I have found a great organization called the Intersex Society of North America. It’s an organization founded in 1993 by Cheryl Chase that is striving to educate people change popular views about the intersex condition. Here is their mission statement in their own words: “The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) is devoted to systemic change to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female.”
ISNA is partly responsible for several progressions in society’s viewpoints and practices concerning intersexuality, including patient-centered care, more cautious approaches to surgery, and the dissolving of several kinds of harsh or misleading language. Their website has a smorgasbord of information about intersexuality and how to approach the situation with care and openness. Most of this information can be found on their frequently asked questions page, located here.
The Society recommends that intersex people and parents of intersex people follow what they call the “Patient-Centered Model,” which is a way of dealing with the condition in a positive light. For example, they suggest defining intersexuality as an anatomical variation as opposed to an anatomical abnormality or disorder, not “normalizing” the person by forcing surgery on them as an infant, and assigning a gender to the child based on hormonal, genetic, and diagnostic tests. They believe that assigning the child to be a boy or girl is a much healthier approach than raising them to be third gender because it could “unnecessarily traumatize” them. And if the child decides later in life that he or she was given the wrong gender assignment, intersex people have a much more easier time transitioning genders than non-intersexed people.
I was able to connect the reading by Joan Roughgarden to this organization because Roughgarden wrote a lot about how many animal species are born as one gender and become another at some point in their lives, and sometimes revert back to their original gender, but she also wrote about how some species live their entire lives as both genders, like the hamlet basses. She also explains that male, man, and masculine all have completely different definitions, as do female, woman, and feminine. Not everything that has a penis is male. Not everything that nests is female. Some species’ females have Y chromosomes. Some species completely lack Y chromosomes all together. Not everything falls into a binary, especially when a binary hardly seems to exist in the grander scheme of things.