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One day when I was in the second grade (late 1970s) my teacher read the class a story about a baby whose parents simply called it baby “X.” They would not tell anyone the baby’s gender, nor would they allow the baby to wear gender specific clothing, or to play with gender specific toys. The moral of the story, as far as I could grasp, was that baby “X’s” parents thought being an “X” was better than being a baby boy or a baby girl.

I don’t know what prompted the teacher to read the story, but I can remember even then being very puzzled by it. What did baby “X” think, I wondered? Why would baby “X’s” parents do such a thing? And mostly I felt sorry for baby “X” and his or her not being able to be a boy or a girl.

Maybe the point was that baby “X” was a person, and that being a person was better than being male or female? Does being male or female take away from one’s being a person? Does giving girls trucks and boys dolls or scolding boys for liking trucks or girls for liking dolls (if indeed they are drawn to these toys themselves, not “told” they like these toys) really “solve” anything? Will playing with dolls make a girl incapable? Will playing with trucks make a boy insensitive?

The “genderless” movement continued for many years, and can still be found here and there. Years after hearing the tale of baby “X” the story came back to me when watching the popular “Pat” character in Saturday Night Live skits. It was as if baby “X” was all grown up, living out the supposedly better “genderless” existence, to the confusion of everyone.

In short, I get what the genderless movement was about, but I think it reinforces the stigmas it is trying to overcome rather than eradicates them. It implies being a male or a female (depending on one’s point of view) is better or worse than being a “neither” or a “both.”

I disagree. I think women are wonderful. I think men are wonderful. I think children are wonderful. And I think everyone should let them simply be who they themselves are, rather than try to tell them who or what to be. Let baby “X” figure it out. After all, it’s baby “X’s” life, right?

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