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Assigning sex: The ethics of performing surgery on inter-sex infants

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  1. Introduction
  2. Intersex child
  3. The chromosome tests
  4. The nature of intersex children
  5. The forms of intersexuality
  6. The evidence for assigning sex to a child
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works cited

Hermaphrodites have throughout history been in the center of mythology, scandal, and the perverse fascination of the public eye. They have been misunderstood and persecuted for centuries by those who are confused by their ambiguous genitalia. Today, such people possessing to some degree both male and female genitalia are referred to as ?intersex?. Professor Anne Fausto-Sterling, author of Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality, claims that somewhere between 1.7 and 4% of human births are intersexual of some form. (Fausto-Sterling. 2000.) This number differs based on the definition of intersex and the location.

[...] With a five sex system, parents and doctors would not feel the pressure of having to perform immediate surgery and assign sex to a child who may regret it in the future. Instead, doctors could focus their attention from conforming intersex children to society to treating the possibly life threatening conditions that can accompany intersex development such as hernias, gonadal tumors, and salt imbalance caused by adrenal malfunction. (Fausto-Sterling. 1993.) Gender reassignment surgeries are available to those who desire it but this five sex system would also allow for some to choose to live as active intersex individuals. [...]

[...] The bestselling novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides tells the story of a young girl who suffers from a 5-alpha-reductase deficiency and in puberty develops as a male. Simon LeVay explains this deficiency in his book The Sexual Brain. The enzyme 5-alpha-reductase is responsible for the conversion of testosterone into the more potent androgen dihydrotestosterone. It is the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone that permits the external genitalia to differentiate in the male direction during a developmental period when testosterone levels are fairly low. [...]

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