There was a story on the news this morning - I haven't been able to find an online version, although I haven't looked very hard - about a couple who decided not to let anyone beyond close family know the gender of their child until he was five years old. Their stated aim was to avoid the stereotyping which they feel often goes on. They didn't want their son forced to conform to the societal norms for little boys; they therefore elected to keep his gender under wraps until such time as his true character had begun to develop, independent of expectations related to gender. There have been more extreme stories than this floating around - I saw one recently about a couple who told nobody the gender of their child, and deliberately dressed him/her (I can't remember which) in clothes which would normally be associated with different genders on different days.
I think this is pretty seriously wrong, but also a little bit right.
It is wrong because gender is a given, in at least two senses. Firstly, gender is biologically given. We are gendered creatures, and it is not given to us to decide to which gender we ought to belong. It is true that there are people who do not seem to be clearly gendered physically, but I would suggest that this class forms the limit of human experience - to be taken seriously, to be treated with respect, but not to be used as a source of norms. The attempt to escape from all forms of 'given-ness' is a part of our society's carrying on of the Enlightenment quest for autonomy. (Another way this shows itself is the desire to be disembodied, something which we see in the preference for digital media over face to face interaction. I heard someone on the BBC a little while ago say that she thought that our vestigial attachment to being in the same physical place as someone would soon wither and die. I doubt it). For the Christian, of course, these 'givens' - embodiment, gender - are given by God, and therefore to be taken doubly seriously. If I am male, I am called by God to be male, and to seek to do otherwise is disobedience.
Secondly, gender is socially given. It is a false model of human existence to assume that I can construct my own identity apart from the norms and expectations of society. I am born as part of a family, in a specific geographical, temporal, and cultural context. Many of the most important things about me are decided by these 'givens'. To try to escape them altogether is to try to be less than fully human. Again, this is all about the quest for autonomy, and it relates to the first point. The societal norms surrounding gender are about the regulation and expression of the biological differences. To deny society a voice altogether is to deny the basic biological difference, and in the Christian framework to deny the Creator.
But these people are also a little bit right. Unlike the God-given biological differences, the societal norms surrounding these differences are open to critique. The expression of masculinity and femininity is not the same everywhere and at all times, nor need it be. Moreover, there are certainly aspects of these norms which inculcate wrong (sinful) attitudes and aspirations. Whilst we cannot completely discard society's norms, neither ought we to accept them uncritically. There is a real masculinity and femininity which can only be disregarded by disobeying God; the ways in which these are expressed in a particular culture will vary, and indeed there will and must be variation between individuals within a given culture.
It is this point which I think is often overlooked by evangelical Christians when they talk about gender. Particularly amongst our North American complementarian brethren, there is a tendency to assume that when God calls men to be men he calls them to be rugged, individualist, North American men. Well, perhaps he does, in that culture, but perhaps not. Taking social norms and enshrining them as the only way to express God-given differences seems pretty risky to me. Perhaps we need to be a bit more open; to accept that masculinity and femininity are there, to be embraced and enjoyed, as part of our God-given identity - but then to think carefully about the way in which we are accustomed to express those identities, and to engage critically with our culture.