Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Intersex

It used to be standard procedure to do “corrective surgery” on intersex babies to make them "normal". Society is so hung up on gender that the first question that is asked on birth of a baby is… you all know the answer, is the baby “a boy or a girl?” Slowly the surgery is being discontinued and a more reasoned approach of letting the child when they are old enough to make the decision.
Sex-assignment surgery on a child ruled unconstitutional
Federal court decides in favor of 8-year-old boy born with intersex condition subjected to procedure as an infant
By Southern Poverty Law Center
August 24, 2013

For the first time, a federal court has concluded that a medically unnecessary sex-assignment surgery on a child with an intersex condition could be a violation of the Constitution. This marks an important step forward in seeking justice for “M.C.,” a young man who was needlessly subjected to the procedure as an infant in the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services.
[…]
“We applaud the court’s decision and we are pleased that the court will have the opportunity to consider the deeply important constitutional issues at stake,” said Alesdair Ittelson, staff attorney for the SPLC. “By removing M.C.’s healthy body parts and trying to make him a girl absent any pressing reason, defendants violated M.C.’s constitutional rights. We look forward to the chance to make our case at trial and bring justice to M.C. and children like him.”
Hopefully, this will make doctors think twice before medically unnecessary sex-assignment surgery.

Gender identity was once thought of being all “nurture” that gender identity was a social construct but we are now learning that our identity is hardwired in our brain. In “Your Personal Pathology” by Rober Sapolsky he writes about how our personality is programed in our brains.
Neuroscience has progressed at a startling speed. We now understand how neurons find and connect to one another during development and how they die after injuries, how our brains decode sensory information and coordinate muscle movement, how sea slugs and even humans learn. Perhaps most excitingly, we are uncovering the brain basis of our behaviors--normal, abnormal and in-between. We are mapping a neurobiology of what makes us us.
[…]
Other findings, though not as readily categorized in the nature-versus-nurture debate, reveal new ways in which we are the products of our brains. Take a report by Frank Kruijver and his team at the Netherlands Institute of Brain Research. It has been known for some time that in a brain region called the bed nucleus of the striae terminalis (BNST), men and women differ consistently in their number of neurons. Kruijver counted neurons in postmortem human brains, including those from transsexuals. And in both sexes, transsexuals did not have the number of neurons typical of their birth gender. Rather they had the number typical of the sex that they always felt they should be. This pattern was independent of whether the person had actually ever changed sex behaviorally or been treated with hormones.

Think of it: these people's chromosomes, gonads, genitals, hormones and societal treatment all say they are one gender. But they and their BNSTs insist otherwise. This discovery suggests that transsexualism is not a problem of thinking that one is the wrong sex. It is a problem of having the body of the wrong sex.
When doctors preform “corrective surgery” on intersex babies they only change the outward appearance not how the brain is programed.
In an article by Doctors William G. Reiner and John P. Gearhart, M.D. in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Discordant Sexual Identity in Some Genetic Males with Cloacal Exstrophy Assigned to Female Sex at Birth” they wrote,
The concept of sexual identity in persons with genital malformations has intrigued the medical world since Money and colleagues' pioneering studies of intersex in the 1950s. They later reasoned that an infant's sex could be assigned if corresponding genitalia were constructed during infancy and the child's upbringing corresponded to that sex.
In other words, they want the child look normal. They thought gender identity was all nurture and nature was not involved with gender identity. The study was a small convenience sample of 16 children who had “corrective surgery.”
Sexual identity varied among the subjects assigned to female sex. Five persistently declared unwavering female identity. One other subject refused to discuss sexual identity with anyone. Eight declared unwavering male identity: four of these subjects declared male identity spontaneously, at the ages of 7, 9, 9, and 12 years, although the parents of two persistently rejected these declarations. Four others declared male identity after their parents revealed to them that their birth status was male, at ages 5, 7, 7, and 18 years. Two subjects were reared male and identified themselves as male. Table shows neonatal sexual assignment, sex at initial assessment, and present sex. All subjects were in medically stable condition, although they had had various health problems. All attended regular schools.
[…]
Assessments revealed moderate-to-marked male-typical behaviors in all 16 subjects…
It is an interesting study in that it shows that something deep inside us know what our true gender identity is no matter what we look like on the outside.

I am glad that the courts have stepped in and are hearing arguments on “M.C.” case against South Carolina Department of Social Services.

References:
Reiner, W. G., & Gearhart, J. P. (2004). Discordant sexual identity in some genetic males with cloacal exstrophy assigned to female sex at birth. New England Journal of Medicine, 350(4), 333-341.
Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Your Personal Pathology. Scientific American Special Edition, 14(1), 94-95.

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