Chuck Shepard writes the syndicated newspaper feature “News of the Weird,” which is published by at least 250 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.
Dear Chuck Shepard,
You know what’s really weird, Chuck? The term “hermaphrodite” hasn’t been used by informed pediatric endocrinologists or other experts in years, yet you’re still using it in your weekly column. The correct term is “disorders of sex development,” which includes the category “intersex,” an umbrella term that covers many different conditions and is sometimes used to refer to the condition of having a sex anatomy not considered standard for a male or a female. Experts estimate that about 1in 2500 live births result in cases in which physicians are unsure which gender to assign at birth. Yet in your column, this is still seen as abnormal, and, apparently, something to make fun of.
Thousands of babies and children each year are subjected to surgery to “correct” their genitalia. Healthy infants with “micropenises” and clitorises deemed “too large” have these functioning parts of their bodies removed or reduced, simply because the adults in charge want these babies to look “normal.” Obviously many of these children grow into adolescents and adults who suffer from identity problems, sexual dysfunction including inability to have orgasms, and difficulty trusting their parents, medical professionals and other authority figures. Yes, some of these adults appear to be fodder for your column because they behave strangely – but wouldn’t you if your penis had been removed in the first year of your life?
Please do everyone a favor, Chuck: read the website of Accord Alliance (http://www.accordalliance.org/) and the former Intersex Society of North America (http://www.isna.org/) and educate yourself. As a syndicated columnist whose work is published in hundreds of newspapers, you have a responsibility to not disseminate more uninformed, hurtful information about a group of people already suffering. You wouldn’t make fun of people of color, women, or gay, lesbian, or bisexual people. It’s long past time you stopped making fun of intersex and transgender people.