There are people born with both male and female organs (intersex) and they live amongst us. Even though we call them freaks of nature and we stigmatize them, they comprise 1.7% of all live births, reports have shown.
What is Intersex?
Hermaphroditism, also referred to as intersex, is a condition in which there is a discrepancy between the external and internal sexual and genital organs. It is grouped together with other conditions as a disorder of sex development (DSD).
Just like most sexual development disorders, hermaphroditism is caused by genetic mutations. They usually happen in the first eight weeks of pregnancy. Experts further add that there are many types of sexual development disorders, all of them rare.
Where the above may be true, Yolanda Smith, a medical expert, opines that even with the introduction of modern diagnostic methods, the cause of hermaphroditism is not able to be determined in many children.
Intersex people may be genetically female, but physiologically male. Some are true hermaphrodites, producing both eggs and sperm. This typically means that the organs on the inside are of one sex, while the organs on the outside are of another sex. For example, an intersex person might have a penis and testicles, but inside, there are ovaries and possibly a uterus.
In rarer cases, the chromosomes say a person is male or female, but the genitals say otherwise. Only occasionally do hermaphrodites actually exhibit the genitalia of both a male and a female; for example, a person might have a penis as well as a vagina. In many of these cases, the doctors aren’t sure which genitalia the person has at birth. For instance, a female might appear to have a very large clitoris, or a male might appear to have a very small penis.
Intersex in Nigeria
In Nigeria, a good number of intersex people exist but they live in hiding. Most of them who have granted interviews have done so in anonymity because of the fear of ostracization and their fear is not unfounded. Because it is very typical for Nigerians to thrash what they don’t understand, intersex people suffer.
Around the world, persons born as intersex are diagnosed early. They are assisted with gender reassignment surgeries and they go on to live productive lives. In Nigeria and some parts of Africa, however, the reverse is the case. When they are found out, they are either killed in infancy or ostracized.
It is disheartening to see that knowledge of this condition is too bitter a pill for some Nigerians to swallow. Parents of children born with it misdiagnose them or refuse to accept the condition.
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When they choose to be concerned, they add their religious sentiments. Children and even young adults with this defect are taken to churches so they can be exorcized. And so, instead of looking for ways to assist with reassignment surgeries, we spiritualize it.
Intersex people lose out on the chance and opportunity to live normal lives, go to school or even work in society. These persons grow up and find their true identity and regret all the years they have lived confused about who they truly are.
Intersex people are not homosexuals
Intersex individuals are not homosexuals; transgender maybe, but not homosexual. Wearing feminine clothing does not make one a homosexual. The homosexual orientation is one that has very little to do with physical appearance. It has more to do with emotionally connecting or sexually/romantically connecting with people of the same sex, a psychologist pointed out.
Our society is one that abhors homosexuality and it is a crime to identify as one. What most persons fail to see is that people born as intersex do not have a hand in their condition. It is not their fault. They live with the confusion of their identity for the longest time before they muster the courage to choose. It is at the point where they finally choose to live, that they are tagged and labeled homosexuals.
As a sexual orientation, homosexuality is “an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions” to people of the same sex. It “also refers to a person’s sense of identity-based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. All intersex people do when they accept reassignment surgeries is make a choice. Why? So they can fit in.
Accept, not ostracize
Early diagnosis of intersex is essential to avoid indecision and to establish the correct sex of rearing before mistakes have been made. If they are diagnosed early, we will be telling a different story.
Depending on the particular disorder and individual condition, treatment could involve surgery or hormone therapy or both. The issue of deciding the sex to assign a child when the child is discovered to be intersex is usually taken slowly. Doctors usually wait until the child is grown enough to make a decision on the sex it wishes to have, whether male or female before surgery is carried out.
Thanks to BBC AFRICA, a lot of ills in our society are beginning to come to light. The stigmatization against intersex people is beginning to receive the attention it requires.