Friday, January 10, 2014

Der, Die, Das: Gender and the Future of Baby Showers

A couple of months ago, I saw this article about Germany's "third gender" option for birth certificates, and I bookmarked it so I could jot down some thoughts, but I've been busy with school, work, life, and whatever else it is that I do all day. In fact, I haven't blogged in almost a year and a half, since I started in my masters program, but I resolved to blog on a somewhat regular basis in 2014.

Go figure, my first blog post of the year is about something that might make most readers uncomfortable. In part, I chose the topic of intersex babies because I am hoping to provoke reactions from those who know more than I do (that's most of you), and I am keeping this blog post short and sweet for that very reason. But mostly, I want to raise awareness of this issue, something that doesn't seem to get much publicity but certainly affects millions of lives.

According to the Intersex Society of North America, 1 in 100 children are born with bodies that differ from "standard male or female." This includes a variety of chromosomal and phenotypic variations, and not all are immediately noticeable. While many infants' genitalia is surgically removed or altered to resemble more closely the "acceptable" male or female parts, other individuals do not discover signs of their intersexuality until later in life.

While this issue is clearly related to discussions of LGBTQ rights, it transcends the "biology vs. choice" debate, challenging the "male and female he created them" basis for gender consciousness in many societies. I do not mean to dismiss the important efforts for equality in gender and sexual lifestyle preference; however, I think that a more productive conversation might begin with an unabashed look at the realities of intersex babies, youth, and adults who struggle with issues of identity in societies that uphold sexual dimorphism as foundational to social cohesion.

Having heard very little public debate about this, I hope to glean some insights from various perspectives. Decisions such as Germany's law, which creates a category of "indeterminate sex" in public records, have bioethical, religious, cultural, sexual, and many unknown implications for the way we view and treat individuals, communities, and ourselves.

Please weigh in by commenting below, and look for more blog posts in the near future. I'll be working on my thesis this year, and I promise to share some of my thoughts on my current research.

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