Monday, September 25, 2006

What if It’s (Sort of) a Boy and (Sort of) a Girl?

I found this article, "What if It’s (Sort of) a Boy and (Sort of) a Girl?" by Elizabeth Weil in the New York Times, about assigning and surgically altering the genitals of intersex babies and children fascinating.

Cheryl Chase, the founder of the Intersex Society of North America, has been arguing against doctors and parents performing surgery on intersex babies. She contends that we must become more comfortable as a society with ambiguous gender and genitals, assign a gender, but allow the individual to make their own decision about their genital surgery when they are older.

This makes sense to me. What is so strange about having an enlarged clitoris anyway? One family decided that they wanted their 2 year-old to have surgery when they saw her masturbating. This is one of Chase's points, that parents often feel awkward about sexuality to begin with. Chase, who is intersex and was born with an enlarged clitoris, said that her mother had told her that she had never looked at her own genitals and did not even know what a clitoris was! No wonder she let the doctors cut it off.

As a society, we are too worked up about categorizing people into genders anyway. At this point in time, I will go along with Chase's belief that children should be assigned a gender (without surgery) that they can later change if they want to. I wish a specific gender didn't have to be assigned but unfortunately this won't be socially accepted in my lifetime.

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