When Sex 'Needs' to Be Fixed

By Miller, Suzanne | The World and I, September 2000 | Go to article overview

When Sex 'Needs' to Be Fixed


Miller, Suzanne, The World and I


Nonstandard embryonic developments can lead to individuals whose genes and anatomy do not line up to specify either male or female and who face profound challenges in developing a clear sense of sexual selfhood.

"When puberty made me a monster

they didn't do it right; if life was fair

fairness would have given me fangs

justice would have given me claws

& venom more potent than the curses I spat

through my tears

as my mother held me down on the bed

& sat on me, all two hundred and fifty pounds of her

& proceeded, with tweezers

to pull out every hair

that had erupted unbidden

on my lips, my chin,

nipples

cleavage

belly

in her eyes I saw her

fear of failure

that 13 years of feminine boot camp

had not been enough

to stop my body's silent stubborn mutiny

every wiry blond hair

a mockery of her efforts

in that year

we became each other's

nightmare"

----Anonymous

Posted on the Web site of the Coalition for Intersex Support, Activism, and Education

The most private parts of human anatomy, the sexual organs, both internal and external, are subject to a wide range of birth defects. When an individual's internal sexual organs, with their hormonal effects, do not match the individual's externally apparent sex, efforts by parents to direct the individual into one sexual identity or the other can be more hurtful than helpful.

It is commonly thought that genes determine gender. But do they? If an individual believes she is a woman, looks like a woman, acts like a woman, and has female external genitalia but instead of the usual XX chromosomes and ovaries has XY chromosomes and internal testes, is "she" really a "he"? For 30 years, starting in 1968, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) tested the chromosomes (which consist of genes) of all female athletes to disqualify those with a Y chromosome from competing as women. Such individuals were believed to have an athletic advantage over "normal" women. The sex test led to the disqualification of approximately 1 in 400 athletes per competition. This past year the IOC decided to suspend chromosome testing in the Olympics because, as leading geneticists and physicians have argued for years, XY does not always equal male.

The thought of individuals whose anatomy is female but whose chromosomes are male or of persons who have both male and female sexual organs in their abdominal cavities makes most people uneasy. The idea of mixed sexual organs or ambiguous genitalia contravenes one of the most fundamental premises in American society--dimorphic expression of sex. We think we know that at least the genes and the anatomy line up to specify male or female.

Based on this premise, gender identity occupies a key position in the broader category of personal identity, and little leeway exists for those whose combination of genes and anatomy lies outside both the male and female categories, other than to join one of the two sexes. As the renowned and highly controversial sexologist Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins University once said, "It seems just fine in our society to have birth defects of any organ--as long as it isn't the sex organs."

Medical literature defines gender identity as the identification of self as either male or female. It should not be confused with sexual orientation, which defines one's choice of sexual partner, whether male, female, or both. Gender identity results from a complex mixture of factors, including genes, gonads (testes and ovaries), hormones, internal duct systems, external genitalia, and environmental influences. People whose chromosomes, anatomy, and social learning environment all point in the same direction (to either the male or female sex) generally develop a gender identity unconsciously. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

When Sex 'Needs' to Be Fixed
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.