Exit Viewer

Online Intersex Communities: Virtual Neighborhoods of Support and Activism By Brian ...

Chapter 1:  Introduction
Read
image Next
Online Intersex Communities:

But at puberty these children’s testicles begin to produce additional testosterone, and the 5-AR enyzme is not required at that time to convert that testosterone properly. So roughly at 12 or 13 years of age 5-AR children, perceived to be female, become very clearly male. As Dreger notes, “[T]he body grows taller, stronger, more muscular…testes descend…and the penis/clitoris grows to look and act more like a penis” (Hermaphrodites 39).

Because this intersex condition has always occurred in the Sambian culture, where medical technology is limited, those born with this condition are not treated. In fact, they occupy a special place within the culture. For them, as Gilbert Herdt writes, the Sambia “have created an historically divergent third sex category, neither male or female” (420). In fact, the Sambia call 5-AR people kwolu-aatmwol, or “female thing changed into a male” (Herdt 68). In the Dominican Republic 5-AR also occurs so often that prevailing rhetoric has generated a name for those that are neither male nor female. 5-AR children not fully developed are called guevedoche, or “penis at 12” (Herdt 68).

Clearly, therefore, cultural biases and the discourses that reflect and maintain them determine what is considered sexually ambiguous or not, acceptable or not, normal or abnormal. Why? According to Alice Dreger, a person who does not properly perform that which is considered normal, such as the hermaphrodite or intersex person,

continues to be a person whose body gets caught up in cultural ‘border wars’—wars over the borders separating males and females, men and women, boys and girls, borders separating those with authority from those without. ‘Doubts’ inherent in the hermaphrodite’s body are still exorcised and shrouded in silence, lest that doubtfulness leak and spread onto the child’s identity, the parents and family, medicine and science, and finally the streets…We still insist there be no hermaphrodites, lest they grow and multiply. (Hermaphrodites 198)