‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ It is often the first question people ask parents about their baby

Kathmandu (Pahichan) May 11 – It’s a question based on the assumption that the world is divided into two groups of people, male and female, and that everyone’s biological and genetic characteristics fit neatly into one of two categories.

But that is not always the case; in fact, more often than you might think. An estimated 1.7% of children in the world are born every year with variations of sex characteristics.

These variations are diverse; for instance some children have genitalia outside the standard norms for boys or girls, others have feminised bodies but have XY (male) chromosomes, or masculine bodies and XX (female) chromosomes.

Many of these children undergo surgery in an effort to ‘normalise’ them, despite the fact that these interventions are often not emergency-driven, invasive and irreversible. These children are too young to consent at the time of the intervention and their parents are often not given adequate information and support to make an informed decision about what is best for their children. Such practices can constitute gross violations of their human rights.

 Is gender a binary system or a spectrum?

Intersex is an umbrella term used to cover a broad group of people who have sex characteristics that fall outside the typical binary of male or female. Some people with such variations describe themselves as intersex, some do not.

They can include differences in primary sex characteristics, such as internal and external genitalia, reproductive systems, hormone levels and sex chromosomes. Variations may also occur in secondary sex characteristics, which become apparent at puberty.

Being intersex is about biological features and not your gender identity per se. It’s not about your sexual orientation either – intersex people have many sexual orientations.

Ditte’s story

I was born in 1962. In some of my earliest memories I knew that I was not the same as other boys. At 25, I decided that I had to do something about it. I had had several blood tests over the years, with doctors always concluding there was nothing wrong.

When I was 39 I met a physician who told me that my scars were the result of surgical intervention during childhood.

When my parents had both passed away I found out I had a much older half-sibling, who said that when I was a child our father had explained that “nature had made a mistake with me” and that “I had physically been born with both sexes”.

Everybody should be entitled to get access to their medical journals. I have asked the authorities for information on what happened to me, but medical journals from the first ten years of my life suddenly disappeared. Instead I was told to accept myself as the gender I was recorded as, and as a transsexual who was applying for sex reassignment surgery.

I did not submit to this and consequently I was stigmatised as mentally ill, I lost my career and experienced a severe loss of income. The authorities are still labelling me a transsexual.

I am of course furious about what has happened to me. They should have waited until I was old enough to make my own decisions based on informed consultation.

Copy : www.amnesty.org