Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.
Will Your Baby Have Unwanted Gender Surgery?
Gender is too confusing in the 2010s. A phrase from a futurist novel of the 1980s described an alien race that expressed itself in dozens of genders, all male. I am beginning to get a sense of that reality now.
How many genders does humanity support in the early 21st Century? Many more than in 1950, certainly, and I sense additional numbers to emerge. The scope of this is large enough for the IOC to have instituted official rules for gender testing and participation in 2004.
One question in the public mind is whether a female-to-male transgender person is strong enough to participate in men's weightlifting and bodybuilding. Many think "No," but the answer is "Yes."
While couples decide to refuse to tell family members or anyone else the gender of their babies and Donald Trump sues a transgendered contestant in one of his beauty pageants, we stumble across the findings that many American infants receive unwanted gender-related surgery at birth, sometimes without parental knowledge and without consent. The gender phenomenon in the US is convoluted enough without the fact of this surgery.
Every year in America, 1 out of every 2,000 babies born cannot be immediately gender- categorized as either boy or girl, because of external physical anomaly.
Medical statistics are usually expressed per 100,000 births, so this would be 500 of every 100,000 births - a large number, larger than the public has known. Various sources give a rate of 1.0% to 1.7% of live births.
The CDC's National Vital Statistics System shows 4,130,665 live births in 2009 (most recent year compiled). This means that in 2009, up to 70,222 American-born infants were not clearly male or female. Even though a small percentage, that's a large number.
Interestingly in 2011, the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA reported on a set of 5 studies that found that 1.7% of the American population (4 million) ages 18 and older is homosexual, with another 1.8% (over 4 million) bisexual. (Reference: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/07/gay-population-us-estimate_n_846348.html Accessed 2/14/2012).
The percentage of transgendered individuals was reported by Gary Gates of this organization as 700,000 or 0.3% of the population -- Interestingly again, this is 10 times the maximum annual birth rate of intersexed and unclearly-gendered infants mentioned above. This is much more gender diversity than some individuals have realized or even wanted to know. The diversity has resulted in various problems and controversies
Sometimes, the "unclear" and intersexed infants are reconstructed as females or female organs are even reduced in size to look more "normally female." The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends surgery at 6 weeks to 15 months of age in order to look more fully male or female. However, some children undergo surgery at birth or later - at 5 or 6 years of age, and some die from resulting hemorrhage (Reference: see several case histories here: Martha
The surgical techniques for gender related surgery were apparently the product of World War II research; and one wonders of this means that they came out of the massive amounts of atrocious, Hitler-inspired medical experiments that were discovered.
Hormone therapy was put into greater use in the 1950s as well, and together with the surgery, began to affect the Baby Boomers and all generations that came after them. The problem seems massive in the 2010s.
Surgery seems often done automatically or under coercion in these cases, sometimes with the parents informed beforehand and sometimes not. Video testimonies below illustrate some of the problems this early and/or unnecessary surgery causes. These surgeries can result in gender identity questions that arise among Olympic athletes as well, complicating their rights so compete.
On a case-by-case basis, Olympic officials can call for gender testing. If testosterone levels in females are determined to be too high, which threshold has been blurry, then the athlete has the choice of undergoing surgery or hormone therapy before permission is reinstated for that woman to compete.
Gender Testing In the 2010s
The advent of the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games provided an accelerant to the flames of controversy surrounding the question of transgendered athletes and their rights to compete in all-male or all-female events in world class, Olympic, or any competitions.
A previous Hub discussed the automatic medical and surgical choice of female gender in cases of infants that are intersex (formerly hermaphroditic). The female choice may be the least expensive or easiest, but it is still an unfair choice if the family is given no choice. In addition, a number of female infants and children are subjected to automatic female circumcision, because a doctor or a parent feels that a female organ is "too large" (see the Martha Coventry reference listed above). In both types of cases, psychological conflicts and confusion ensue and problems surrounding gender authentication in the Olympics arise.
One of the major discussions in the media leading up to London 2012 was genetic testing for athletes.
