Social Science Genital Surgeries Worksheet

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Mani was subjected to genital surgeries at an early age. Mani talked of a life filled with difficulties and considering suicide; but Mani also discusses finding a path to healing, reconciliation, and service. Mani made the choice to identity as an adult with an intersex condition, with neither a sense of being male nor female. Mani takes joy in life, inspires people and reaches out to other individuals with intersex conditions, and through these relationships we also have the chance to hear the stories of other intersex adults.

Bo Laurent(birth name is Cheryl Chase), an adult with an intersex condition and the founder of the ISNA, says that doctors and parents ruined her sexual function, which has been incredibly emotionally and mentally painful to her. She also said her parents and doctors thought that her very existence would be painful and needed to be changed. She was unable to speak about her condition and these events until she was 35.

One proponent of “genital normalizing surgery” is a surgeon who believes it is best to operate on children’s genitals before 15 months of age, even when no medical necessity exists (like having a clitoris that is “bigger than normal”). He says this is important, in part, so that parents can accept the child’s gender assignment.

1. Do you think it is more important to have genitals that look like standard male or female genitals or genitals that provide basic function and pleasure? Why?

2. Whose interests, the child or parent’s, are more important regarding “genital normalizing surgery,” and “optimum gender of rearing?” Explain your decision.

3. “Genital Normalizing Surgery” has been thought to correct abnormal genitals. Genitals and, as a consequence, gender were assigned that may not align with the individual’s chromosomes. How did this affect the individuals in the documentary? Use specific examples from the documentary.

4. Why do you think these surgeries have persisted despite the consequences to sexual function and considering the fact that no Intersex people – as of yet ­­- have come forward stating their appreciation for the genitals they were “given?”

5. Mani says it took over 40 years to self-identify as an intersex person. What might this extraordinary amount of time and struggle suggest about being an intersex person?

6. There is intense anger expressed by Heidi Walcutt, the woman who said that she would like to take a rusty knife and cut off doctors’ penises and then ask them how they feel. What does this anger suggest about traditional treatment of people who are intersex?

7. Mani and some of the other Intersex people said they grew up believing they were they only people in the world with “different” genitalia. In the documentary, they all stated the importance of knowing that there are others like them. What were some of the negative consequences faced by the individuals due the silence surrounding Intersex and/or their being Intersex was kept a secret – also known as the “concealment centered model of care”?

8. Pick one of the individual’s stories that impacted you in some way, explain why it made an impact.

9. Do a search for an intersex on YouTube – find a story, or stories – what was/is the person(s) story? What were/are their experiences with being intersex, what medical interventions have they had – was it their decision or someone else’s and how did they feel about it? Share anything else you would like.

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