Intersex Children And The Battle Over Their Gender

The New Yorker recently published an article entitled "A New Era For Intersex Rights" that follows Jim Ambrose (pictured), a man who was born with ambiguous sex organs. His parents decided to surgically remove his organ and testes when he was still a newborn and began raising him as a girl named Kristi.

JimHe started taking female hormones at age 12 and planned to have a vaginoplasty at age 18, but he also felt depressed and suicidal. He didn't know why until he discovered the circumstances of his birth — he was born with a condition that inhibited his testosterone development. Gradually, he began taking testosterone, had his breasts removed and began living as Jim.

Approximately one in every 2,000 children is born intersex, that is with a "reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosome pattern that doesn’t seem to fit typical definitions of male or female." These children are not necessarily transgender "as their status is not related to their gender identity" but moreso to their biological makeup.

New Yorker writer Emily Greenhouse states:

"Today, we pride ourselves on letting children defy antiquated gender stereotypes. Boys can now have dolls, and girls Erector sets; we agree that the salient differences between genders are social constructs, and give little leeway to those who insinuate that, say, women have less aptitude for science and engineering.

Yet, even as many fight against the persistence of rigid gender norms, we still separate the sexes as soon as kids are old enough to be potty-trained; when gym class arrives and locker rooms are needed, we push the boys and girls even farther apart. For all the progress that has followed from the enlightened credo that gender is but a construct, we keep hesitating at the notion that sex, too, does not obey strict binaries.

Some people aren’t just pushing away from prototypes of sinewy maleness or delicate femaleness; they were born with bodies that don’t conform to the “M” or the “F” boxes on the census form. There are children, in other words, whose genes have not defined for them which bathroom to use, or where to change for gym class; babies can be born with XX chromosomes in certain cells, and XY chromosomes in others—mosaic genetics."

Keep reading and watch a short documentary AFTER THE JUMP...

Germany, Australia and some universities have opted to let parents and intersex individuals choose a third gender option other than male and female on official documents, birth certificates and enrollment forms. But the Organisation Intersex International Europe feels that even this option continues to stigmatize intersex individuals as "others" and does nothing to stop the harmful surgeries that unfairly allow medical officials to decide someone's gender and deprive people of their right to choose treatments best for them.

Ambrose — who appeared at age 24 as Kristi in a short documentary called XXXY — now works for The Interface Project, a non-profit legal advocacy group for intersex individuals. The Interface Project discourages doctors and parents from administering sex-assignment surgery for intersex infants. Rather, they suggest explaining the condition to their children, providing medical and emotional counseling for intersex children and their families and letting the child have a say in their biological determination when they are older and more informed.

Watch the XXXY documentary below:

XXXY (2000) (HD) from Interface Project on Vimeo.