Because clearly I think too much

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?

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2 Responses to Because clearly I think too much

  1. Beth S. says:

    Something worth considering would be that many people say the most traumatic part of gender reassignment surgery is the years of exposing themselves to a parade of surgeons, fellows, residents and med students who come to admire and discuss the surgeon’s work. For that reason alone, I’d be reluctant to agree to surgery on a child too young to consent.

    Also I bet that burst of hormones can do all sorts of things, and I’d be terrified of giving my kid gender dysphoria because I was overly attached to genetic determinism. I totally agree on getting a good therapist with experience in this sort of thing though.

  2. you have a point there. Clearly I have more research to do – or would, if this had any practical significance for me :)

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