Tuesday, April 6, 2010

parents perspective

I bugged my mom into writing a piece for my blog. This way you can hear other peoples opinions (gasp). So, without any further ado, here's what my mom had to say:

A parent’s perspective;
I was recently filling out our 2010-census form and I realized that once again I had to inaccurately settle on gender for one of our children. I wanted or needed to be able to have more choices on the census form. While I don’t personally like the term “neuter”, I applaud Australia’s willingness to alter Norrie May-Welby’s birth certificate to better represent this person’s gender.

When I hear an expectant parent announce the exact sex of their child prior to birth, I cringe. I wonder how can a picture tell the child’s story?

When our child was born the “sex” was immediately determined to be male. Later, upon further inspection the hospital staff changed their minds and expressed uncertainty of the “sex” of our child. They immediately took the blue blanket away and used a white blanket for swaddling. We were told that this “unique phenomenon” had only occurred one other time in the hospital’s 27-year history. We were led to believe that we needed to change our child so that “society would be kind”. We listened and we trusted that we needed to follow the medical professionals advice. While their advice was well intentioned, they were wrong.

If we had known then what we know now, we might not have listened so intently to the physicians. We still would have needed to determine a gender so that society could acknowledge our child’s existence. Just like today, 20 plus years ago there were only male or female choices on US birth certificates. On paper our child needed to have a gender distinction, but physically probably not.

We followed the professional opinions and physically modified our child to be more female in appearance. Today we would have had more informational tools within our grasp and we would have realized that this ”rare” occurrence wasn’t as unique as the professionals believed.

While we tried never to mislead our child about who they are. We would say things like “nature didn’t make the decision about who you are so we had to”. All that time, while we thought we were keeping the perception of who our child is open to discussion, we were missing the most important fact. There was no perception; nature had in fact made a decision about our child. There was no need to modify the fact that nature had made our child intersex. We didn’t need to have physicians physically modify our child’s appearance. It wasn’t nature’s problem its society’s misunderstanding that gender is not two single points, but actually a continuum.


  1. Great article! I'd just like to correct an unfortunately popular misconception though.

    Norrie was issued a recognition certificate recognizing a change of details. Norrie was born in Scotland and Australia cannot issue a birth certificate to someone not born in Scotland.

  2. Sorry, I meant to write "not born in Australia."