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The Forum > General Discussion > Intersexuality and The Third Gender

Intersexuality and The Third Gender

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I made this post in another forum, but thought it might be appropriate here.
This is my first thread on here so I would appreciate constructive criticism rather than flaming if you feel it is not suitable.

There has been a bit of focus in the news recently about issues of the Third Gender, with Laos recognising transgender members of the population as being at the highest risk of HIV.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8091764.stm

Also a school in Thailand has installed toilets specifically for transgender students, which has prompted debate if this practice should be repeated around the country. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7529227.stm

Innes Brown has written an opinion piece about the personal and societal function of sex change operations from a feminist perspective.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6923912.stm
At the core of the argument is the debate over the presence of innate qualities of being male or female? Or if the differences are entirely socialised?. Then, if innate qualities exist, can this be changed through a medical process? Is this another example of the over medicalising of society?
Are the people who choose to undergo sex change operations being exploited by the medical industry?

I am inclined towards the position that the presence of people who undergo sex change operations is more a reflection of the limited and binary gender categories most society's pressure their population into. By not allowing for a socially accepted grey area between male and female, society pushes those in the middle to take clearly defined sides, leaving the desire for some people to experience some or all elements of the opposing gender unfulfilled.
That being said I have no idea how a society that accepted the third gender would differentiate, would it simply mean another category of toilets available?

Discuss.
Posted by frankiefiver, Tuesday, 23 June 2009 4:26:40 PM
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Hey Frankiefiver, at a practical level I would say no to different toilets. These people can make that choice too. All schools should have private stalls etc. Where do the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transexual/gender kids go now?

I have had a friend change gender on me, housewife with four grown children who is now a man. Okay as close as possible with one non-working essential. Besides the choice being a complete initial surprise I supported my friends change.

I have also known two young boys in my life that from the time they could walk and talk were more than obviously born in to the wrong body. I looked it up once and sometimes there is a real hormone imbalance etc. But I guess the point is sometimes there isnít or science has worked it out.

Society might have to stop looking at everyone who isnít an identical twin funny... oh except those with body dismorphic disorder.

Frankie you have just given me my first headache of the day.
Posted by The Pied Piper, Tuesday, 23 June 2009 6:39:05 PM
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Dear Frankie,

It seems that our society tends to catagorise
children at birth into male or female - the
first question that's asked when a baby is
born is, "Is it a boy or a girl?"
No one asks - "Is it an it?" There doesn't
appear to be a neutral sex.

And yet according to surveys over 2 million
people worldwide (one out of every 2000 - 4000
babies born), the gender line is blurred.

As David Bowie expressed - (Rebel Rebel) -
"You've got your mother in a whirl,
Cause she's not sure
If you're a boy or a girl."

It would be great if people could simply be
accepted for who they are - but I think realistically
that's quite a long way off yet. Look at the problems
that anyone who's considered 'different,' to the
accepted 'norm,' faces. Be they Gay, Lesbian, Transgender,
Black, Brown,Yellow - you name it. It would be great
if gender wasn't important - and children could decide
what suited them best later on in life.

At present - that's not an option.

But we as a society - could work on it, if enough
people supported the cause.
Posted by Foxy, Tuesday, 23 June 2009 10:19:56 PM
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Thank you both for your replies!

For the purpose of this discussion I will define and make the distinction between 'sex' and 'gender'.
Sex being the physically defining characteristics ie male or female genitalia, or in some cases both. It is worth noting that even between the two widely accepted categories of male and female there is some grey area.
Gender being the socially constructed roles that are played within society. Roles that are generally accepted as attributed to one sex or another.

Att; Pied Piper.
I think it is interesting that you chose to use the words "Born into the wrong body" in regards to the two boys.
I am of the opinion that it is impossible to be born into the 'wrong' body. I think it is logical to say that people can only be born into their own body. Modifications are possible, and people can also be mentally altered through higher or lower doses of particular chemicals, in this case it would be hormones. However, I feel essentially the person is the same person regardless of modification.

I see your description of the boys as an example of societies inability to comfortably acknowledge anything outside of the two main gender roles. Judith Butler coined the term 'Gender performativity', which roughly means the kind of behaviour that can be comfortably characterized as male or female.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_performativity
I feel that your description can be explained through the behaviour of the boys not fitting your (and others) gender performative expectations.

Att; Foxy
I agree with you that as a society we could work on recognizing a third gender. We have made huge strides towards greater acceptance and understanding about people with disabilities. Including many changes in the physical spaces we inhabit. An example of this would be wheel chair access at most train stations.
I fail to see how further gender recognition is any different.
Posted by frankiefiver, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 2:39:32 AM
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If you want a Third Gender then it needs to socially sustainable. Will the value sets be around in 2-3 generations. This is a point alluding to demographics.

In regards to sex-change operations the medical mandate them is compassion. The only other medical procedure justified on these grounds, other than exceptions to my knowledge is the frontal-lobotomy. Surprising despite glowing testimonies the psychological symptoms seem to be persisting. Thus the jury is out. However seeing it changed seems dubious considering the proliferation of plastic surgery.

On the Gender/Sex neurology is showing that there are some differences between male and female. Whether these transfer over to gender identity issues I am unsure.
Posted by Ancient Philosopher, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 4:39:27 AM
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A gay collegue of mine once quipped, "My parents had three children, one of each."

However, this begs a practical question, how do you define the third gender?

I had always thought that most people incl gays and transgender generally had one gender preference. The separation into male, female and others could be seen as discrimination, and could lead to multiple "genders" ie Male->female, Female->male, transvestite etc.

I can hardly see councils building six sets of ablutions.
Posted by Shadow Minister, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 8:26:28 AM
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