Sexuality of Hermaphrodites Human Beings Are anResearch Proposal

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Sexuality of Hermaphrodites

Human beings are an incredibly diverse species within itself - race, ethnicity, geography, family, gender are all variables, just as DNA, fingerprints, and retinas all combine to create absolutely unique creatures - no two exactly alike. The other thing about people, is that there are infinite variations created by subtle differences in DNA and in our physical development, in our psychology, our emotional development and our self-concept. Because these variables produce an infinite range of possibilities how we define people, according to "traditional" categories such as black, white, male and female, straight and gay are all open to variation and interpretation. Everything that makes us who we are does so in degrees. The most basic distinction we have made since history began is the difference between the genders. Virtually all species of animal on Earth has two genders and the species are maintained by sexual interaction between the two genders. Therefore, gender, perhaps more than any other human characteristic, has defined our identities from the beginning of our genetic history. Thus, though defining gender is increasingly difficult as there are certainly multiple factors involved in defining us as human beings. but, taken one step further, it isn't just important to define people by their sexuality so that we may know how to personally relate to them, we must also define ourselves in terms of our own sense of sexuality. For the biologically sexually ambiguous person, all of these determinations are made that much harder.

The history of hermaphroditism is largely the history of the struggles over the 'realities' of sex - the nature of 'true' sex, the proper roles of the sexes, the question of what sex can, should or must mean," (Dreger). Biologically, hermaphroditism, "is when an animal has both testicular and ovarian tissues," (Gilbert). Because both gender tissues exist, identification of a gender cannot be properly made- thus the term ambiguous is applied to the child. "Classifying newborn infants as to whether they are male or female is usually straightforward. One looks at the phallus and sees whether it is a penis (long) or a clitoris (short). One looks to see if there are two labia (vaginal lips) or if they have fused into a scrotum," (Gilbert).

Hermaphrodites are found in nearly every species and are considered to be the result of a failed sexual determination within the DNA. Because of this, there are hermaphrodites who actually have both sets of male and female designate chromosomes (XXXY). "In humans, "true" gonadal hermaphroditism -- a person's having both ovarian and testicular tissue -- is rare. However, it is estimated that about 1% of the population may have "pseudohermaphroditism," conditions where the phenotype is not the one expected from the gonads." (Gilbert)

Alternatively referred to as "intersexed," hermaphrodites have long caused the medical profession a great deal of "stress." Doctors created a system for categorizing people's gender using "pseudo-" in the lablel. As in, "female pseudo-hermaphrodite" for a person who has non-standard sex anatomy and ovaries; and "male pseudo-hermaphrodite" for non-standard sex anatomy and testes; and "true hermaphrodite" if they have both functioning testes and ovaries and the sexual apparatus (vagina and functioning penis) as well (Intersex Society of North America).

Ever since the early 19th century, when doctors began to professionalize and publish their cases in medical journals, we can trace not only their cruelly judgmental descriptors of these conditions and people, but the damaging therapeutic treatment they have dispensed as well. The ways in which intersex bodies have been scrutinized and pathologized have been negative, harmful, and based, not on medical necessity but on social anxieties about marriage, heterosexuality, and the insistence on normative bodies. The prevention of homosexuality has long motivated surgical and nonsurgical sex assignment in this country, for example, and even today the use of the prenatal drug dexamethasone as a treatment for congenital adrenal hyperplasia may be linked to its deterrence (3) Those with atypical genital anatomies have had their bodies reshaped and sculpted to look (and presumably act) more typical, even though evidence suggests that many of those who have undergone such life-altering surgeries have not had more successful outcomes and happier lives than those who have avoided surgery...Some parents, though, [are] uncomfortable with the intersex label for their affected children. To them, intersex meant a third gender, something in-between male and female. They wanted to see their newborn babies as girls or boys, not as intersex. Even though intersex activists advocate raising children as girls or boys rather than in a third, in-between category, some parents found the label as frightening, off-putting, and freakish as hermaphrodite," (Reis 535).

As there is a biological definition of gender based upon the parts present and their level of functionality, human beings do not behave based upon biological parts alone. There is significant evidence that a great deal of what we define as gender-association is defined not just by the parts of the body, but by parts of the mind as well. For the trans-gendered community, the experience is often likened to being "trapped" in their own body - they have the body of a man or woman, but are absolutely convinced they are the other gender in their mind. This significantly points to a basis of determining gender on a psychological level as well.

Males and females have different brains, so when we look at the function of the brain, we can see clearly that there are male and female elements to it. So, what happens when someone's brain is male but their body is female? Isn't that a form of hermaphroditism? Perhaps. But what is more significant to this point, is that biologically, gender is not just a function of body parts, it is a reflection of identity that is manifested in the brain itself. The question as to why some individuals become overtly homosexual and some do not, why some hermaphrodites live as both male and female simultaneously (even though we have limited social and mental constructs for us to do so), why some heterosexual, gender-identified people choose to "cross-dress," are all psychological decisions made at the individual level. For hermaphrodites, "the power of the human sex drive may possibly be largely dependent on physiological factors - such as the quantity and/or quality of sex hormone secretion - the direction of this drive does not seem to be dependent on constitutional elements," (Ellis 19). Thus, when asking the question, "to whom is the hermaphrodite sexually attracted," we cannot give a clear answer. From a biological standpoint, it stands to reason that if the hermaphrodite has both sexual organs but has ovaries, then that person would likely find themselves feeling more strongly attracted to males as their estrogen levels would naturally be higher, and vice versa.

As the majority of people are biologically, socially, and psychologically attracted to members of the opposite sex, it becomes difficult to easily ascertain the answer. If "testicles naturally mean desire for women, and ovaries naturally mean desire for men," (Dreger 12) as has been the prevailing thought outside of the medical community, then that would seem to play at least some role in the sexual choices and predilections of the hermaphrodite. but, what in the case of the true hermaphrodite, with the XXXY chromosomes and both testes and ovaries? What is their biological imperative? "In a sizeable number of cases of pseudo-hermpahroditism, ambiguous people displayed desires unequivocally for beings of the same gonadal sex as themselves," (Dreger 23). This, of course, presents another confusion, if a person is a pseudo-hermaphrodite, logically they would have a generalized greater predilection toward a member of the opposite gonadal sex. As many pseudo-hermaphrodites do gravitate towards members of the opposite gonadal sex as well, there is a very real demonstration of the idea that sexual attraction is not necessarily controlled by the gonads, but by the mind. "Suppose that a biologically male person nevertheless has a brain that is partly organized in a manner more common among females. In North America, this boy would be born into a context where his predispositions and response tendencies would make him more comfortable associating with, imitating, and ultimately identifying with the people labeled girls and women. At the same time, because of his biological sex, his parents, teachers, and peers would expect him to have the predispositions and preferences of the people labeled boys and men," (Looy and Bouma III).

Sexual attraction is governed by a long list of factors: physical attraction, which is influenced by acquired tastes, perceptions of what is and is not attractive; intellectual attraction, which is often focused on conceptual stimulation; mental attraction, which is often defined as that "feeling" you get when you're attracted to someone; and spiritual attraction, to someone with whom you feel a "kinship" of mind, soul and body. The very nature of the question of attraction and sexual relations between people is one of vast ambiguity. Even though historically people have attempted to buttonhole sexuality into predictable and universal roles in society -… [END OF PREVIEW]

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