“Pick A Winner and Let’s Go!”
“Is it a girl? Or a boy? Or a girl? Ok what is this, some sort of American baby game? Are we playing 2 Questions?… It’s one or the other, pick a winner and let go!”
-from Brahman/i: A One-Hijra Stand Up Comedy Show
Auntie eagerly demanded an answer to this question on the day of Brahman/i’s birth, a seemingly natural, innocuous question which should have a seemingly simple answer.
Unless, that is, your child is born “intersex” (a term signifying a spectrum of many conditions), or with a difference in sexual development. These differences can manifest themselves physically (externally and/or internally), hormonaly, chromosomally, or in some combination. The most recent estimates have intersex differences occurring 1 in every 1,500 to 2,000 births, and subtler biological sex variations occurring as frequently as one in every 100 births.
Until very recently, the question parents and doctors have faced with an intersex infant is what gender to assign them (male or female), and what steps to take in order to complete that assignment (surgery, hormone therapy, etc.) This has often led to unfortunate, and sometimes disastrous, situations as an intersex child grows older and into an adult.
Today, there is a increasing movement and understanding among the medical community not to encourage any invasive procedures when choosing a gender for an infant, allowing an easier path for a person to self-assign/change their gender identity as they mature. What one looks like on the outside might not be what one is on the inside. This understanding comes into line with what many intersex persons have advocated for a while. As social mores and medical knowledge evolve, we might see parents and doctors not impose a gender assignment upon infants at all, letting the child, and later the adult, figure out for themselves what gender they are, or if they have a gender at all.
For more, please read Emily Greenhouse’s informative article in The New Yorker, “A New Era For Intersex Rights.”