Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex by Alice Dreger

This is an interesting book that attempts to advise medical professionals who treat intersexed people. There are many varieties of intersexuality (a person is born with male and female characteristics). These can be mild to severe. The severe cases are very rare, but they are very difficult to treat. Dreger challenges the “modernistic” treatment protocols which called for sex assignment early in life. The theory of this protocol was that it would lead to a happier and more successful life rather than allowing the child to grow up with an ambiguous sense of sexual identity.

Dreger prefers a “postmodern” approach that considers intersexuality normal and gender identity fluid. She argues that the surgeries early in life yield questionable results and that the children still grow up with psychological problems. She thinks that no harm will come to the child if it is allowed to be intersexed and then decide later in life if they would prefer some kind of sex assignment surgery. I would need to hear more opinions about this from other doctors, but I think her views should be considered. Severe intersexuality is a difficult problem, and I doubt that there are any easy solutions.

While the question of medical treatment is the foreground of the book, there is definitely a back stream argument being made. Rare cases of intersexuality are used by feminists and homosexuals to argue that heterosexual sex is not the norm… that there is no normal when it comes to sexuality. Sex is ultimately whatever we want it to be. Does nature confirm this or deny this?

Nature is mostly modernist, not postmodernist no matter how badly we might want it to be. Nature does have its moments of gray in the dawn and dusk, but most of the time it is clearly either night or day. Nature favors the night and day of binary sexuality and heterosexuality because it is the most common form of sexuality and because it is the only way to conceive children and the best way to rear them.

Whether we should allow the pursuit of other sexualities or not, or whether we should force people to accept and celebrate other sexualities is a tremendous question today. In my community of faith, we do not accept alternate forms of sexuality because they are contrary to nature and because God has deemed them contrary to His will. But no person is forced to be a part of our community. If they disagree they are free to separate, and we will still treat them with love and respect. We will pray for them and care for them, but we cannot approve of their behavior.

In the larger society we will have to determine whether sexual behaviors contrary to nature are helpful or harmful and if they should be encouraged or discouraged. Christians have long discouraged adultery and divorce as harmful sexual behaviors, but the society has disagreed and has done little to curb them. We see the sad results in the destruction of families and poverty. I believe the same will happen with the LGBT lifestyles because they are not natural and will not prove to be helpful to society.

Ovid’s myth of Hermaphroditus is found in Book IV of Metamorphoses. The gods Hermes and Aphrodite, the embodiments of ideal manhood and womanhood, have a son named Hermaphroditus. He was a beautifully formed male. The nymph, Salmacis, saw him bathing in her fountain and wanted to be united with him. The gods, in their sense of humor, took her literally and united their bodies together being fully male and fully female.

Figure out how someone organizes the world, and you will understand how he sees the world. Page 140

Carl Linnaeus named us mammals "partly because of his fascination with women's breasts and his involvement in a debate over wet nursing; Linnaeus wanted to see women start farming out their babies too wet nurses, and this contributed to his decision to make the breast the memories the marker trait of mammals.” Page 140

In the late 19th Century scientific men chose gonodal anatomy as the marker for sex classification systems because it made it possible to uphold a stark division into male and female. Page 140 (Or because the was one of the most obvious markers of sexual identity? My note)

Postmodernism has brought with it the recognition that there can never be a single, self evident, “true” story to be told about life, disease, or condition. In the past, if a relatively disempowered person's story conflicted with the dominant story, the socially weaker individuals tail was likely to go unheard or discounted. Page 171

Intersexual's have realized that, like straight women and gay people, they need not be treated as fundamentally unacceptable or flaw– that it is not their bodies that make their lives difficult but the cultural demands forced upon their bodies. Page 173

The modern-day medical technological approach to intersexuality is extremely modernistic. Typically, after the hospital birth of an intersex baby, teams of specialists are immediately assembled. These doctors decide to which sex/death gender a given child will be assigned, and the power of modern medicine is then  brought to bear to create and maintain that sex in as believable a form as possible. Page 181

That psychosocial gender identity th established in by John Money in the 1950s, holds that all children must have their gender identity fixed very early in life; that from very early in life children's anatomy must match the standard anatomy for their gender; and that boys primarily require adequate penises without a vagina, while girls primarily require a vagina with no noticeable phallus. This psychosocial theory of intersexuality presumes that these rules must be followed if intersexual children are to achieve successful adjustment appropriate to their assigned gender – that is, if they are to act like girls, boys, men, and women are supposed to… Page 182

Intersex surgeons make their decisions and incisions within a heterosexist framework. Page 184

The presumption that restitution to a male or female sex is possible and is possicle  primarily via medical technology is also notably modernistic. Remarkably, the medical – technological approach rains in intersex medicine despite the fact that intersects experts ridley confess that inter-sexuality is not primarily a medical problem but instead a social problem. Page 186

Most objectionable too many feminists and where critics is the presumption inherent in these protocols that there is a right way to be a male and a right way to be a female, and that children who are born challenging these categories should be reconstructed to fit into them. Page 188

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