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Essay on The Trouble With Ambiguous Genitalia

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The Trouble With Ambiguous Genitalia

In trying to decide what to write this last Bio paper on, I solicited the help of some of the girls I eat with in Erdman. They twirled their forks on their plates, bit their lips, scratched their heads. "How about hermaphrodites?" someone chimed in. I lit up. Sure, I thought. Hermaphrodites. That will be interesting. And then: Wait. What's a hermaphrodite again?

In beginning my research, more so at that point to figure out for myself what a hermaphrodite actually was than to begin researching my paper, I had a hard time turning anything up. I talked aloud to myself, to my computer, and to the hermaphrodites of the world. Where are you guys? I wondered.

And then I found them.
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As the ethicist Dr. Alice Dreger points out, "one quickly runs into a problem. . .when trying to define 'key' or 'essential' feminine and masculine anatomy. In fact, any close study of sexual anatomy results in a loss of faith that there is a simple, 'natural' sex distinction that will not break down in the face of certain anatomical, behavioral, or philosophical challenges" (3).

Because of the difficulty in defining what it means to be intersexed, it is difficult to produce accurate statistics. It has been approximated, however, that one in one hundred people are born with bodies which "differ from standard male or female" bodies (3). Furthermore, the number of individuals receiving "normalizing" surgery on the genitalia is approximated to be one or two in every one thousand births.

To go even deeper into the problem of representation, it is nearly impossible to produce accurate statistics or even accurate studies on intersexed people because of the secrecy surrounding their conditions. Many people are kept in the dark as to their "ambiguous genitalia." The Intersex Society of North America has deemed this secrecy a "conspiracy of silence," and have begun to make moves towards revolutionizing the treatment of intersexed babies. Rather than immediately perform plastic surgery on a child's "ambiguous" sex organs, the Intersex Society of
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