Thursday, May 01, 2008

388 - Who's version of normal?

Are you XX or XY? Here's an article about gender confusion. Try to read it with an open mind. Then check out the wikipedia links.

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Between male and female
There was a 19th-century "pint-sized, squeaky-voiced" British army surgeon who was discovered after death to be a woman - or so the woman who prepared the doctor's body for burial claimed. If the claim is true, Barry's story represents one triumphant response to the sexism that kept women out of a profession which had once been exclusively theirs. Women were the chief deliverers of care in illness, injury and childbirth in Europe up to the 17th century and have been in most societies for most of history.
Quite a few women have dressed as men to escape the social disabilities of their sex at the time. Some enlisted as soldiers - Ann Mills was a dragoon and Hannah Snell a Royal Marine, both in the 18th century - and journalist Dorothy Lawrence joined up in men's clothes to fight in the first world war. Others did it for reasons unknown: a career in jazz was not closed to women on the grounds of their sex, yet 1930s jazz musician Billy Tipton, who married five times, was only discovered to be a woman after his death, as was also the case with singer Willmer Broadnax.
Some of these cross-dressers might also have felt themselves to be male in gender, although anatomically female, just as some individuals who are anatomically male feel themselves to be female. The distinction now made between sex and gender is a helpful one, because it allows us to accommodate the fact that humankind does not divide neatly into male and female, but in its protean diversity admits of a spectrum between.
Only recently has the fact become well enough understood to challenge the often harmful medicalization of sex ambiguity and gradation which began in earnest in the 19th century and culminated in the 1950s with the "optimum gender of rearing" system developed at Johns Hopkins University. This system encouraged "gender assignment" of those with ambiguous genitals, including surgical intervention, at the earliest possible stage in life to encourage the effective socialization of the resulting individual into their assigned gender.
The sheer complexity of sex and gender is now well enough understood for the Johns Hopkins optimum gender system to be no longer acceptable. Anne Fausto-Sterling of Brown University studied the literature on sex variations (Sexing the Body, Basic Books, 2000) and found that as many as 1 in 100 people have bodies that differ from the male and female standards, if one includes XX and XY chromosomal abnormalities such as chromosomal mosaicism and the Klinefelter and Turner syndromes; conditions in which the gonads or genitals fail to develop properly (including those caused by the abnormal production of, or response to, the hormones that direct sexual development); and problems caused by medical treatment (including mistakes during pregnancy).
The fact that there is a spectrum of sex identities was brought home to me by a brilliant pupil I had at Oxford, who after studying philosophy there as a Dominican monk in the 1980s came to realize that she was not male but intersexed (in other words, neither male nor female but a third gender which she and others in the intersex community wish to have recognized). Not only could she not achieve recognition as such, she even had to struggle to be redescribed as female for so mundane a purpose as getting a passport. On being informally advised to undergo "genital disambiguation" surgery to solve the problem, she realized that she had in effect ceased to exist in law as a person. She resolved to fight for the rights of intersexed persons to be recognized as such. Her brave endeavor - she is Sally Gross, founder of the Intersex Society of South Africa - like that of the members of the Intersex Society of North America, promises to change the simplistic stereotyping that hides from view the realities of life for one whole tranche of humanity.
Link - NewScientist.com

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Wikipedia links to some interesting articles.
Link - X0
Link - XXX
Link - XXXX
Link - XXXXX
Link - XYY
Link - XXY
Link - XXYY
Link - Failed XY
Link - Normal XY and XX
And it's not just humans.
Link - ZW
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2 comments:

Mike said...

No comments on this, eh? It's either to much heavy reading or a bunch of chickens out there.

Bilbo said...

Not chicken...just not sure how to approach the topic. Let me get back to you once I'm healthy again.