The Third World

Indians have a few million Gods and Goddesses, and can’t get enough of them, it seems. An infant with both male and female genitalia is being showered unwanted attention in Ball-sore (Orissa), and being thought as a reincarnation of Lord Shiva and Parvati.
To expose the phallacy of this intro, read this news article.
Scientifically speaking, this is old hat. Ambiguous external genitalia is not very rare (may be seen in up to 1% of all births), but true hermaphroditism (where both testicular and ovarian tissue are present) is less common. Contrary to popular notion, the ‘main point’ of the male is not the penis, but the testicles. Similarly, the vagina or the clitoris in the female are not the determining female organs, but the ovary is. External genitalia can be confusing (ambiguous): if the baby’s testicles have not descended at birth, how can one say whether it has a large clitoris or a small penis? I hope you get this answer! If it a large clitoris, the urinary passage is separate, whereas in the male with a small penis, the urine goes through it. However, things become more muddled in the condition known as Hypospadias, where the urinary passage in male babies opens through the scrotum. Now imagine a tiny scrotum without any balls in them, and a small hole through which urine comes out: could it not be confused with the female anatomy?
This is one of several reasons why there is confusion in identifying the gender of some cases.
Apart from the morbid imaginations of the mind, there are some interesting issues here:
* What should the parents do? Surgical reassignment surgery (popularly called sex change operation) is an obvious option. However, whether to make the baby a boy or girl becomes a troublesome issue. Imagine that one (surgically) makes the baby physically a female, and when ‘she’ grows up, she wants to be a boy (because ‘she’ feels like one). What a disaster that would be! For this reason, many experts counsel that the sex change operation should be done when the child grows up and its sexual orientation is clear, along with its choice.
* Imagine again, that the parents of a baby of undetermined sex opt to wait for the child to grow up. How horrible would the child’s growing years be, without it having an idea of what gender it is, and having to cope up with brutal teasing and harassment at home and school!
* Should society officially declare three, and not two, genders: the third being the intersex? Makes you wonder whether these people (we should really coin a word similar to ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ for them) would visit, after watching a movie, the male toilet or the female!
India being such a reserved country, should we keep away 1% of Parliament seats and 5% of educational seats for the third sex? Should we ban sex determination by preventing doctors from telling the parents what the sex of the baby is? What if the upset parents, upon hearing that they have given birth to a girl, commit murder of the child? (you really have to click that link to understand the irony of this!)
The whole purpose of this article was to engender some discussion by testicling your imagination!

7 responses to “The Third World

  1. Voracious Blog Reader

    Totally a blank mind now !

    Voracious Blog Reader

  2. Hey Partner…I am reminded of my
    ‘Third gender’ post !

    Ram..feel sorry for those kids.

  3. Voracious Blog Reader

    Hey Partner,

    You are right. Perhaps you can link your post to this.

    Voracious Blog Reader

  4. Nurseontherun

    What would be the optimal thing to do with such kids? Is it possible to NOT assign a gender to your new baby…and how would you raise a kid like that????

  5. Nurse,
    No clear answers, i am afraid! I can’t think of NOT doing sexual corrective surgery! How can a baby grow up without gender identification?

  6. ha! Well written. I like your imaginative twist on words. 🙂

    WRT the issues you raise, I think there’s more to determining the biological sex of a child than just examining its genitalia. The genitalia of an infant is merely deformed and bears little bearing on the entire physiological makeup. A DNA test could confirm the biological sex of the infant and accordingly a sex-change operation could be decided upon.

    Further, I don’t believe that an infants genitalia ipso facto creates psychological gender-identity concepts. The pre-conceptual state of an infant’s consciousness is not yet developed to handle conceptual implications of gender based on the physical fact of their genitalia–particularly when their entire genetic/DNA makeup is of exclusively one sex.

    Finally, this does not appear to be a moral issue to me. I’d leave it up to the parents to choose a gender for their child after the child’s biological sex status is determined. I wouldn’t, however, recommend a “third sex” category or letting the child grow up and then determine what sex it wishes to be at adulthood. The child may grow up to be too scarred psychologically by then.

  7. Ergo,
    Welcome to this blog!
    The recommendation of a third sex category was tongue-in-cheek! The moral issues are hidden in Mahendra’s post and comments section.
    True biological sex determination can be achieved by studying the chromosomes. Females have two X chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y chromosome. However, life does not entertain simple situations, as usual! There are true chimeras, where some tissues carry the XX genotype and some other tissues carry the XY pattern. These kids may carry one testicle and one ovary or a combined ovo-testis.

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