Hermaphrodites: a Third Gender?
This post is in response to Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She. The filmmaker, Antony Thomas, approached many of the issues that we have addressed in class. One segment in particular related to the course reading, â€śThe Medical Construction of Genderâ€? by Suzanne Kessler. In the video, â€śJudyâ€? had been born a male pseudo-hermaphrodite and doctors had decided that her penis was too small to be considered a penis and she had been raised as a girl. Judy had grown up questioning why she didnâ€™t fit in with the girls or the boys. She tried being a lesbian and tried being straight, but she still felt as though she were an outsider. It wasnâ€™t until later on in life when she found out that she had been born with ambiguous genitalia and still years later until she decided that she wanted to transition into life as a man. Judy, who now goes by Max, made me question why â€śphysicians (and society) hold the incorrigible belief that female and male are the only â€śnaturalâ€? optionsâ€? (Feminist Frontiers p. 56). Everybody has to fit naturally in the dichotomy of male and female or all hell will break loose. In the words of Kessler on page 57, â€śThe experts must ensure that the parents have no doubt about whether their child is male or female; the genitals must be made to match the assigned gender as soon as possible; gender-appropriate hormones must be administered at puberty; and inter-sexed children must be kept informed about their situation with age-appropriate explanations.â€?
Society places so much pressure on girls and boys to stick to the gender norms and if they donâ€™t fit into these norms, they are gay, freaks, perverts, and living in sin. The pressure is so great that itâ€™s a race when a baby is born to assign it to one of the two categories, so much so that â€śmale" is not defined by the genetic condition of having one Y and one X chromosome or by the production of sperm but by the aesthetic condition of having an â€śappropriatelyâ€? sized penisâ€? (p. 59).
There either needs to be a new gender category created or, even better, we need to get rid of gender stereotypes all together. 1 out of every 100 babies born is born with ambiguous genitals. This number has significance, and itâ€™s time for society to start treating these people like people, and accept them the way that they are. Kessler states on page 66, â€śAccepting genital ambiguity as a natural option would require that physicians also acknowledge that genital ambiguity is â€ścorrectedâ€? not because it is threatening to the infantâ€™s life but because it is threatening to the infantâ€™s culture.â€?