Monday, May 21, 2012


This post contains the a discussion of sex and the organs related to it in the context of babies and how children are raised.  If you’re sensitive to said subject please feel free to bail and come back tomorrow for more of the usual: food and fun!  =D


I feel like if there is one decision in life we don’t believe we will ever have to think about it’s how to raise our children, whether to raise them as boys or girls.  This is because most of the time they are born already identified as a particular sex: male or female.  We take our cues from that and begin to treat them as such from the beginning.  But what about when the unexpected happens?  What about when a baby is born with
ambiguous genitalia?

In these cases, babies are born without clear external sex organs.  They don’t look like a male or a female in particular below the belt.  This leaves the parents with the a decision to make: raise the child as a girl or raise the child as a boy.  Can you imagine choosing a singular path for an individual, choosing whether or not they will wear pink or blue or be in ballet versus paintball??  Now I realize that seems pretty narrow-minded as I’m sure there are boys in ballet and paintballing girls but I use those examples for simplicity.

We use external cues to help us determine where we fit in the scheme of things.  I acknowledge that we don’t go walking around with everything hanging out but remember that a lot of the time the reason for the ambiguous genitalia is hormonal and hormones affect essentially everything.  The way our hair grows on our faces, our underarms, and our legs/arms; the way our breasts grow; how high pitched our voice is; our pubertal development; and potentially even some of our brain connections are all influenced by our hormones.  Therefore, while most of us don’t walk around pant- or shirtless advertising our sex, there are plenty of ways to do that with our clothes on.

I critiqued myself earlier for using narrow definitions and examples of what is male and what is female.  I think that cognizance may actually make this decision easier in today’s world though if you think about it.  Say you chose to raise your child as a girl but as she grows she feels more pulled toward things considered more “masculine” in nature.  Now-a-days her participation in things like dirtbiking or hockey may not be as “weird” as before.  Plenty of women and men everyday cross convention gender boundaries to pursue their hearts’ desires.  I think this freedom may alleviate some of the stress, if only a little bit, that parents may feel when being faced with this decision.

So don’t think this discussion came out of nowhere.  I certainly don’t sit around and think about genitalia all-day everyday.  However it's come up lately in the office.  People wonder if things wouldn't be easier if there were conclusive test results, like a karyotype that distinctly says males or female.  I think I would hope for that.  I would hope for that kind of help.  Most of all though I would hope that I had the strength and peace of mind to be okay if (or when) my child came to me and told me they were feeling more like the sex I didn’t choose for them.  Because you know, I might get it wrong.  People do get it wrong.  But perhaps the most important thing to remember is, that baby is your child no matter what.  Male or female, it doesn’t/shouldn’t matter.  They’re a part of you, a new member of your family, and they are to be loved and cherished as such.

Questions: What do you think you would do?
What information would help you make that decision?

1 comment:

  1. great graphic!
    Could I use it in a scientific presentation about the same topic?
    Is there a copyright on it?
    Chris ternand


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