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What Is a Hermaphrodite?

Updated September 22, 2022

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What Is a Hermaphrodite? essay

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The definition that Suzanne Kessler, The writer of Lessons from the Intersexed, gives us is that a true hermaphrodite is where a baby has either testes or ovaries, but the genitals are indistinct. This birth defect has been happening to a small percentage of babies throughout history.

A lot of Kessler’s essay deals with the interviewing of six medical experts in the field of pediatric intersexuality. They supply the reader with plenty of information on the topic of intersexuality and babies born with ambiguous genitals. Kessler also supplies us with a great deal of information on the process parents have to go through with the diagnosis and the waiting period between knowing whether or not the baby is going to be a boy or girl. In Judith Lorber’s essay, Night to His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, she talks about gender and what a man or a women have to do to that is required in their specific gender.

Both these essays deal with the idea of choosing what sex a child is going to be based on their ambiguous genitals and how their gender will affect them in the society. There are three factors that in this present time that deal with the intersex condition. Two specialists, John Money and Anke A. Ehrhardt, constructed a theory saying that gender identity can be manipulated up to eighteen months of age. People who have been born into the intersex condition, nowadays, have many options to choose from on how to fix the so called problem.

Since technology advances everyday, there have been newly discovered ways to perform the surgery to repair the genitals. Feminism also plays a part in the intersex condition. Now, feminists say that if a person has the presence or absence of gonads, it is no longer the only decisive factor for that gender he or she is in. To continue, if a baby is born with ambiguous genitals, then it needs to be assigned a gender as quickly as possible. I agree with that statement because I have a family friend that had to go through the same ordeal and she had to hide the fact that her newborn wasn’t assigned a gender yet.

That is sometimes hard for people to deal with because they want to know whether their baby is a boy or girl. The doctors play a huge role in the choosing of the baby’s gender. The parents depend on the doctor for insight on everything because the doctor is the expert. If the doctor doesn’t have a quick and comforting answer to the parents question, Is it a boy or a girl? then the parents may feel uncertain and very upset.

Therefore the doctor needs to be decisive and unambiguous, so that the parents are settled, their credibility is not questioned and they help keep Money and Ehrhardt’s theory valid. I also think that this is a necessity, because its hard enough hearing that your child is neither fully male nor fully female, but if the doctor doesn’t know how to deal with it, then who do the parents turn to. If I were in that position, I too would be going crazy, trying to figure out what to do about my child. Its like thinking, Do I want a male or a female child? I would need some assistance in that choice.

Keller discusses some things doctors should have not said in post delivery. For example, You have a little boy, but he’ll never function as a little boy, so you better raise him as a little girl. What do the parents say to the family and friends during the time the infant is getting surgery? One of the doctor’s told one of the stories she heard, saying that the parents lied and told everyone they had twins, then when they found out the baby’s gender, they had told everyone that the other twin had dies. As I was reading this, I had also thought that if I were in that position I would probably do the same thing and tell a white lie.

It may be hard to do, but since this society is very cruel, a birth defect can put someone in a different social class when that person grows up. Judith Lorber discusses the idea of gender and how it is a social institution. Lorber explicitly explains to us that since gender is a social institution, it is one of the major ways that human beings organize their lives. I believe that explanation, because gender revolves around everything you do that fits your gender group. If you are a female you will do female things because that’s just what you are supposed to do.

If you are male then you will do male things. Lorber makes reference that in order to understand gender as a social institution; there is a need to know the difference between a human being and an animal. She gives much description as to how humans are dependent upon the social structure of their lives and how animals live their lives all through instinct and imitation. Lorber states that the roots of gender are socially constructed statuses.

In the United States and all around the world, there are two gender statuses, man or woman. Also, modern western societies consider transsexuals and transvestites, not as a third gender, but just changing over from man to women or vice versa. Everybody is has a social status that he or she abides by. Ray Birdwhistell, who studies how body motion is a form of human communication, says that humans need to have a gender of a male or female because that just the way the human specie needs to be set up. Genitalia are the only thing that differentiates a male from female. In my view, I think that if one person has to be in a gender, then that person should be able to chose what they want to be.

I think that genitalia shouldn’t matter at all as to if you are considered a male or female. It should be the choice of that human being if it wants to be considered a male, female, or any other gender it wants to make up. Gender much at all to me. I think a person should be what they want when they want. Nobody should have a say in it but that person. But in our society, that will never happen without being harassed or tortured by the rest of the world.

Our society has set the standard for the normal male and the normal female. Our society says that any of the people born with ambiguous genitals should somehow mend the problem and get surgery done so that it can live a normal life. I think that a person should have the choice of just living the natural life they were given if they want to. If they don’t, then they are free to do what they want. All in all, I agree with the arguments made by Kessler and Lorber.

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What Is a Hermaphrodite?. (2019, Oct 08). Retrieved from