Sex and gender issues in competitive sports: investigation of a historical case leads to a new viewpoint. British Journal Of Sports Medicine. May 3, 2011
- Authors: Kaye N Ballantyne, Manfred Kayser, and J Anton Grootegoed.
Quote from Abstract:
"Based on DNA analysis of a historical case, the authors describe how a female athlete can be unknowingly confronted with the consequences of a disorder of sex development resulting in hyperandrogenism emerging early in her sports career. In such a situation, it is harmful and confusing to question sex and gender."
Measurement of testosterone is not the means by which questions of an athlete's eligibility to compete with either women or men are resolved.
— Ballantyne, et.al.; May 2011
Gender Identity and DNA
An infant or child should be protected from automatic surgery that may be unnecessary.
A large proportion surgeries to produce a cosmetic female at birth may occur because the child is seen as damaged goods, female being a concept historically synonymous with damaged goods. In some opinions, the intersexed infant is relegated to the stack of rejects, which are called female. The film to the right shows cases in which physicians have told parent that an infant's male organs were cancerous or would become so, sometimes falsely, and in one case, instead of a biopsy a castration was performed.
In the case of Mary Coventry mentioned earlier, she received female circumcision in the 1950s, because her father thought a female organ was outsized. Her website discusses similar cases. How often this event occurs in America is not clear, but the practice has been active from 1950 to the end of the 1970s at least, affecting Baby Boomers and part of Generation X.
I am reminded by unnecessary surgery of the Kennedy daughter, Rose Marie called Rosemary, that received a frontal lobotomy at 23 because she was incorrectly diagnosed with mental retardation in 1924, but did have mood swings (reference:Ronald Kessler. The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded. 1996). A lobotomy patient is not very much aware after surgery, and Rosemary lived to be 86, with 63 years of disability. She was buried without a grave marker. Evidence suggests that the rest of the Kennedy family treated her as "retarded" because she was not quite as intelligent as the rest of them and this led to an agitated depression. She had done poorly on two administrations of the Binet intelligence test in the early 1920s and no further assessment was performed. Today this would be a malpractice case.
Culture and family can definitely hurt an infant that is not average in behavior or appearance. For another example, in the Congo of the 1950s, twins were seen as a set of child-and-demon entities. Both babies suffered red-hot chili peppers stuffed up both nostrils, after which they were buried alive. This was supposed to protect the soul of the real child (dead), since no one could figure which of the twins was the demon (information from author Tamar Myers, raised as a child of missionaries in Congo of the 1950s - 1960s in her books The Boy That Stole the Leopards Spots  and others). The handling of intersex infants reminds me of this.
Olympics and World Class Sports: Bodybuilding and Weightlifting
Many of the pubic have believed that a transgendered female-to-male person cannot compete with men in the events of bodybuilding and weightlifting. This turns out to be incorrect, shown by the video below. Such a transgendered person is able to compete in the lifting events of the Olympic Games, if he can pass the requirements of the Stockholm Consensus, presented further below.
Buck Angel - Female to Male
Olympic Authentication Of Gender
In the early to mid 20th Century, athletes walked nude in front of Olympic officials in order to prove gender. By 2012, DNA tests, photographs, and other measures were prescribed on a case by case basis under the Stockholm Concensus of 2004, discussed below.
Track and field contestant Santhi Soundarajan, an Asian Indian, was stripped of her silver medal won in the 2006 Asian Games, because she could not pass the female gender authentication test administered. Such actions are of growing concern to women, the transgendered, and the entire sporting community.
Controversy still surrounds the case of Olympian track and field competitor Caster Semenya of South Africa as well. In 2009, the IAAF seems to have suspected 1) performance enhancing drugs or 2) a gender issue in Semenya's win at the World Championships. The IAAF demanded demanded gender testing.
Her gender authentication process is said to have included intrusive photographs and her results have never been released officially to the public. Hence the rumors of intersexism. She lost at lest a year of competition experience and returned to running in 2011. Advancing toward London 2012, she is once again a topic of conversation. The video to the right indicates that Semenya possesses or possessed internal testes instead of ovaries.
