Medical Intervention for Intersexed Children: Gender Unknown
What makes a person male or female? Who has the right to choose what sex a person should be? These are some common questions that parents have to face when their child is born as an "intersexed". "Intersex is a general term used for any form of congenital (inborn) mixed sex anatomy." A person who is considered intersexed has some parts of their sexual anatomy that look female and some that look male (Dreger).
In the United States, "intersexed" is a taboo. Most people don't like to talk about sex, let alone, abnormalities having to do with sexual anatomy. Dreger stated, "1 in 2,000 children [are] born with genitals that are pretty confusing..." That means that being intersexed is more common than a well known medical condition, cystic fibrosis (2004). It makes one wonder that since this particular condition happens so often, why doesn't society speak more freely about it?
When a child is first born and the gender is not quite clear, doctors will test the infant in many ways to determine which sex the baby should be. Some of the tests include, chromosomal, hormonal, and anatomical. The doctors also factor in the ability to create "functional" genitalia with the tissue that is already present. "Functional" usually means, "the ability to use the genitals for penetrative intercourse"(Yronwode). However, doctors usually choose to make the baby into a female because female genitalia is easier to construct (Beh & Diamond).
Holmes wrote, "Invasive surgeries are thus carried out on children who are either pre-linguistic or unable to speak for themselves as legal minors." A child has a right to their body just as every human being does. He/she just does not have a voice yet to tell the doctors what he/she would like(Coventry). After the surgery it is an unspoken rule to never speak about the operation. This has a bad psychological effect on the children and the parents. The children are made to feel as if they are freaks. (Coventry).
Parents often go through a period of shock when they learn that their new baby is neither boy nor girl. Most doctors suggest that "corrective" surgery should be done as soon as possible. There is a vast amount of controversy over whether a baby should be surgically "fixed" to look normal. Uprimny suggested, "surgery makes parents and doctors comfortable, but counseling makes people comfortable too..."(2004). Everyone can agree that parents always have their child's best interest at heart.
Parents do not receive all the information about the baby's condition so they think they are acting in their children's best interests(Morgan). Parents often think that a child that is born intersexed can not live a full, "normal" life. They decide to have the baby under go "normalizing" procedures so that a clear gender identity can be established. They are often convinced that looking "normal" will lessen the stress in the child's life. (Dreger). Uprimny...