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The intersexed are people, not problems

When most people think of the word “hermaphrodite,” some unsettling ideas come to mind and an inevitable set of questions occurs.

Are those people for real?

Do I know anyone like that?

Then the awkward ideas are quickly shooed away and placed under the mental file of “weird stuff.”

But the fact of the matter is that people afflicted by this defect are part of our society. According to a recent Associated Press article, roughly one in 4,000 children born possess both male and female traits.

This issue isn’t about humor or even morbid curiosity for people directly involved with it. For parents of a baby of undetermined sex, it can be downright terrifying.

The fear of having a child that could be considered a freak by Western society has often influenced people into making snap decisions. The AP article reported that generally, a doctor looks at a baby’s external genitalia and then surgically alters the genitals to whichever sex he/she felt the baby most closely resembled. The altered baby would then be raised as whichever gender it was assigned by the doctor to be.

This is a bad plan.

For one thing, this method doesn’t take into account that while the external genitalia may, for instance, strongly resemble a penis, the internal genitals and hormonal body chemistry may be that of a female. This spells trouble when the child begins growing older and realizes that something is not quite right. The AP article mentioned situations where a child raised and surgically changed to be a girl one day adamantly declares, at about four years old, that the child is “a boy.”

Needless to say, this child will probably be at least psychologically hurt by the experience.

This could all be avoided if gender was not assigned so soon after birth, an idea explored in the AP article. If the child were allowed to grow to the age of three or four without being tampered with, then the doctors and psychologists analyzing the patient would have a much clearer picture of its true gender. Gender assignment could then be done with a larger likelihood of success.

Some people argue that assigning a gender at all is bad. Why not raise the child as they are? Why not accept them and create a third sex, outside of male and female?

While this idealistic approach is admirable, it is not practical. Maybe this would work in a perfect world, but given the state of things currently, utopia is light-years away. If society cannot even accept homosexuality as something that’s real and here to stay, then making a whole new category of gender and sexual identity is not feasible. At this point, waiting until the child shows characteristics of one gender or another is the best choice.

That’s not to say it is easy or not emotionally trying to deal with. It certainly would require some perseverance, open-mindedness and flexibility on the parents’ part. However, it is obvious that it’s the best option in the interest of the child.

Life is hard enough without feeling like a man trapped in a woman’s body or vice versa.


The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board, whose members are listed to the left.