Atheists Talk TV Program Review: May 2013
By Steve Petersen
For the first part of the show, Dr. Sharon Preves, sociologist and professor, discussed her research of intersex individuals. Sharon first defined terms, such as “intersex,” “hermaphrodite,” and “transgender,” then explained how and why she became involved in this research. Sharon next explained the cause for negative stigma of intersex individuals, including the religious views of people who do not fit easily into the male/female binary. Sharon noted the strong drive that society has to pigeonhole everyone – even fetuses – into one of two genders. She discussed the evolution of outlying conditions in Western civilization: from sin, to crime, to medicalization. Sharon then explained the excessive intrusion of the medical world and its treatment of intersexuality as an emergency requiring “correction.”
During the second half of the show, Sharon further detailed the medicalization of conditions that do not, normally, require medical intervention, including intersex infants and childbirth itself. Sharon compared the unnecessary interventions into intersexed individuals’ bodies with circumcision, and she then discussed the emotional ramifications on the patients. Many felt guilt, shame, and even fear. Some grew up convinced they had been born with a disease so terrible that no one – not even their parents or doctors – would discuss it openly. Sharon next cited recent gains in the rights of those born intersexed, and listed ways they have found healing, such as through support groups. Sharon also provided the example of an intersex teenager who was instructed to pray that she become fully female. Sharon concluded by offering several resources, including her own book, Intersex and Identity. James Zimmerman hosted both halves.
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