Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Old Dogs, New Tricks

You're never too old to learn something new, but learning and acceptance go hand in hand. I recently heard the term "intersex" and couldn't help but ask: what does that mean? If I had thought about it for a moment I probably would have figured it out for myself but the answer came before I had time to dissect the word. It's a term used for people who are neither male or female, and don't identify themselves with a label of either. A more familiar term would be hermaphrodite, though this is considered to be somewhat derogatory by the intersex community.

Several years back I read a fascinating book - As Nature Made Him- which was a nonfiction account of a twin who was severely injured during a routine circumcision back into the 1960s. Due to the nature of the injury his doctors felt it would be best to "reassign" him as a female, since he would never have normal male genitalia. He was not told of the accident and raised as a girl, despite his having strong urges to be a rough-and-tumble boy. Sadly, he ended up committing suicide as an adult due to the severe gender confusion he suffered as a result of his reassignment.

Learning about intersex people reminded me of this story and how our genders are not necessarily what our bodies dictate. People have an innate sense of gender: male or female, that doesn't necessarily coincide with what their bodies are. Frequently, intersex babies are assigned a gender, on the basis of a decision by their doctor. I'm no mathematician, but I'd guess there is a 50/5o chance of getting it right (or wrong).

There is a tendency in any society to shun a minority, or something that is different, and there is certainly plenty of opportunity for misunderstanding in this case. Our UU church promotes acceptance of all people: GLBT -and- I (intersex) should be added to this list. It is good for me to be reminded that it's never wrong to ask respectful questions and learn something new - everyone wants to be acknowledged and accepted for who they are regardless of race, sex, religion or gender identity. I'm grateful to those in the intersex community who are willing to explain their situation honestly and openly in order to provide better understanding of their situation.

1 comment:

Tina said...

Hey Kim this was a super interesting post. I'm always fascinated by this and am always willing to learn. Thanks for sharing.