About a decade ago people in society speculated about the technology we would be using in 2010. In playful essays about the future you can read details about flying cars, alien co-habitation, and space age buildings. While we as a society (US society and World society) have indeed come along way. Our technology is so advanced that we can send messages in seconds from opposite sides of the World. So why is it that in a World that is so advanced we (as a World society) cannot see beyond our simplest differences? Religion, color, and of course, gender. Why are we so insistent on categorizing humans by gender, segregating by gender, and discriminating based on gender? Why is gender “such a big deal” to us?  These are the questions that motivated me to become interested in intersex. Simply, non-scientifically, and in ‘valley girl’ terms intersex is when you are “both”.

When my WGS350 class was told to watch a movie based on the topic of intersex, my first thought (as ignorant as it might have been) was “What the (expletive) is intersex?” I knew what a boy was, I knew what a girl was, but what was an intersex? I asked my friends, I asked my fellow students, I asked my neighbors ( no I really did), and all I heard back was ” what the ( expletive) is intersex?” It occurred to me that we as a society are uneducated, and completely ignore to a relatively large group of people. We are ignorant to this group of people, because (in my theory) because society cannot clearly categorize them, so we ignore them. ( Side note, I say “we” alot, not talking about YOU or even ME, but a gerneral term of the majority). It was here that I came to my conclusion that we as a society sort of like sweep these people under the run because we cannot label them, and I don’t approve of that. I HATE labels.

I want to use my blog to educate others on intersex peoples. I don’t what us to be ignore to something just because we do not understand it, or cannot label it.  With this said, I want to keep an open mind while writing this blog, I want us (me and you) to think about the questions I previously brought up. While discussing intersex I want both of us to reflect on whether we agree with the way society labels us based on gender. I want us to question in our minds why we put such a great emphasis on gender. Aren’t we all just humans anyway?

Okay. Enjoy my findings loyal blog followers.

The following are my sources, they are all peer reviewed scholarly articles,

http://www.annals-general-psychiatry.com/content/7/S1/S129

(Information on transcriptional anatomy, specifically the androgen disorders)

http://www.annals-general-psychiatry.com/content/7/S1/S129

(Information of surgical treatments and the German Network of Sex Development)

http://www.annals-general-psychiatry.com/content/7/S1/S129

(Information of the psychological effects of incorrect sex reassignment)

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/emrw/9780470015902/els/article/a0005508/current/abstract

(Information on the different types of intersex)

“Intersex” is an extremely generic term. The general description of intersex is when a person is born with reproductive anatomy that cannot be traditionally defined as male or female. It should also be noted that the causes of different conditions are sometimes different, there is a general misconception that all intersex conditions are caused by chromosomal make up.

I have listed and described below the most commonly documented types of intersex.

Turner Syndrome – is usually when female sex characteristics are present but underdeveloped in comparison to the majority of other females. For example girls with turner syndrome do not get a menstrual cycle, they more often than not are sterile because of non-working ovaries.

Swyer Syndrome  ( aka XY gonadal dysgenesis)- is distinguished by lack of testicular development, streak gonads, the presence of well-developed Mullerian structures (a uterus and fallopian tubes), underdeveloped breasts and female external genitalia.

Progestin Induced Virilization- is caused by exposure to exogenous androgens (usually progestin) while babies are in the womb. Here females could have a larger than average clitoris, or a male with no testes.

Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS)- is caused when a girl lacks ovaries, womb and fallopian tubes, the development of the vagina varies from person to person. Newborns with PAIS have XY sex chromosomes therefore develop testes and not ovaries. The testes give off normal male amounts of androgens but, because the androgen receptor is abnormal, the cells of their bodies cannot respond normally.

Ovo-Testes- is when sex glands have both ovarian testicular tissues. Unfortunately testicular tissue in ovotestes comes with a higher risk of sex gland cancer.

Mullerian Agenesis, Vaginal Agenesis, Congenital Absense of Vagina or MRKH – is when a person has ovaries but no uterus, or a smaller uterus.

Mosaicism involving sex chromosomes- is when a person a person has different karyotype (A karyotype is the number/appearance of chromosomes in the nucleus of a eukaryote cell /  eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain complex structures inside the membranes)  in some cells than others. This occurs while babies are in embryo cells sometimes divide incorrectly.

Klinefelter syndrome- is the most common intersex condition it is typically when males inherit an extra x chromosome, so their karyotype becomes 47, xxy. Some of the symptoms of Klinefelter are small, firm testes, a small penis, sparse pubic, armpit and facial hair, enlarged breasts. One in every 500 males have an extra X chromosome but do not have the syndrome.

Hypospadias- this referees to a condition where the urethral meatus (scientific for “peep-hole) is located along the underside of the penis, rather than the traditional tip of the head. In some cases the urethra could possibly be from the mid-shaft to the glands, in other documented cases there is no urethra at all.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasis (CAH) – is a little different from the others in the respect that it occurs when a disruption occurs while the body is making cortisone in the adrenal glands (some of the glands that make hormones and put them in your blood), the adrenal glands are trying to make cortisone may produce a high level of other hormones which sometimes makes female genitals larger than traditional aka clitoromegaly.

Now that you understand more about intersex conditions, and what causes them – let me educate you on the different ways people “treat” intersex.

In the 1950s (Doesn’t it seem like everything backward occurred in the 50’s?) doctors at Johns Hopkins began doing gender assignment surgeries on children very early on based on the said knowledge that they could be raised as whatever sex was chosen for them. This practice was enforced my psychologists like the famous John Money who preached and believed in the idea of “nurture”, you teach your children what they should be, you said teach them what sex you want them to be. And most of the time the newborn would be reconstructed to be a female, based on the fact that it was considered easier to reconstruct female genitalia than male. However, in mid nineties controversy arose when intersex advocacy groups began to immerge as a result of many unhappy intersex persons who had their sex chosen for them. The main issue with the reconstructive surgery is that it is done at infancy, before the child can grow, mature, and discover what sex they feel they are, some people don’t even want the reconstructive surgeries, and it is being done for them at an age where they cannot consent. Today, with great efforts  made by intersex advocacy groups and other enlightened peoples the at birth reconstructive surgery is being practiced less and less, parents are seeing the value in letting their children grow to an age/maturity where they can make their own choice or chose forgo the surgery all together. Hopefully, with the growth of these progressive groups, and the education of people/parents of intersex children the term intersex will carry less of a negative stigma, and we as a society will feel more comfortable and open to discuss intersex. I sincerely hope my blog educated you more on intersex, and you feel comfortable to talk and educate others on this once closeted topic.

Advocacy group sites to check out

American Association for Klinefelter Syndrome Information and Support — www.aaksis.org

CARES Foundation — www.caresfoundation.org

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia Education and Support Network — www.congenitaladrenalhyperplasia.org

Hypospadias and Epispadias Association — www.heainfo.org

Intersex Society of North America — www.isna.org

Turner Syndrome Society of the US — www.turner-syndrome-us.org

Advertisements