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Assumptions about Gender and Intersexuality in a Global Context

lgleysteen's picture

During this week's class when we broke into small groups and discussed some of the ethics behind modifying the bodies of young children.  Our group came to the conclusion that the most ethical thing to do would be to allow the child to wait until they were 18 to get a surgery if that was what they wanted. I thought that it would be interesting if we explored this idea outside of a western context.  For Instance, would we have the same answers to these questions if we were talking about an intersex kid in a place like Bangladesh?  In other countries, what would be the priority of the parent in making the decision about surgery for their child, the gender identity of the child or the ability to be physically percieved as normal, especially in a place where the gender binary is concrete?  In the United States there is stigma attached to intersexuality but it is far less severe than other parts of the world.  

Again, thinking about our readings outside of a Western context, in examining whether or not women choose low risk jobs, could you even begin to make a similar study in another country?  I don't think it is fair to make these assumptions about testosterone and career choice without looking at statistics in a global context.  There is no way to fully measure how much culture influences these assumptions about testosterone and career choice, but it is obvious that women avoid high risk jobs in other parts of the world because of more than testosterone. 



aybala50's picture

thank you

I just want to thank lgleysteen for bringing up such an important point. I feel like I've lost track of one of the aspects of gender and sexuality that I really want to study. In our first meeting as a class it was brought up that several of us wanted to look at our class discussions from a more worldly perspective, rather than a purely western one. In the context of our latest class discussion I was one who argued that if I were a parent I would let my child make the decision of whether they wanted to have surgery or not. This does not necessarily have to be when they are 18, however I am on the side of letting the individual decide, rather than a parent or a doctor.

lgleysteen's point however has left me in a bind. As someone who grew up in a more conservative country, if I were presented with the same scenario, I probably would not make the same decisions. I can't imagine not wanting my child to make a decision like this, however, I would most likely decide on the side of a surgery after my child was born. The societal pressure and the stigma attached to intersexuality is completely different in the rest of the world than it is in the United States. Where I am from, if I had a child who did not receive surgery to seem "normal", she would be viewed as a freak, a creature, an outcast. Despite my personal views on the manner and my complete desire for my child to make the decision of whether they would like surgery or not, I don't believe I would be able to let my child suffer because I would like to give them a decision in the manner.

As Anne mentioned I do think that people need to be educated on intersex (what it is etc.) at a young age. I think, no matter how cliche it is, that educating people in such topics is the best way at moving forward to a more understaning world. However, I also cannot imagine such education taking place in the country I grew up in; and if such topics were discussed I cannot imagine a positive outcome. So, now what? We hope for a better world, but will we have to settle for the understaning we wish for in this one part of the world in which we reside?