My own research into many sites, information is pieced together

A term referring to a person that belongs to both sexes (intersexual).

True hermaphroditism requires the presence of both ovarian (female) and testicular (male) reproductive tissue and is relatively rare and poorly understood. Pseudohermaphroditism is more common and from a medical standpoint. Hermaphroditism suggests two factors:

  • Ambiguous external genitalia
  • Genitalia that may not match the genetic make-up of the person (e.g.: female genitalia in an XY, genetically male individual)

    The following conditions can produce ambiguous genitalia and hermaphroditism:

  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Fetal exposure to progestins or androgens
  • Testicular feminization syndrome
  • XY gonadal dysgenesis
  • XY gonadal agenesis
  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Cryptophthalmos
  • Smith-Lemli-Opitz
  • 4p syndrome
  • 13q syndrome

    Symptoms

  • Ambiguous genitalia at birth
  • Unusual appearing genitalia at birth

    Early assignment of the sex is important for the emotional well being of the person. In large part, the decision is based on the corrective potential of the ambiguous genitalia, rather than on chromosomal determinants. Once the decision is made regarding sex, from that point on there should be no question in the family's mind regarding the sex of the child.

    Corrective surgery is used to reconstruct the external genitalia. In general, it is easier to reconstruct female genitalia than male genitalia, and the ease of reconstruction will play a role in the determination of sex.

    With corrective surgery, the appearance of external genitalia may appear normal, but other problems such as virilization may appear later.

  • Early assignment of the sex is important for the emotional well being of the person. In large part, the decision is based on the corrective potential of the ambiguous genitalia, rather than on chromosomal determinants. Once the decision is made regarding sex, from that point on there should be no question in the family's mind regarding the sex of the child.

    I must take objection to this statement. I realize that DMan is just reporting what is, at least in some areas, accepted practice and belief, so this isn't directed at him.

    But the idea that it is better for the child to perform immediate correction of the genitals has been in debate, especially recently. There is much evidence that the gender of a person is not just a social construct, that parents can't just make a child into a boy or girl. Just because it is easier for a doctor to make the child appear to be a certain sex doesn't mean the child will normally develop as that sex.

    Rates of gender identity disorder among intersexed people are very high, and there are societies to support the intersexed because of various problems resulting from it. There are a growing number of people that consider "corrective surgery" to be more along the lines of genital mutilation.

    True, the child will have problems in society if they are in an uncertain state, but that's not the child's problem, it's society and it's attempt to classify each person as either male or female with no room for anything inbetween.

    I back Saige on this one.
    It appears that besides the importance of environment and personal choice, biology has a lot to do with the way we behave. While a fetus develops, there are also brain cells that respond to testosterone, changing development patterns (this is actually technically incorrect - they respond to estrogen, but estrogen can't reach them and there's a whole cyclic thing…). While certain development disorders prevent the creation or totally prevent the reception of male hormones in XY humans, others just prevent some of the effects. Specifically, Persistent Mullerian Duct Syndrome is characterized by the im-prevention of the development of the Mullerian system (duh!) - the female genitalia, but does not prevent masculinization of different brain areas. Whom we desire (if any) is partially our choice, but may be partially dictated by our biology, and not only by which organs we see when we grow up.
    hermaphroditism: having genital attributes of both sexes [from Greek, Hermes and Aphrodite, god and goddess of love]. Some invertebrates are simultaneous hermaphrodites, and some fish are sequential hermaphrodites that change from male to female, or vice versa, once or more often in the course of a lifetime. In the human species, hermaphroditism is a form of birth defect, also known as intersexuality. It is defined as male or female hermaphroditism, if only testes or ovaries are present, respectively; as true hermaphroditism if both tissues are found as in ovotestes, and as gonadally dysgenic [dysgenetic?] when neither tissue is clearly differentiated. Human hermaphrodites do not have the complete sex organs of both sexes. A congenital condition of ambiguity of the reproductive structures so that the sex of the individual at birth is not clearly defined as exclusively male or exclusively female. The condition is named for Hermes and Aphrodite, the Greek god and goddess of love. See also pseudohermaphroditism.

    Dictionary of Sexology Project: Main Index

    Her*maph"ro*dit*ism (?), n. Biol.

    The union of the two sexes in the same individual, or the combination of some of their characteristics or organs in one individual.

     

    © Webster 1913.

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