Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Intersex Baby: A Parent's Worst Nightmare

The birth of Tamara Dawson's first child should have been a moment of sheer delight. Instead, she describes the shocking and unusual situation that followed: "They took her away, and I had no idea what was going on. I'd never given birth before, so I was thinking ‘They're taking her away to clean her up.' The doctors and nurses came back and said, ‘We don't know if you had a boy or a girl.' We were stunned. How could you not know?"
Dawson's child was born with an unusual and rare condition termed intersex, in which the traditional markers of biological sex (e.g. chromosomes, external genitalia) are neither clearly male nor female. Stanford researcher and medical anthropologist, Katrina Karkazis, interviewed Dawson and others in order to understand how parents, their children, and the medical community cope with intersexuality. Her book, Fixing Sex is the result of meticulous research and in depth interviews with those most closely involved; it aims to help readers understand this unusual condition. I found the book fascinating for other reasons as well - namely how intersex conditions illuminate our taken for granted assumptions about what makes people male or female.

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Organisation Intersex International