2016: Gold Medal, Women's 800m At the Rio Olympics
Fast Explanation - Semenya In 2012
The Stockholm Consensus
The Stockholm Consensus is an agreement that was reached by the IOC Medical Commission for the Athens 2004 Summer Games.
It the basis from which to create rules for transsexual competitors as gender qualifications.
For permission for transgendered athletes to enter the Olympic Games they must, by the Stockholm Consensus:
- Have undergone sex-reassignment surgery that alters external genitalia to appear either distinctly male or female.
- Transsexual participants have received legal recognition of their reassigned sex by “appropriate official authorities” in their home country.
- Transsexual athletes must be administered hormone therapy “appropriate for the reassigned sex"… in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient length of time (usually two years) to minimize gender-related advantages in competitive sport competitions.
- Transsexual athletes much undergo individual investigations before competition.
Examples for the London 2012 Games -
- Ms. Caster Semenya is said to be more feminine in appearance and exhibiting slower running times leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games than she has shown in previous years. Rumors are that she underwent a cosmetic makeover, possibly has internal testes surgically removed, and may be undergoing hormone therapy.
- Mr. Keelin Godsey is reportedly the first openly transgender contender for the American Olympic team. He lives as a man but competes as a woman and hopes to make the Olympic Team for Track and Field events. After London 2012, he plans to undergo testosterone therapy and other transitioning to male. Read more: NPR Celebrates Transgender Olympics Hopeful as Hammer-Throwing 'Jackie Robinson' Evidence exists that before physical transition is undertaken, some transgendered athletes continue to compete as the gender into which they were born, because they accepted male or female athletic scholarships and cannot switch genders without losing that support.
- Olympics struggle with ‘policing femininity’ - thestar.com
The controversy over Caster Semenya launched a new era of scrutiny for female athletes high in male hormones. Determining gender eligibility presents a quandary for sports officials, but there is one key element to consider: testosterone levels.
© 2012 Patty Inglish MS
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 21, 2012:
Thank you both for the new comments! I agree with both of you that this surgery is wrong when no choice is given to the family.
And you know, sometimes the child is never told about having surgery and can't remember because it happened on the day they were born. Questions come up later in the child's or young adult's mind and learning the truth is another trauma.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 21, 2012:
Patty, That video of the surgical abuse is appalling. That doctor shouldn't have a medical license. I had no idea there were so many children born this was. This is a very interesting hub, yet tragic. Thanks for such a thorough hub about this situation.
Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on June 21, 2012:
This one has left me totally speechless, although I would like to say one thing about the babies - it's wrong to do what they do to infants. Enlightening article. Voted up and interesting.
Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 21, 2012:
@kellyward - In my city, we had a gentleman that chose to become a woman in order to win in the women's division of his sport. He had lost all his matches as a male and went on to be successful as a female, too. That was a sad case.
@rebeccamealey - The book and film were pretty interesting, I thought. The video is startling, isn't it? I think many will watch the Olympics and wonder who is a biological male or female and who is not.
@vespawoolf - The unnecessary surgeries disturb me as totally unfair and to think that we have 70,000+ babies born a year that might suffer this surgery is ghastly.Thanks for reading and sharing.
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on June 21, 2012:
My goodness, this is super fascinating! And as always, I love your presentation. I had no idea about the unnecessary surgeries performed in the past and present. How tragic! I also didn't know that a transgendered person could participate in the Olympics. Voted up and shared!
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on June 20, 2012:
This is a very interesting topic. I am from Savannah GA and we have a really famous Lady Chablis, "hide my candy' from the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. She/He is one of my favorite characters and is very real to me. Interesting video on Buck Angel. Wow!
kelleyward on June 20, 2012:
What a great topic for a hub! As a NICU nurse I worked with a few transgender babies. I also grew up with a girl who had to be genetically tested to determine her gender. It is an interesting thought. Could some male athletes actually change genders in order to be the best in their field? Thanks for sharing this! Kelley