What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

It is the first question asked at birth: Is it a boy or a girl? Even before birth some anxious parents want to know at the time of the ultrasound. Boy or Girl? We need to know. How else will we know what color to paint the nursery? How will we know whether to purchase a doll or a plush stuffed football for our new bundle of joy? Should the baby shower invitations be pink or blue?

What happens when that answer isn’t clear; when the sex of the infant is ambiguous not just on the ultrasound but in the birthing room?

When an intersex child is born there is a variation in sex characteristics that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as female/male sex binary. In the case of the young boy Patrick in this video he was born with a penis, one testicle and a fallopian tube. Although born healthy he was taken to the intensive care unit while the doctors decided what would become of him.

Our reading suggests that an intersex child is born once in 2,000 births or maybe once or twice in 100 births depending on how accurate the reporting is. Either way, this is far more common than I imagined.

At the birth then, who gets to decide which box to check on the birth certificate? And why is that so important? I mean, aside from our need to categorize humans to simplify our lives and label what is normal behavior, what effect does it have on the child to choose his or her sexual identity at birth?

Would it not be better to let the child grow and learn for herself which sex she identifies with and then make that decision? Too often we are led by what we imagine others might think of us. Most of us would not dare to say we have the right to decide who a child should marry, where a child should live or what a child can aspire to in life. But when we cannot answer that initial question at birth we are quick to make a decision, for the child’s own good.

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