Let Intersex children decide for themselves

August 31, 2014

From the September-October 2014 issue of News & Letters

South Carolina parents Mark and Pam Crawford, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Advocates for Choice filed federal and state lawsuits against South Carolina’s Department of Social Services and the healthcare workers responsible for the genital normalizing surgery performed on the Crawfords’ adopted child, known as M., as an infant. While in state custody, doctors decided it was best to assign infant M. a female sex.

However, M. considers himself a male. The Crawfords believe M. should have been allowed to remain Intersex until M. could decide on the type of surgery or reject surgery altogether.

Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins Medical Center popularized genital normalizing surgery in the 1950s. The first child that he operated on he assigned to being female, but that child grew up feeling like, and as an adult came to identify himself and live as, a male. Money’s theory that the gender of children is easily influenced by how they are raised, known as Optimal Gender of Rearing, was shattered. Yet, forced genital normalizing surgery is still widely practiced worldwide (see “Intersex Voices,” July-August News & Letters, page 9).

—Elise Barclay

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