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Doctors "playing God with children's sex"

By Clare O'Dea,

It's a boy! It's a girl! But what happens when life doesn't fit in with greeting cards and the defining moment of childbirth becomes a bewildering puzzle?

Swiss intersex activist Daniela Truffer is spearheading a campaign to stop genital surgery and hormone treatment on children born with indeterminate sexual organs.

Truffer argues that affected individuals should be given the time to grow up and decide for themselves whether they wish to become male or female or remain in-between.

"Forced surgery can not be the answer," she said, quoting medical studies that reveal poor outcomes and show that most patients suffer a lifetime of frustration and regret.

"These surgeries are painful and irreversible and most likely to reduce or remove sexual feeling. Non-consented cosmetic surgeries violate the right to physical integrity and self-determination. It's a human rights issue," Truffer told 

A condition that is seen in one in 2,000 births, people born neither fully male nor female have been an acknowledged part of society since Antiquity. But over time they became an invisible minority, particularly since "corrective" surgical intervention became the norm in the 20th century.

EvilSlutClique's picture

What Does It Mean To Be Female?

You may or may not be following the news stories about South African runner Caster Semenya. After the 18-year-old Semenya won the 800 m. in the 2009 World Championships in Athletics with a time of 1:55:45 - the fastest time of the year - suspicions of her gender were raised. The International Association of Athletics Federations conducted a gender verification test in the weeks before awarding her the medal. The IAAF claims that they do not suspect cheating, but wanted to determine if she had a "rare medical condition" that would give her an unfair advantage. (They also claimed that they would not necessarily withdraw her medal if she "failed".)

This is just another sad case of what happens when a female player is just too good...

arvan's picture

Intersex individual wins damage claim over removal of reproductive organs

Cologne - A surgeon was ordered to pay 100,000 euros (141,500 dollars) in compensation on Wednesday for performing an operation converting a hermaphrodite (the term they used back then and in this court) into a man without consent more than 30 years ago.
Claimant Christiane V., who was born without defining gender characteristics, was 18 years old when her reproductive organs were surgically removed without prior information or consent.

The doctor had been found guilty of unlawful intervention at a previous trial in 2008, but a second trial was needed to set the level of compensation.
Christiane V. said she considered herself a woman, even though she was raised as a boy.
A medical expert told the court that, even in 1977, it would have been possible for the claimant to live as a woman, by taking medicines and possibly undergoing operations available at the time.
During the initial trial Christiane V., now aged 50, had described years of suffering after the operation, including physical impairments, pain and psychological problems.

It was only during an appendix operation that the teenager, then called Thomas, was found to have a full set of female reproductive organs.

Up until that point the child was thought to have mixed male-female genitals and an atrophied reproductive system. In actual fact, the operation revealed a normal female anatomy, including an intact womb and ovaries.
The judges ruled that the surgeon should have aborted the operation at this stage.
During the trial, seen as setting a precedent, Christiane V. said she had been converted to a man against her will. While she demanded 'at least' 100,000 euros in compensation, she said she mostly sought 'moral recompense.'

The surgeon, who has now been found guilty on three separate occasions, can appeal the verdict.

arvan's picture

Neither male nor female, investigation of the intersex

By Marie-Noëlle Baechler

Published on Monday 18 May 2009.

Julien Picquart, independent journalist, has published The Musardine published an excellent book on intersexul people, their life paths, as well as issues that they raise.

(JPG)This book is structured in two parts. The first part deals with different stories of people intersexuées and relatives of people intersexuées. The second section describes the main forms of physical differences and identity in which it categorizes people intersexuées and social issues they raise.

The first part is a transcript of the testimony particularly respectful of those interviewed.  It describes well their life experience sometimes extremely hard.  It describes how intersex individuals are variously compared to their differences.  It also shows how parents are very afraid of any form of difference and how they are willing to raise their children, sometimes forcibly, in a standard mold.

arvan's picture

The secret of my sex

(Sarah Graham sent me this piece in The Independent for reposting.  Thank  you, Sarah)

Sarah Graham was 25 before she discovered what doctors had withheld from her: that she was both male and female.

There are some sentences that we all dread hearing. "You've got cancer" is probably at the top of most people's list. Being told that you can't have children is another. When I was eight, a gynaecologist told my parents this devastating news: that I had a very rare genetic condition and that if my ovaries weren't removed I would develop cancer when I reached puberty and die.

Nearly 20 years later I discovered that my doctors had lied to my parents and me. And this wasn't a one-off - it was standard policy (until the mid-1990s) to hide the truth about all conditions like mine. I was 25 when I found out the extent of the cover-up, and the shock of suddenly being told the true nature of my diagnosis - with no support and after being systematically lied to for so many years - nearly killed me. I went into an emotional meltdown.

The dark secret about my body is that I'm the living embodiment of an apparent contradiction, an XY woman (both female and male). Put simply, my body looks outwardly female but I have male chromosomes and one or two other surprises internally. There are several possible types of intersexuality. It is estimated that as many as 4 per cent of the population are born with an intersex condition. We are a largely invisible oppressed minority, and the fear, fascination and loathing our bodies provoke in modern Western culture has held the power to shame and silence me for years.

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Aging and Gender Diversity

By Tarynn M. Witten, PhD, MSW, FGSA

Social Work Today

Vol. 4 No. 4 p. 28


Transsexuals, transgenders, cross-dressers, and other persons whose gender expression or identification is other than the “traditional” male or female represent a substantial but epidemiologically invisible minority group within the worldwide older adult population.

In an era in which forecasting the health of elder populations is increasingly important, discussion of quality-of-life issues faced by older transsexuals and other gender minority persons should not be deferred. It is difficult, unfortunately, to provide data-based information about many of the health issues faced by elder transsexuals, as this group is particularly “epidemiologically invisible” (Witten and Eyler, 1999), with many of its members preferring not to reveal their natal sex due to perceived and real risks and stigma associated with being “out.” However, the number of transgender-, transsexual-, and intersex-identified elders is increasing worldwide (Witten, 2002, 2003).

The gender minority community includes numerous subgroups of importance. Many intersex-identified elder individuals will likely have had genital surgery forced upon them at early ages and may have been subjected to hormonal treatments as well. They may, consequently, be facing numerous psychological issues related to the undesired violation of their bodies and effects the undesired surgery has had on their lives. Others in the same group who may not have had the surgery are dealing with the consequences of their lifelong, nonnormative status.

For a given transidentified person, time of transition (hormonal and surgical modification) can be important to understanding the aging process. A person may be older when he or she chooses to transition, or the person may have made the transition earlier in life and is now older in the contragender identity and body, having dealt with a longer period of time in the transition state. Each of these individuals may or may not be hormonally or surgically modified. As such, their experience as elders will differ and requires understanding from the social worker, geriatric case manager, and/or caregiver.

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