Myth #7: ISNA advocates doing nothing and raising intersexed babies in a third gender

Sorry, gender warriors, that’s not us! We certainly would like to see people become less gender-phobic, but we don’t think dumping intersexed kids into a gender-phobic world with no gender or with a “third gender” is the way to go. We believe there are two problems with trying to raise kids in a “third gender.” First, how would we decide who would count in the “third gender”? How would we decide where to cut off the category of male and begin the category of intersex, or, on the other side of the spectrum, where to cut off the category of intersex to begin the category of female? (See Myth #1.)

Second, and much more importantly, we are trying to make the world a safe place for intersexed kids, and we don’t think labeling them with a gender category that in essence doesn’t exist would help them. (Duh, huh?)

ISNA recognizes that it can be damned hard to be intersexed, or to have an intersexed child. That’s why we exist. That’s why we don’t advocate “doing nothing.” What we do advocate is providing parents of intersexed newborns—and within a couple of years, intersexed children themselves—with honest and accurate information about intersex, psychological counseling by professionals who are not gender-phobic, medical help for any real medical problems, and especially referrals to other people dealing with the same issues. Time and again researchers have found that, no matter what the condition—being gay, dealing with a serious disease—peer support, even if informal, saves families and lives. ISNA believes that intersexed children and adults should not be subject to surgeries designed to “make the genitals look normal” without their explicit consent. (And consent of your parents isn’t the same as your consent. Think about it—would you want your parents making medically unnecessary decisions about your sexuality?) Some people think surgery is the only possible medical response to intersex. Not so! Everyone agrees that intersex is a psycho-social issue, so why not deal with it as a psycho-social issue first and foremost? This leads us to Myth 6