Or, Intersex, defined in Stedman's Medical Dictionary and in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary as "one having the characteristics of both sexes." Unfortunately, the characteristics are not defined in any way.
For the sake of simplicity, however, for my research project for my Child Development class, I am defining it as those infants born with either aspects of both genitals, or ambiguous genitals, meaning hypospadias (an abnormality of the penis in which the urethra opens on the underside), congenital adrenal hyperplasia (C.A.H.), developmental problems of the external genitalia, virilized females, undervirilzed males, and patients with gonadal tissue of both sexes. Micropenis.
What my paper is really going to deal with, though, are less of the medical ideas, and what the psychological ramifications are. Should children's parents and doctors determine their gender as soon as they're born, which has been the case for decades. Whatever it's "closest" to is what the kid becomes.
How a micropenis becomes a clitoris.
The problems with this are too in-depth to go into on this here little blog, but the argument rages on. One of the main arguments is, if the parents and doctor don't choose the gender, how do you effectively raise an intersex child? Is that more or less damaging than "choosing" a gender for them, and then have a 50/50 chance of them actually being the opposite gender of what's been chosen for them? There are few things more heartbreaking, the common wisdom says, than a man with a penis not much bigger than a clitoris left to grow up as a man, hoping that the penis will grow as he ages, but then it does not, and he's doomed to go through life as a man without a penis.
The most common of these incidents occurred with a set of twins born in the 50's. During the circumcision process, one of their penises was accidentally cut off (um...) and Bruce thus became Brenda, while retaining all the chromosomal makeup of a man. Though he was raised as a "girl," he was obviously always very masculine, played sports and had numerous temperamental problems, even before puberty. In adolescence the truth about her gender was disclosed and he elected to have surgery to turn back into a man. He eventually got married and had children, but never really adjusted to his new gender, either (it seems that neither really worked for him) and he ended up committing suicide in his early 40's. His suicide was soon followed by his twin who was so distraught at his brother's suicide that he did the same thing. Nature vs. Nurture? Speaks volumes about nature to me. Gender being inherent rather than constructed.
That's just the most famous case. In my research I've started to become a little obssessed with intersex and transgenderism. So much so, in fact, that I've been thinking it might be an area in which I want to specialize as a therapist. Either counseling adults who have suffered traumatic gender issues, or with families who have to make decisions about babies and children. The common theory now being that no surgeries should be done on children until they're old enough to offer consent, and make up their own minds.
Fascinating. Well, at least to me.