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Sonya Boeser Critical Response 5

Sonya Boeser
GLBT Critical Response #5

Response to “All Together Now: Intersex Infants and IGM�, in Queer Theory, Gender Theory by Riki Wilchins.

The main story told in this chapter of Riki Wilchins’ book is a story about a baby named Charlie who had unidentifiable genitals and was thus labeled as a female named Cheryl since the doctors transformed the genitals into a vagina. Wilchins tells us that the term “intersex� is the correct term to describe people with ambiguous genitals; “hermaphrodite� is frequently used and yet is an archaic medical term. Using this word makes people think of a person with both kinds of sets of genitals, though this is impossible. Other things mentioned in the chapter are ways that politics has tried to prevent females from becoming too ‘butch’, and males from becoming too ‘sissy.’
Wilchins very effectively addresses the issues with doctors today and the decisions being made to label babies with “incorrectly sized genitals� as male or, in most cases, female. One quote says, “If your organ is less than three-eighths of an inch long, it’s a clitoris and you’re a baby girl. If it’s longer than an inch, it’s a penis and you’re a baby boy� (p. 80). The next paragraph states how common it is for babies to have genitals that are in between these measurements, and how “through the miracle of modern Science� you can be transformed into a normal baby girl. The argument that the doctors make about changing intersex babies into females relates to Lydia’s presentation, and her quote: “It is easier to dig a hole than to build a pole.�
The story about the transformation from Charlie to Cheryl addresses limitations of the medical profession today. Wilchins’ chapter on intersexuality has no limitations or bad arguments, but the issues that she raises for the reader to learn about are things that need to change. For example, “Charlie was a year and a half old when…doctors decided that Charlie was actually a Cheryl. This meant that his small penis was actually an abnormally large clitoris. So they cut it off� (73). At a year and a half old, babies are still developing their personality. Their organs are still developing, and speaking of organs, did Charlie have a womb? Why did they change Charlie into a woman if he did not have interior organs that were female? It should be up to the actual intersex person to decide what happens to their genitals, once they are old enough and mature enough to make such a decision.
The information in this chapter is relevant to what we have been talking about in class, because every person is their own person and should be in charge of what happens to their bodies. Just like all people should be allowed to use whatever toilet they want to use. All people should be allowed to make the choice about surgeries for themselves. This reading makes me wonder about people more because “are you intersex?� is not really an appropriate question to ask someone. But if many children with ambiguous genitalia are being turned into females (maybe males), I would like to know who they are and if they chose to have it done.