Female Genital Integrity | Intersex Genital Integrity | Male Genital Integrity
When Students for Genital Integrity refers to Male and Female genital integrity, we refer not to the shape of the genitals, but to the gender and social role that society has placed upon the person. This is partly due to the fact that circumcision and other types of forced genital cuttings are abuses based on gender, and that gender roles are almost always assigned by the way genitals look. In other words SGI believes that the penis/scrotum and the clitoris/vagina do not create the gender roles of "male" and "female" because of some inherently biological force but that society creates them and enforces them. SGI aims to protect the genitals of any person regardless of the gender that society has placed upon them.
Intersex genital integrity however focuses on the genital appearance or sex, because historically, medical science has used genital appearance to determine gender roles and often, these individuals with abiguous genitals have received much of society's abuse and hate. Because the genitals of some individuals do not fit the stereotypical genital standards for male or female, society has no easy way to define their gender and therefore no way to give them gender roles. In North America (and correct us if we are wrong), approximately 1 in 2000 children are born with ambiguous genitals (no clear penis/scrotum or clitoris/vagina). Some organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics consider this phenomenon a "crisis," not for the child, but for society! (See more at the AAP's web site on intersex policy). This "crisis" stems from North American society's inability to assign a gender role to an intersex child whose gender, according to society, should be based on genital appearance. Therefore intersex genital integrity pertains to individuals whose genitals do not conform to stereotypical male or female standards.
Since the 1960's, it has been routine for surgery to be practiced on intersex children. Society has often considered their genital appearance to be a "defect." Only those who conform to a binary system of male or female genitals and gender are considered normal to the North American heteronormative standards. Intersex children just like all other children, are assigned a gender, male or female. Surgery is then performed in order to make the genitals look more like the standard male or female (usually the latter). Interestingly, this process of dichotomized gendering puts intersex genital integrity squarely into the realms of male or female genital integrity because the child is now called "male" or "female" while their genitals are made to conform to what heteronormative society defines as "authentically" male or female.
For instance, to make an intersex child authentically "female" she is forced to endure surgeries that make her body conform to the gender roles heteronormative society says she should be able to perform. Often the "success" of a surgery is measured on whether or not her reformed genitals can "achieve" penile/vaginal intercourse! The success has nothing to do with the personal well-being and/or happiness of the patient. Instead, many intersex individuals suffer from stigma, feelings of sexual abuse, scarring and numbing of their body, anger, and depression among other difficulties.
SGI agrees with the Intersex Society of North America and their compassionate "patient-centered" medical plans for intersex infants. Conservative medical treatment, meaning as little surgery as possible, should be pursued only for health reasons, such as a blocked urethra. A gender should be assigned, but genital appearance should not be changed. If society has a problem with a person's genital appearance, then change society, not the child. SGI believes that the responsibility for bodily decisions and any choices for or against surgery should be made by the patient when in a fully aware, informed, and consenting state.
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Copyright © 2004 Students for Genital Integrity
*Genital Integrity ribbon is Copyright © 1998-2003 NOHARMM Tim Hammond
No information within the StudentsForGenitalIntegrity.org domain is meant as,
or should replace, medical advice. However, many health care providers
know little about foreskin function and "ambiguous" genital care due to pandemic
North American ignorance and false information regarding "male" and intersex child
genital anatomy and its development. For a list of knowledgeable health care
providers in your area write to info@StudentsForGenitalIntegrity.org
or visit www.NOCIRC.org.
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