The Trouble With Ambiguous Genitalia

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The Trouble With Ambiguous Genitalia

In trying to decide what to write this last Bio paper on, I solicited the help of some of the girls I eat with in Erdman. They twirled their forks on their plates, bit their lips, scratched their heads. "How about hermaphrodites?" someone chimed in. I lit up. Sure, I thought. Hermaphrodites. That will be interesting. And then: Wait. What's a hermaphrodite again?

In beginning my research, more so at that point to figure out for myself what a hermaphrodite actually was than to begin researching my paper, I had a hard time turning anything up. I talked aloud to myself, to my computer, and to the hermaphrodites of the world. Where are you guys? I wondered.

And then I found them. Or rather, they sought me out, grabbed me by my shirt collar and said, "Hey listen up, girl. Don't call me that."

Because that's where they started with me, I figured that's where I'd begin my paper.

The word "hermaphrodite" has become problematic. Apparently, its roots are to be found in an oppressive Victorian belief that there exists a "true sex," and that any deviation on this "true sex" is a "pseudo-sex" (1). The problem lies in the implications of the word; "'hermaphrodite' implies that a person is born with two sets of genitals-one male and one female-and that is something that cannot occur" (1). Then, of course, there's the problem with referring to someone as pseudo anything.

After beating me up for my choice of wording, they decided to set me straight. The correct word, the preferred term, as it were, is intersexed. What is intersexuality? According to the Intersex Society of North America, "intersexed people are born with chromosomes, external genitalia, or i...

... middle of paper ... to explain such medical/mental oddities to such societies, would prefer to slap a quick label ("hermaphrodite", "pseudo") on anyone who deviates--willingly or no--from the fabricated Victorian "true sex." The revolution of the intersexed people is not merely one of renaming. These people are more concerned with dispelling the myths and secrets surrounding them. Their revolution is one of knowledge, education, and yes, a little wordsmithing, too.

Internet Sources:

1)On The Word "Hermaphrodite"

2) What is Intersex? What Do These Diagnoses Mean?

3) Frequency: How Common Are Intersex People?

4) ISNA's Recommendations for Treatment

5) Pediatric Ethics and the Surgical Assignment of Sex

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