Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"No Mistakes" -- God Created Adam and Eve and Intersex Individuals

Meet Emily Quinn, an intersex individual.

Emily says, "In layman's terms, I was brought up as a girl because that's my phenotype - aka how my body looks on the outside. The testes are internal. Breast development happens because my body converts some of my ridiculous levels of testosterone into estrogen. No other signs of puberty really happen."

Quinn continues: "I speak a lot to med schools and doctors, advocating for people like me. Just to correct you a little bit, the testes don't NEED to be removed unless there is an obvious reason, like a tumor. The risk of cancer is incredibly low. Also, I know in med school they use the word 'normal' pretty frequently, but that's actually really harmful and causes a lot of unnecessary surgeries, like the removal of the testes."

So often I encounter those who believe sexual identity is as simple as accepting the idea that humans are male or female based on the belief that God created just two sexes. They cite Genesis and scriptures speaking of the creation of the male and female forms – Adam and Eve. I respect their faith, yet I disagree about ideas of sexual identity.

Despite the denial of some people that intersex individuals exist, they should be willing to view research and expand their understanding of the reality of all sexual conditions. Like most things unknown, unusual sexual characteristics can generate fear and even loathing rooted in ignorance. The reluctance to broaden acceptance of human beings in any minority category is prejudice that prohibits the advancement of the common good.

Learning the truth is the first step to acceptance. I invite everyone to take time to seek unbiased accounts of intersex conditions. As a caring society, we must work together to ensure that people with intersex characteristics are not teased, harassed, or subjected to discrimination. To assure this happens, we must also learn how to talk about issues of sex and sexuality in an age-appropriate manner. Yes, I believe it is important to educate our youth about this subject. How else will they discover truth?

Research confirms that most individuals with intersex conditions are happy with the sex to which they have been assigned. We should never assume that gender-atypical behavior by an intersex person reflects an incorrect sex assignment. We can accomplish so much by being aware of our own caring attitudes toward sex and gender.

Most people with intersex conditions grow up to be heterosexual, but persons with some specific intersex conditions seem to have an increased likelihood of growing up to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual adults. Even so, most individuals with these specific conditions also grow up to be heterosexual. It behooves us to be especially understanding of the complexity of living as an intersex person.

Please, allow me to share some information from the American Psychological Association about this important topic. I hope that it helps people find that education not only increases comprehension but also stimulates an improved response.

What does intersex mean?

A variety of conditions that lead to atypical development of physical sex characteristics are collectively referred to as intersex conditions. These conditions can involve abnormalities of the external genitals, internal reproductive organs, sex chromosomes, or sex-related hormones. Some examples include:

• External genitals that cannot be easily classified as male or female

• Incomplete or unusual development of the internalreproductive organs

• Inconsistency between the external genitals and the internal reproductive organs

• Abnormalities of the sex chromosomes

• Abnormal development of the testes or ovaries

• Over- or underproduction of sex-related hormones

• Inability of the body to respond normally to sex-related hormones

How common are intersex conditions?

There is no simple answer to this question. Intersex conditions are not always accurately diagnosed, experts sometimes disagree on exactly what qualifies as an intersex condition, and government agencies do not collect statistics about intersex individuals. Some experts estimate that as many as 1 in every 1,500 babies is born with genitals that cannot easily be classified as male or female.

What are some examples of intersex conditions?

• Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, in which overproduction of hormones in the adrenal gland causes masculinization of the genitals in female infants

• 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, in which low levels of an enzyme, 5-alpha-reductase, cause incomplete masculinization of the genitals in male infants

• Partial androgen insensitivity, in which cells do not respond normally to testosterone and related hormones, causing incomplete masculinization of the genitals in male infants

• Penile agenesis, in which male infants are born without a penis

• Complete androgen insensitivity, in which cells do not respond at all to testosterone and related hormones, causing female-appearing genitals in infants with male chromosomes

• Klinefelter syndrome, in which male infants are born with an extra X (female) chromosome, which typically causes incomplete masculinization and other anomalies

• Turner syndrome, in which female infants are born with one, rather than two, X (female) chromosomes, causing developmental anomalies

• Vaginal agenesis, in which female infants are born without a vagina

Some intersex conditions cause babies to be born with genitals that cannot easily be classified as male or female (called ambiguous genitals). These intersex conditions are usually recognized at birth. The first four conditions listed above—congenital adrenal hyperplasia, 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, partial androgen insensitivity syndrome, and penile agenesis—are in this category.

Other intersex conditions, including the last four conditions listed above—complete androgen insensitivity, Klinefelter syndrome, Turner syndrome, and vaginal agenesis—usually do not result in ambiguous genitals and may not be recognized at birth. Babies born with these conditions are assigned to the sex consistent with their genitals, just like other babies. Their intersex conditions may only become apparent later in life, often around the time of puberty.

What happens when a baby’s genitals cannot be easily classified as male or female?

When a baby is born with ambiguous genitals, doctors perform examinations and laboratory tests to determine exactly what condition the baby has. Determining the type of intersex condition is important, because some intersex conditions that cause ambiguous genitals (for example, certain types of congenital adrenal hyperplasia).

A variety of factors go into this decision. Important goals in deciding sex assignment include preserving fertility where possible, ensuring good bowel and bladder function, preserving genital sensation, and maximizing the likelihood that the baby will be satisfied with his or her assigned sex later in life. Research has shown that individuals with some conditions are more likely to be satisfied in later life when assigned as males, while individuals with other conditions are more likely to be satisfied when assigned as females.

For still other conditions, individuals may be equally satisfied with assignment to either sex, or there may not be enough information to make confident recommendations. Doctors share this information with babies’ parents as part of the process of deciding the most appropriate sex to assign.

(“Answers to Your Questions About Individuals With Intersex Conditions. American Psychological Association. APA Task Force on Gender Identity, Gender Variance, and Intersex Conditions: Margaret Schneider, PhD, University of Toronto; Walter O. Bockting, PhD, University of Minnesota; Randall D. Ehrbar, PsyD, New Leaf Services for Our Community, San Francisco, CA; Anne A. Lawrence, MD, PhD, Private Practice, Seattle, WA; Katherine Louise Rachlin, PhD, Private Practice, New York, NY; Kenneth J. Zucker, PhD, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Produced by the APA Office of Public and member communications. 2016)

Variants of sexual development, sexual orientation and gender identity are natural. Intersex individuals are not consigned to be members of freak shows. They are simply human beings who fall outside many people's accepted parameters of normal.

Even though intersex or ambiguous sexual phenotypes are not a common topic for discussion at school or in most other places, for that matter, an aura of embarrassment or shame that prohibits any mention of sexual pathology is not conducive to defeating the ignorance of the acceptance of broader sexual identities. We must help protect the human rights of intersex individuals – especially when they are too young to express their own wishes concerning their identities. God bless us all.


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