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There has been an international brouhaha over the decision by Canadian couple Kathy Witterick and David Stocker not to reveal the sex of their baby, Storm. As brother Jazz enjoys wearing pink dresses and pigtails, Kathy and David decided it would be better if their child’s sex remained private to their family to avoid any more societal gender issues.

This story got plenty of media time in Australia, as in other countries, and mostly people were very much against the idea of raising a “genderless baby”. This opinion piece in the The Age says that the parents are selfishly putting their own ideological agenda before their child’s welfare, while more forthright articles suggested the parents’ idea was just absurd.

However, Emma Jane in The Australian was one of those who took a more sympathetic view. She believes that gender stereotyping of babies and toddlers has reached a ridiculous level, where even new-born infants are dressed in either pink frills or solid workmanlike blue.

She dressed her daughter Alice in boy’s clothes and gender-neutral primary colours as a baby, which was declared to be “child abuse” by a concerned onlooker. Now 4 years old, Alice can make her own choices, which, it turns out, means a wardrobe full of pink and girly outfits.

Sydney couple Jay Black and Scott Collins are supporters of Witterick and Stocker’s choice to raise a “genderless child”. (I think Jay and Scott are a female-male couple). Jay and Scott are trying to raise their sons, Poe, 4, and Ilo, 22 months, without gender stereotypes. Their boys have ambiguous haircuts, play with dolls, and are supported if they choose to wear skirts and dresses.

In line with this lack of gender demarcation, Poe and Ilo have been given unusual unisex names.

Poe is a surname, most famous as that of the American Gothic writer, Edgar Allen Poe. His surname is a variant of the early English name Peacock, which began as a nickname for someone who was vain or dandified, or from someone who bred peacocks. In a few cases, it may have come from a house distinguished by the sign of a peacock. Poe Ballantine is an American novelist, while Poe is the stage name of American rock singer Anne Danielewski. Poe is also a raven character in the TV series Ruby Gloom.

Ilo is such a rare name that information on it is scarce, and I have turned to Appellation Mountain to discover that it’s the name of an Estonian goddess dedicated to feasting whose name may mean “pleasure”, and possibly a Nigerian boy’s name meaning “joy”. Sylvia Plath’s teenage diaries rather fervently describe a blonde Estonian refugee called Ilo Pill; he was male, so even in Estonia the name of the goddess seems to have been used for both boys and girls. In addition, Ilo is a lake in North Dakota, USA, and a port town in Peru, so you may take it as a geographic name as well. It’s so neutral that you can’t even tell which country the name is from, or what it means! It can either be pronounced EYE-low, or EE-loh (I believe).

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