One would expect that hermaphrodism during the time period in which Dreger writes would cause major societal rifts and would be even more controversial than it is now. However, if the subject is thought about clearly for any amount of time, it would seem as if society has made no substantial progress in the acceptance of this anomaly. Of course, we have made many technological and biological advancements that help people better understand how and why this condition can occur, but it is still very much a taboo subject. Today, it is my understanding that most children born with both sets of genitalia almost always undergo corrective surgery if it is financially and physically possible, but why? It is because contemporary society has yet to accept this specific bodily phenomena as it has others. This is most likely due to the extreme emphasis we put on issues of sex and gender. Sexual topics, such as gay marriage and gay rights, are huge points of political controversy because they challenge the deeply ingrained heterosexual norm. Therefore, an instance in which an individual physically displays characteristics of both sexes is in direct opposition to every existing perception of what we consider a man and a woman.

It is true that stories of hermaphodism or pseudo-hermaphrodism are rarely talked about in the news or other media outlets. The few cases that I have learned about have been in my medical sciences and biology classes and have involved individuals in far-off countries. Surely there have been more cases of hermaphrodism than those I have learned about, so why hasn’t anyone ever heard of them? Brown University researcher Anne Fausto-Sterling estimated that the total number of people receiving surgery to “normalize” genital appearance was 1 in every 1,000 births (http://www.isna.org/faq/frequency). This estimation is probably considerably higher than what most of us estimated, and it is doubtful that there is a precise number because of the frequency of unreported cases. However, if we take that number as being true, genital variation and hermaphrodism is way more common than society lets on. Therefore, we must ask ourselves the question as to why this is still such a controversial subject in our society, even after all of the progress we have made regarding other topics of sex and gender.

-Meredith Light

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