everything girly, even eschewing football club because shorts were for boys, he said. But Candy felt it was her “duty” to make this girlish behavior stop. His behavior came from wanting to be in the same “club” as his older sisters. But it had to stop – it would only bring him “derision and hurt.” Who would want to do that to their child? It’s “arrogant” of parents to impose this sort of thing on a child. Children dress up – you may think “your toddler is striking a blow for feminism … but he’s not – he’s just playing a game.” The children involved have “no choice in the matter – is that really fair?” It would be better for schools to “talk more about gender.” And parents should “remember these precious early years belong to their children, not to them.”

“Children aren’t research projects. It’s all very well challenging and exploring stereotypes but if you don’t differentiate between sexes you are going to cause gender confusion,” said psychotherapist Phillip Hodson, quoted on The Daily Express 

The world is going to end! Melanie Phillips on The Daily Mail, somewhat predictably, said the couple were “a few sequins short of a tutu.” Sasha’s potential lies in “what he will achieve as a boy, not in turning into a girl.” He runs the risk of long term psychological confusion. To use a child in this way as a social experiment is “shocking.” Society is being “brainwashed” into thinking that there are no differences between genders. This will result in “misery.” Experiments such as these won’t usher in a better world. They threaten “to stamp out the individual right to know what we are, and to rob us of humanity itself.”

We need stereotypes. Ed West in The Daily Telegraph said that he was sure that Laxton was  good mother, and he doubts that Sasha will be “troubled by this slight experiment when in years to come he’s a commander in the Parachute Regiment,” but it sounds “typical of our crazy age.” Stereotyping is “not only not fundamentally stupid, but it’s fundamentally necessary.”

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