Parents raise son as a boy AND a girl so he won't 'grow up aggressive'
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By Guy Adams and Andy Dolan
PUBLISHED: 17:00 EST, 14 February 2014 | UPDATED: 17:11 EST, 14 February 2014
Max Price's parents Lisa and Martin are raising their son as a boy and a girl so he does not 'grow up aggressive'
Max Price is a happy, healthy one-year-old boy who spent yesterday morning playing with his vast collection of toy cars, planes, tractors, and dinosaurs.
Dressed in a red checked lumberjack shirt and rust-coloured jeans, he shouted ‘beep beep!’ and giggled with delight while pushing a plastic motorbike around the living room of his family home.
Then, after lunch, a strange transformation occurred.
Max scampered upstairs to his bedroom with his 23-year-old mother, Lisa, and re-emerged several minutes later wearing a dark blue, knee-length dress decorated with pink flamingos.
He swiftly grabbed a blonde-haired doll, sat her in a pink plastic pram, and took her on a short walk, stopping only when it was time to pretend to breastfeed her.
Later in the afternoon, the child collected several more dolls, found a selection of pink toy cups and saucers, and staged an impromptu tea party.
Max, who turns two later this month and lives in Walsall, is being raised according to a radical technique known as ‘gender-neutral parenting’.
It means Lisa and her husband, Martin, 34, encourage him to wear both boys’ and girls’ clothes, and to play with conventionally female – as well as male – toys.
Rather than being worried if he decides not to play football, and asks instead for someone to paint his fingernails with glittery polish, they instead see it as a form of cute self-expression.
‘If Max wants to wear a pink tutu and fairy wings, then he can wear it,’ says Lisa. ‘He’s just expressing himself. I don’t want to put him in a certain box and treat him that way. I want to teach him to be whatever he wants to be. He can pick his own clothes and, as long as they’re warm enough for the winter, I’ll get him whatever he wants.’
Lisa and Martin live with two elder children – Brandon, ten, and Mia, seven – from Martin’s previous relationship, who are raised along more traditional lines. They also share the terraced home with a hamster called Simon, two cats, Tigger and Pixie, and a German Shepherd called Roxy.
Visitors to the bustling home tend to be surprised, but ‘mostly supportive’, of their decision to pursue gender-neutral parenting.
‘You get the odd funny look, and a bit of hostility, but once we explain how we are bringing our son up, and why, people tend to understand,’ says Lisa.
The couple from Walsall said they love their son for who he is. They are raising Max, who turns two later this month, according to a radical technique known as 'gender-neutral parenting'
‘I hope that Max won’t get teased when he’s older. But part of what we are trying to do with Max is to instil such a sense of confidence, and a sense of who he is, that he won’t care what anyone else thinks.’
Lisa, a full-time housewife, took the decision to allow Max to identify as either a girl or a boy 12 months ago, after seeing high-profile rape cases being discussed on parenting websites. ‘Gender stereotypes can be so damaging.
'Gender stereotypes can be so damaging. They teach little boys to be aggressive and dominant over women... It's detrimental for them and for females'
- Lisa Price
‘They teach little boys to be aggressive and dominant over women,’ she argues. ‘There’s research out there saying that the whole “boys will be boys” thing basically teaches lads that it’s OK to be a certain way, because it’s in their nature to be aggressive. It’s detrimental for them and for females.’
The decision was fully supported by Martin, an unemployed courier. ‘I think my husband is more of a feminist than I am,’ she says. ‘His biggest concern about the whole thing is usually “does Max have the right shoes to go with that dress!”’
Martin, for his part, adds: ‘My parents told me that I played with my sister’s dolls as a child and it doesn’t bother me. I can’t see why it would bother anyone.’
They are adamant that Max has thrived
under the gender-neutral regime, pointing out that he is able to string
three or four-word sentences together, and is ‘almost’ potty-trained.
The concept of gender-neutral parenting first became popular among feminists in America during the 1970s, when it inspired the actress Marlo Thomas to write a best-selling children’s book called Free To Be… You and Me. Recently, it has experienced a small revival.
Write caption here
In 2011, a Canadian couple made headlines after refusing to reveal the gender of their new-born child Storm in what they called ‘a tribute to freedom and choice’.
The following year, a Cambridgeshire couple, Beck Laxton and Kieran Cooper, revealed they were raising their child Sasha as gender neutral to allow his or her ‘real personality’ to shine through.
In normal circumstances, Max would be required to start wearing gender-specific clothes when he starts at school. However Lisa and Martin have a contingency plan that will allow him to continue dressing as he pleases.
‘We’re planning on home educating Max,’ says Lisa, who was herself home-schooled. ‘However, if he does eventually choose to go to school, and wants to wear a girl’s uniform, I certainly won’t stop him.’
She adds: ‘It doesn’t matter if he’s homosexual, bisexual, transsexual or asexual as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t give birth to him to say “I’m only going to love you if you’re this way”. I love him for who he is.’