Intersexuality: What to do when babies are born with sexually ambiguous traits?
Last week, my local Mormon study group discussed the topic of the body. We read in the Proclamation about how gender was eternal, and the question that popped into my mind immediately was “Well what do we as Mormons then do with babies that are born with both male and female sexual organs?”
I suppose I’m particularly intrigued by this since I’m about to give birth any day now – probably to a boy, since that what the ultrasound seemed to indicate. But I can’t help wondering what Mike and I would do if we did have a baby whose sex was ambiguous.
I think this happens a lot more than a lot of us talk about. According to Wikipedia (o great source of knowledge), as many as 1% of live births involve a baby that is born with sexually ambiguous traits. (Though other studies say it’s more like .1%) There are a lot of ways these babies might exhibit intersexual traits. Take a look at this picture which shows the anatomy of a person with XXY chromosomes. Wikipedia talks about how this is only the tip of the ice berg when it comes to chromosomal abnormalities which lead to ambiguous sex. There’s “Turner syndrome XO, Triple X syndrome XXX, Klinefelter syndrome XXY, XYY syndrome XYY, Mosaicism XO/XY, de la Chapelle syndrome XX male, Swyer syndrome XY female, and there are many other individuals who do not follow the typical patterns (such as individuals with four or even more sex chromosomes).”
Often parents and doctors simply have to choose what gender to make these kids, and then give them surgery and hormones. But some people who have these conditions are arguing that there should be a space for a third sex, that society shouldn’t tamper with this naturally occurring phenomenon of intersexuality.
Anyway, I’m intrigued by this occurrence of “intersexuality” and wonder how it fits into our Mormon mind frame. I’d love to know if you have any experience with situations like these.
*Do you know of any babies born with sexually ambiguous traits? What did the parents decide to do?
*If you had a child who was born with this condition, do you have any idea of how you’d handle it? Would you talk with church leaders to have them help you decide what to do?
*What is the church’s stance on people who exhibit both sex characteristics? Do they advocate parents choosing a sex? Would they let a person who had both sex characteristics get the priesthood?
*What are the implications of this “third sex” on Mormon doctrine, which specifically states that gender (and I assume they also mean sex here) is eternal?