Instead of the parents advocating for a surgical alteration of the infants genitalia, emphasis should be laid on counseling the parent and the infant in the early developmental years. This counseling is supposed to empower the child to make informed decisions later as concerns genital alteration and gender preference. With the child having the opportunity to choose the preferred sex in life, the possibility of psychological trauma is minimized.
Even though the society may embrace intersex communities now, it is never known whether a later society may embrace a third sex, intersex condition. It would not be a surprise for the society to change its perception of intersexed individuals from the current “damaged goods” view requiring correction to an accommodating view. Furthermore, it has been established that intersex children who fail to alter their condition often adjust well to the condition (Baur & Crooks, 2007).
This therefore questions strongly the role of the parent in selecting a gender for the child and subsequent surgical alteration. It is unfair for parents to subject infants to a certain gender in order to ease their own psychological trauma. Switzer (2005) identifies that parents who give birth to intersexes experience severe trauma especially due to the society’s negative perception towards persons with ambiguous sex.
In addition, parents may also worry that they will experience difficulties explaining to the child about the ambiguity later in life thus exacerbating shame and alienation from the society not to mention the likelihood of a parent distancing himself or herself from the intersex child. As such, parents of intersex children easily consent to doctors’ opinions to have intersex alteration. By parents advocating for the genitalia of their intersex children to be altered, they display an intolerance notion towards their children’s sex and gender identity.
In this scenario, the wellbeing of the child is almost completely ignored while paying greater attention to the parent’s wellbeing. Were parents to be mindful of their children’s rights and welfare, they would consider the urgency of the case as well as the autonomy of the child at some point in the child’s life. Instead of performing the surgical alteration, it would be better to offer psychological support to the parent and the developing child up to a point where the child is able to choose the preferred gender.
A comprehensive understanding of how and when gender identity develops forms a good basis for arguing that parents should not surgically alter intersex infants. Despite the subject of nature and nurture being quite controversial, it has now been acknowledged that a person’s biology is a dominant determinant of gender identity. As at birth, the brain bears a forthcoming gender identity which develops as the individual develops and it reaches maturity during puberty due to influence of hormones.
This implies that a child is born with psychological differentiation which cannot always be correctly altered by surgical alteration and gender assignment since the individual ultimately identifies with the correct gender. As such, an incorrect gender assignment cannot be ruled out as evidenced by previous cases. A notable instance is the first gender assignment by Dr. Money who surgically altered a boy’s genitalia to a girl’s genitalia only for the baby boy to completely fail to identify with the assigned female gender (Beh & Diamond, 2000).
For this reason, parents should let intersex infants to grow old enough to identify their gender and then perform surgical alteration. As much as the autonomy of the intersex is supposed to be respected in the choice of surgical intervention and gender assignment, the instance of infant intersexes is impractical. It is obvious that intersex infants are too young to make any competent decision regarding gender preference and thus the parents remain as the surrogate decision makers. It is therefore correct to assume that parents who choose to have their intersex infants surgically altered do so to the best interest of the child.
In any case, the parent consults thoroughly with doctors on the infant’s condition and the most viable option to correct the situation. This argument is however unsubstantial considering that an earlier discussion has identified that surgical alteration is associated with gender identity crisis later due to wrong gender classification. Furthermore, there exists the option of allowing the child to grow to a stage where it is possible to make an informed decision on whether to have genital-alteration or not.
This therefore questions the role of the parent in making decisions on behalf of the intersex infant. In fact, going by the evidence of the psychological distress in children who had altered genitalia and forced gender assignment it is only wise to leave the decision to the affected child. Efforts should be geared towards informing the child and the parent through counseling on how to attend to the distressing situation while leaving decision making entirely to the intersex.