SPATE OF NEW INTERSEX ARTICLES IN PROFESSIONAL MED LITERATURE
For Immediate Release
September 9, 1999
Contact: Cheryl Chase <firstname.lastname@example.org>
SPATE OF NEW INTERSEX ARTICLES IN PROFESSIONAL
Ann Arbor, MI -- Until just a few years, ago doctors
who specialized in handling intersexed (children
born with atypical sex anatomy -- often labeled with
the quaint and misleading medical anachronism
"hermaphrodite") were confident that they knew
what to do. In a model developed in U.S. in the 1950s,
intersexuality was so disturbing that only doctors
could deal with it. Intersexed patients and their
families could be helped only if doctors used every
tool at their disposal to eliminate ambiguity, and as
quickly as possible.
The past six years, however, have witnessed a
burgeoning, vocal, and articulate opposition to these
medical protocols. The opposition comes from
intersexed adults who feel they have been harmed by
misguided and unscientific medical treatment, and
from their allies in a wide variety of disciplines,
including medicine, ethics, history, sociology,
philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and law.
At last the medical literature has begun to
acknowledge the growing controversy surrounding
the standard treatment for intersex births.
Physician's Weekly, in August, carried a short debate
over the advisibility of cosmetic genital surgery on
infants, between pediatric endocrinologists Peter Lee
(Pro) and Philip Gruppuso (Con).
The highly respected and influential UCSF pediatric
endocrine duo Melvin Grumbach and Felix Conte
announced, in a recent Journal of Pediatrics article,
that they no longer recommend that a particular
category of boys born with small penises be changed
into girls during infancy. An accompanying
editorial by Jud Van Wyk, also a well known name in
pediatric endocrinology, mentions the influence of
former patients organized to stop the surgeries, but
fails to provide an accurate name or citation which
would allow readers to contact ISNA or other support
British physician Alizai and colleagues, in the May
issue of the Journal of Urology, report that they have
done a long-term follow up of 14 teenaged girls had
been subjected to genital surgery during infancy to
remove parts of their clitorises and make their
vaginas more suitable for heterosexual intercourse.
They discovered poor results in terms of appearance
and scarring. Because the girls were examined under
anesthesia, it does not appear that sensation or sexual
response were evaluated. Nonetheless, the authors
characterize the outcome of genital surgery as
"disappointing," even when the surgery is
performed by specialists. They call for an end to
some cosmetic genital surgery on infants.
The July/August issue of Pediatric Nursing carries
an article by intersex activist Cheryl Chase. Chase
was solicited by the journal's ethics editor, who was
disturbed by an earlier article which gave strong
consideration to using the courts to impose surgical
sex change on an infant whose parents opposed it. Of
note, the article is illustrated with a photo of
intersexed activists who appear in a group, clothed,
smiling and without their eyes blacked out.
"As much as we would like to think that . . . we always
assign an appropriate gender to an infant with
ambiguous genitalia, mistakes are inevitable,"
concedes surgeon Kenneth Glassberg, in a Journal of
Urology editorial. Unfortunately, he conflates
surgery with sex assignment, equating calls for
deferral of surgery to some sort of demand for public
assignment of children as hermaprhodites. Glassberg
cites one ISNA publication, but appears not to have
understood that the article he cites is satire, and the
citation he provides is grossly inaccurate and
inadequate, thus preventing his readers (including
intersexed former patients) from gaining access to
first person narratives by intersexed people.
"We live in an age of increasing respect for minority
rights," notes surgeon Ian Aaronson, in an editorial
on "The Child with Ambiguous Genitalia" in the
Journal of Infectious Urology. However, if genital
surgery on infants were to be stopped, and
intersexed children allowed to make choices about
their own lives, it would "signify a return to the
'dark ages' of intersex management, which has given
rise to a host of psychological cripples."
Aaronson, Ian A. 1999. Editorial Comment: When and
How to Screen? Infectious Urology 12 (4):113-118.
Alizai, N. K., David F. Thomas, R. J. Lilford, A. G.
Batchelor, and Nick Johnson. 1999. Feminizing
genitoplasty for congenital adrenal hyperplasia:
what happens at puberty? Journal of Urology 161
Bin-Abbas, Bassam, Felix A. Conte, Melvin M.
Grumbach, and Selna L. Kaplan. 1999. Congenital
hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and micropenis:
Why sex reversal is not indicated. Journal of
Pediatrics 134 (5):579-583.
Chase, Cheryl. 1999. Rethinking treatment for
ambiguous genitalia. Pediatric Nursing 25 (4):451-5.
Glassberg, Kenneth I. 1999. Editorial: Gender
Assignment and the Pediatric Urologist. Journal of
Lee, Peter, and Philip A. Gruppuso. 1999. Should
cosmetic surgery be performed on the genitals of
children born with ambiguous genitals?
(Point/Counterpoint). Physician's Weekly, August 16.
Van Wyk, Jud. 1999. Should boys with micropenis be
raised as girls? Journal of Pediatrics 134 (5):537-538.
The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA)
works to create a world free of shame, secrecy,
and genital mutilation for intersex people. For more
information, visit our web site at http://www.isna.org