I was going through newly added documentaries on Amazon Video yesterday and I found this one. Titled “Intersexion”, it deals with babies who are born with genital formation that is too ambiguous to be labeled either male or female. Specialists perform further testing to determine the sex of the child in these cases. I was surprised to learn that this situation is not altogether uncommon. 1 out of 1,500 to 2,000 births results in an intersex child.
The documentary covers different people affected in different ways by the condition. I found two of the cases to be most interesting for different reasons.
The first instance is an individual with male chromosomes but female genitalia. Albeit her clitoris is abnormally large. This individual identifies as intersex, both male and female. Or perhaps neither fully male nor female. As an outside observer unaware of her reality, I would have presumed her to be a lesbian woman. I will refer to this individual as “she” to avoid the confusion of genderless pronouns.
She’s a police officer in Atlanta. She comes across as a very likable, easy going individual. She’s well adjusted, unlike some of the other individuals who understandably seem traumatized by their difficult circumstances. She describes an encounter where an individual called her “sir”. He then paused and said “ma’am”. Ultimately, he asked her what she was. “I’m whatever you want me to be” was her reply.
The Male and Female Conundrum
The second individual that caught my attention was less well adjusted. I’ll refer to this person as “him”. In this case, that’s how he identifies. At birth, he was determined to be a female based on genitalia, despite the presence of male chromosomes.
Unfortunately for this young man, he too had an abnormally large clitoris. The operative word being “had”. During adolescence, a series of surgeries were performed to shape the genitals to make them more feminine. These procedures left him unable to experience sexual gratification.
To my surprise, these childhood surgeries weren’t uncommon amongst the people featured in this documentary. In an effort to force these intersex people into our standard of gender conformity, many had experienced what can only be described as genital mutilation at an early age. Genital mutilation is performed in some Muslim countries to prevent sexual gratification. This condition seems to be an unintended consequence of the procedure in western countries.
I was careful to avoidd saying “In Christian countries”. That is the reality of the situation though, isn’t it? We are a Christian nation, after all. Our “Christian values” drive the conversation on gender identity and conformity from the right. I say that as a man who was raised in a Christian home. My father was a pastor. He went on to become a missionary. I could pick up the phone and ask him what they would do in this situation. I don’t feel the need to. I’m pretty sure I know the answer.
My sisters weren’t allowed to color their hair growing up. They didn’t wear makeup. My parents firmly believed that God created you the way he wanted you. I can’t imagine that they would’ve allowed such a surgery to be performed for cosmetic purposes.
Gender conformity is pushed by the religious right. In an effort to conform, genital mutilation has been performed. However, it is unfair to conclude that Christianity therefore supports genital mutilation. Similarly, some Muslims perform genital mutilation. It is unfair to conclude that Islam supports the practice since it isn’t a doctrinal mandate.
It is equally important to end this practice in both societies. I was shocked to learn it was happening here. We need to accept our children for who they are. If they are a square peg, don’t surgically alter them to fit in a round hole. Love and support them for who they are.