Americans rally behind freedom. But I must ask, do we really make our own choices? This question is especially relevant to intersex children and those with genital “abnormalities.” In today’s medical culture, intersex newborns are conventionally assigned as males or females and those with “atypical” genitalia receive operations. These individuals (or their parents) are given a “choice,” but that “choice” must fall into our constricting binary system of sex. Realistically, freedom is severely restricted by social pressure to conform.
Anne Fausto-Sterling, author of “Should There Be Only Two Sexes?,” highlights the dangers associated with yielding to conformity: “…Social imperative is so strong that doctors have come to accept [infant genital surgery] as a medical imperative, despite strong evidence that early genital surgery doesn’t work: it causes extensive scarring, … and often obliterates the possibility of orgasm.”1 In the case of Bruce Reimer, a boy raised as a girl after a circumcision accident, his parents made the decision out of “kindness and… desperation.”2 For these children, “freedom” is so limiting that it actually results in the harming of infants.
Freedom, especially American freedom, is extensive in so many ways. In the world of gender and sex, however, it is seriously lacking. We must strive for a day where “desperation” to conform does not command our choices.
For an opposing take on Fausto-Sterling visit: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12476264.
1. Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Should There Be Only Two Sexes? New York: Basic Books, 2000. 80.
2. Colapinto, John. As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2000. Xvii.