The Complexity of Human Identity
"Intersex, also known as disorders or differences of sex development [DSDS] represents a dozen different conditions] where what you see on the outside is not necessarily matching what you see on the inside."
"[A number of different] configurations [can present. With ambiguous genitalia] it's not clear if you're looking at a large clitoris and vagina, or if you're looking at a small penis with hypospadias [where the opening of the urethra is on the underside, and not the tip of the penis]."
"There used to be time where doctors used to say, 'this is what your child has, this is what should happen'. Now it's 'here's the evidence about what happens with early treatment, here's the evidence about what happens with later treatment'."
"The most important and the biggest change is that we counsel the parents about explaining from a very early age to the child exactly what's going on, so there's nothing that's hidden and secret. It might be private, you might not tell the whole community. But it's not secret, so there's nothing shameful about having one of these conditions."
Barbara Neilson, social worker, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
"Hi, I'm Hanne and I was born intersex. This means that my body isn't really male or female."
"It's very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo. At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly all right to talk about this. . . . Unconsented, unnecessary and irreversible surgeries that cause 'way more harm than do good."
"I am proud to be intersex, but very angry these surgeries are still happening."
Hanne Gaby Odiele, 29, Belgian, Chanel model
|Hanne Gaby Odiele poses for photographs at the amfAR's 23rd Cinema Against AIDS Gala at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on May 19, 2016 in Cap d'Antibes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/WireImage)|
"[Surgery to make the genitals appear] more normal [should never be performed until such time as the child is sufficiently mature to decide for himself or herself.]"Born with androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), the body fails to respond to testosterone properly resulting in the penis and other male parts failing to develop normally, despite being genetically male with male chromosomes; and this describes the condition of Vogue supermodel Hanne Gaby Odiele who has decided to speak publicly of her birth condition in support of interACT Advocates in the hopes that no other young people will be manipulated by well-meaning doctors to undergo unnecessary surgery.
"There is no evidence that children who grow up with intersex genitals are worse off psychologically than those who are altered."
interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth
Hanne Gaby Odiele is that one in four thousand people born with both male and female physical traits. When she was ten years of age doctors surgically removed the internal testes she was born with, in a common but now-controversial effort to "fix" babies born with ambiguous genitalia. She tells how the doctors looking after her informed her parents that "I might develop cancer and I would not develop as a normal, female girl" without surgery.
She is now married. When she was 18 she underwent vagina reconstructive surgery. Females born with AIS have no womb, Fallopian tubes or ovaries. A child looks like a girl at birth with normal appearing genitals reflecting a female appearance, but with undescended or partially descended testes, along with an unusually short vagina, and no cervix.
In 1998 an article was published in The New York Times stating that girls with AIS "often grow into unusually beautiful women, with long legs, clear skin ample breasts and thick hair."
The ancients knew the condition and named an intersex being in their pantheon of gods and goddesses, as Hermaphroditus:
Up to 1.7 percent of babies worldwide are born with sex characteristics which do not match typical definitions of "male or "female", according to the United Nations. Which also cautions that sex-assignment surgery has the potential to cause infertility, lifelong pain, loss of sexual sensation and mental anguish. As a result, that interference is considered to represent a human rights violation when surgery is undertaken lacking proper legal consent.
As far as the Intersex Society of North America is concerned, babies who exhibit intersex should ideally be "assigned" boy or girl, "depending on which of those genders the child is more likely to feel as she or he grows". In the 1950s, doctors at Johns Hopkins University felt that the "optimum gender of rearing" position would best work in treatment of intersex children, performed by surgery before 18 months of age.
Ethicists at the present time argue that consent should be awaited on whether or not to proceed with surgical sex assignments until such time as the child him/herself can appreciate the consequences, arguing that there is no harm in delaying surgery, even though the practise of performing surgery on children with ambiguous genitalia remains commonplace to the present time.
|Mlahanas -- Hermaphroditus, the son of Aphrodite and Hermes|