Archives for posts with tag: The Intersex Society of North America

In class, we spoke about the Age of Gonads, followed by intersex and determining the sex of intersex children. This lead our discussion to the topic of the Intersex Society of North America. This site highlights intersex issues, and actions families may take to directly deal with their situation at hand.

After briefly talking about this site in class, I decided to follow-up this discussion by analyzing the site in order to answer questions of curiosity that occurred to me during our discussion. I found this site to be nothing but helpful, educating, and more than anything calming to those that may be dealing with an intersex situation. I found that all questions that I had about intersex were on the site with helpful solutions. A few specific questions I thought of are: What is intersex? How common is intersex? What do doctors do now when they encounter a child with intersex?

I clicked on all of these links on the side and after reading all the pages, I felt fully educated on the subject. For example, when explaining what intersex is, it gave the definition of intersex which is: “a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” It then continued to give an example of what this may mean stating that a person may look female on the exterior, but really internally they have male-typical anatomy. It also continued to explain that intersex is an inborn condition but is not always visible at birth.  I found this tab the most educating as it was the one that explained intersex and broke it down so that anybody could interpret it. It was also soothing for the INSA to state that they are open and caring and are trying to create a world free of shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries.

Next how common is intersex? The site began to breakdown the different types of intersex births followed by the probability that one would be intersex. For example, For Not xx and Not XY it said one in 1,666 births. This among many other variations is what this page consisted of.  It was based off of statics from Brown University researcher Anne Fausto-Sterling. In my eyes this page was important to include because it shows research and evidence of the rarity of the case, yet the possibility t at it can happen and if it does, it is okay.

Lastly, What do doctors do now when they encounter a patient with intersex? It states that doctors are willing to “cut now and worry about the quality of life later.” This is important, because the whole purpose of this site is to not just go ahead and do that. There is not much information or writing on this page as they state their concern and drive to implement their patient-centered model of care through visits to medical centers. Hopefully, this makes a difference for intersex people as it should be their decision.

This site fights for freedom of the intersex patients and is nothing but education and supportive to those that have this diagnosis. It gives these people hope and knowledge when dealing with their situation so they are able to make the best decision in what they want to do regarding their sex. This site is helpful, and whoever started it is a very smart person, as they have helped many people.

-C. Praljak

Reading Alice Dreger’s book, Hermaphrodites, and her discussion of memoirs from Herculine Barbin, was very eye opening to me and made me realize the struggles and obstacles that intersex individuals had to overcome, and still have to overcome, within society.

While watching the puppet show about the memoirs of Herculine Barbin, I knew that Barbin wasn’t going to be very well received by the public. But what surprised me was the scene in which Barbin was figuratively placed in a Petri dish, and being pointed at, taunted, and examined by various physicians and medical professionals. This was significant for me because it brought to my attention that intersex individuals were very rarely treated like actual human beings. Instead, they are put into Petri dishes and are looked at as a scientific specimen that needs to be examined, and classified.

The process of looking at intersex bodies and classifying them proved to be a difficult task for physicians to accomplish in Dreger’s book. Physicians simply did not know what they were looking at when analyzing the tissue of intersex bodies. Instead of thinking as intersex individuals as a possible third sex, physicians continued to think in dimorphic matter and would ultimately determine their sex based on whether the individual’s genitalia were composed of ovarian tissue, or testicular tissue.

In addition to reading Dreger’s book, I also spent some time exploring the website for the Intersex Society of North America. The entire website is very informative and clearly defines their goals and purposes, but I found a lot of interesting debates and questions on the Frequently Asked Questions section of the site. I found the discussion of handling intersex children to be the most interesting, because those situations need careful thought and care, especially on the parents’ part, and the doctors. But no matter what is decided by the child’s parents, it is the duty of the parents to ensure that their child is raised in such an environment that is not hostile, and that won’t draw attention to the child’s differences.

-Aubrey Merrell

In other classes I’ve read about Cheryl Chase and the group she created, the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA). However, I know little about the organization or why a new organization was created, the Accord Alliance. So, this week I wanna talk about the ISNA, Accord Alliance, and support groups for intersex individuals.

In Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, Dreger argues that some intersex patients were angry because they were not offered psychological support (200). They, and their families, had to deal with their feelings on their own (200).  Many were happy just to find out that they were not alone and not “freaks” (201).

When I googled ‘Intersex support groups’ the first thing that popped up was Chase’s group, the Intersex Society of North America. Their mission is:

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.

We have learned from listening to individuals and families dealing with intersex that:

  • Intersexuality is primarily a problem of stigma and trauma, not gender.
  • Parents’ distress must not be treated by surgery on the child.
  • Professional mental health care is essential.
  • Honest, complete disclosure is good medicine.
  • All children should be assigned as boy or girl, without early surgery.

ISNA seems to be a hub of information for intersex individuals. Besides their mission, the website offers the history of the group as well as some of the positive changes that have happened. For example, there has been a new standard of care created that is more patient centered, avoids misleading language, and is more cautious about surgery. The website also offers A LOT of information about law, such as how to contact Advocates for Informed Choice, as well as information about the law and sex reassignment and the rulings of recent court cases. The website offers a lot of books, videos, and bibliographies about and for intersex (or DSD) individuals.

ISNA also offers a lot of links to specific support groups, such as:

  • Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
  • General Intersex Information/Groups
  • Hypospadias
  • Klinefelter Syndrome
  • Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser Syndrome
  • Mosaic Turner’s Syndrome
  • Other Resources
  • Other Support Groups
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Testicular Dysgenesis
  • Transgender
  • Turner Syndrome
  • XXYY

ISNA is not the only website offering resources and help to intersex individuals. There is also the Organization Intersex International ,Accord Alliance, blogs by individuals such as The Intersex Roadhouse, and many other websites.

However, what exactly is Accord Alliance? Accord Alliance was created in 2008 by ISNA and is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to improving DSD health care. It is comprised of health care and advocacy professionals. So, ISNA is no longer in opperation, it is now Accord Alliance. However, the ISNA website still exists and continues to be an invaluable source of information for intersex individuals and their families.

By Kristy Wilson