We live in a Western culture. That culture is dualistic, when it comes to looking at the subject of sex. When we ask a person "What sex are you?", the implied/understood question is "what birth sex are you, what is the genitalia between your legs?" As a consequence of our evolution as a Western Judeo-Christian cultural environment, we are immersed in the cultural norm of the "Adam and Eve" mythology and hence, of there being only two birth-sex possibilities. This perspective is known as the biblical norm of sex. When we say "birth sex," we are making the hidden assumption that we are saying the "sex defined by the genitalia seen, by a person authorized to interpret the genitalia as displayed at birth." It is clear that this definition is made within the cultural context of the baby's birth. In Western culture, which has the biblical norm of sex already deeply and incontestably embedded within it (embodied norm; Cassell, 1998), the only way to interpret the genitalia is within this biblical norm and hence as either anatomically male or female.

As has already been illustrated, even the ancient Greeks recognized that there was a "third sex." They called it hermaphrodite, which is now considered a pejorative term for an individual who displays both sexual organs at birth (actually, the anatomical presentation can be quite varied and does not necessarily require both complete organs to be displayed). The preferred current terminology is "intersexed." The prevalence of intersexuality is estimated at 1 in 2,000 births. Additionally, it is estimated that there are nearly 65,000 intersex births worldwide per year.

Because Western medical culture specifically, and Western culture in general, is steeped in the biblical norm of sex, the concept of multiple genitalia or atypical genital anatomy has been deeply and profoundly problematic for the medical establishment. Up until very recently, intersexed children were "sexed" as soon after birth as was medically reasonable, a practice that continues to be sanctioned by the American Pediatric Association, despite voluminous protestation on the part of the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) ( and other agencies.

The tie between sex, gender, genitalia (the body), and stigmatization/destigmatization via labels is also important here. For example, intersexed children have been sexed without parental permission or even with the parents' knowledge of the fact that their child is intersexed. It is almost as if it is "unspeakable." Additionally, the forced sexing transfers the burden from the parents of the child to the child. Therefore politically correct language or medicalization terminology, such as nondominant genitalia or micro-phallus, is used to remove the stigma of the intersexuality. On the other hand, transsex-uality and transgenderism are immediately stigmatized. Words like neo-clitoris, neo-phallus, pseudo-testicles, and neo-vagina disenfranchise the transsexual from the contragender status they so strongly desire to attain. This disenfranchisement and stigmatization are best illustrated by terminology used by the radical lesbian feminist movement. While they are willing to stretch their metaphor of reality to allow a male-to-female transsexual to be classified as a "woman," they do not consider her a real woman. Rather, she is labeled as not "woman born woman."

Current estimates are that sexing operations are performed five times per day across the United States alone. The term "sexed" is a verb that is used to mean that these children were subjected to genital surgery to remove the "non-dominant" genitalia. Hence a baby with a "micro-phallus" and a predominant "vaginal canal" would be sexed as a woman, and the micro-phallus removed surgically or surgically "sized" (thereby risking permanent sexual response reduction). This "sexing" operation has led to many problems for these intersexed children; the most famous of them is the very recent case of John/Jane (Goodnow, 2000).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

If Pregnancy Is Something That Frightens You, It's Time To Convert Your Fear Into Joy. Ready To Give Birth To A Child? Is The New Status Hitting Your State Of Mind? Are You Still Scared To Undergo All The Pain That Your Best Friend Underwent Just A Few Days Back? Not Convinced With The Answers Given By The Experts?

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment