This morning over breakfast I spent quite a long time wondering how we would handle it if we had another child and it was born intersex (hermaphrodite.) (Yes, my brain is weird. I did warn you.)
I’ve got a few conflicting opinions about the issue: on the one side is my conservative upbringing, which is inclined to shy away from gender-bending. This isn’t true gender-bending, but it is related. On the other side, of course, is Smith College and much more liberal convictions. My personal beliefs tend to end up somewhere between the two.
I guess my first move would be to request genetic testing, to figure out what sex the genes say the child is. It’s not unknown for a burst of hormones at the wrong time to cause the wrong set of external genitalia to develop, and in that case I don’t think I’d have any qualms about getting surgery to fix the issue, assuming that the surgery would not destroy the child’s ability to enjoy sex in some form. In that case the child would never remember being other than more-or-less normal.
If a similar problem were discovered when the child was a bit older, I think it would be more important to find a good therapist and help the child sort things out before doing anything. Self-identity is more important than getting the problem “fixed” unless there’s a real medical threat related to the issue.
If I had a true, genetic intersexed child….I think I’d leave things as they were. We plan to have our sons circumcised (as part of our Jewish identity, not for any imagined health benefits) so we’d probably get a private circumcision. Then I think we’d probably raise the child as a girl, at least for the first few years – elementary school is probably too young to be dealing with that sort of quandary, and in our society a boyish girl does better than a girlish boy. We’d probably also choose a gender-neutral (or at least easily-adapted) name.
Obviously I have no expectation of this happening. It was just a thought I had. What would you do?