This new film reveals the truth about children raised without gender
Mika and Niko, aged five and two, are cherubic blondes with long hair and cheeky grins.
They play with their toys and dress up and stumble over, and throw tantrums like any children their ages.
But their childhoods are very different from most, in one fundamental way.
Mika and Nico are being brought up without gender.
They live in Örebro, Sweden, with their Mama Mathilda, their Grandma Margareta, and their Mapa Del.
Del LaGrace Volcano is intersex, they were assigned female at birth and started showing male sex characteristics in their teenage years.
Now they identify as non-binary, their children call them “Mapa” as a combination of Mama and Papa.
Vice’s newest documentary Raised Without Gender follows Del and their family and they navigate bringing their children up in a world obsessed with the boy/girl binary.
It also visits Sweden’s gender-neutral kindergartens and meets subjects experts, including the founder of those kindergartens, Lotta Rajalin.
Part of the documentary-makers’ goal was to counteract some of the criticism Sweden has received from across the world for their steps towards gender-neutrality.
“Sweden is the most forward-thinking country in the world when it comes to questioning gender,” the documentary begins.
Sweeping as this statement may be, the fact is that Sweden is leagues ahead in many ways when it comes to government recognition of gender non-conformity.
The inspiration for the documentary came in 2015, when Sweden added the gender-neutral pronoun “hen” to the dictionary.
The government funds gender-neutral kindergartens, and gender stereotypes have been forbidden in schools since 1998.
The documentary comes at a time when transgender issues are at the forefront of liberation debate across the world and more young people than ever before are defining as something other than simply “male” or “female.”
Mika and Niko were both assigned male at birth, but their parents have made every effort not to let this define them. The children can wear whatever clothes they choose, they play with dolls and trucks, their names are purposefully not gender-specific.
Del asks Mika what pronoun they like best – she, he, or hen – and Mika says they don’t really like any, but if it had to be one it would be “hen,” like their Mapa.
Many people might worry that Mika might face teasing or bullying at school, but none of the children at the kindergarten seem to have a problem with Mika’s gender identity.
On the contrary, when documentary host Amelia Abraham asks them what they think about it, they simply say “Mika is hen,” and return to the important work of climbing trees.
When Abraham interviews Dr Eberhard, a psychiatrist who is opposed to Sweden’s gender-neutral attitude, his objection is largely that the kindergartens are creating more divisions by making gender into such a big issue.
But in these kindergartens, far from some extreme-left agenda, it seems that their ultimate goal is simply freedom.
They don’t gender their dress-up costumes, and use colouring books that show Batman and Superman caring for a baby, to show the children that they can be whatever they want. They want the children to live without the restrictive boundaries that divide our society.
Milène Larsson, Producer and Co-Director of “Raised Without Gender” says many share Eberhard’s concern, that the adults are trying to force an agenda on the children. “They think ‘Oh no you’re trying to turn boys into girls and girls into boys,’” she told PinkNews.
“But they’re just trying to teach children that they’re children. They’re trying to avoid the categorisation of “us and them” and that’s the most important lesson.”
Larsson said that, although Del’s family is an unusual case in Sweden, they are indicative of a wider movement in the country to destroy the rigid boundaries between genders.
“If you don’t have a border between what you can and cannot do, if you are a person, and your sex is just like a different eye colour or hair colour, why should what you choose to wear matter?”
Watch the full video here: