"The unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates

- - scatterings of ideas sent to my younger self, a sensitive girl who was fooled into believing she was a boy because of anatomy - -

Saturday 3 July 2010

Becoming Normal

nor·mal (nôr′məl)
1. conforming with or constituting an accepted standard, model, or pattern; esp., corresponding to the median or average of a large group in type, appearance, achievement, function, development, etc.; natural; usual; standard; regular (yourdictionary dot com)

If a medical ‘solution’ that could head off the development of gender dysphoria was developed and could be injected into each fetus, that would be a wonderful thing, right? As strange as this will seem given our difficulties, and how much noise I have made here about them, I must say my answer is a resounding NO.
Let me explain, if I can.

This past Thursday, Helen posted “Breeding Out Tomboys” in en|Gender, about what she sees as a very disturbing development in the world of medical intervention.
Dr. Maria New, an endocrinologist, has developed a “cheap and easy” treatment for Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH), a disease of the adrenal gland.

Here’s some background information:
From the New York Times article “A Culprit in Infertility, Overlooked Yet Treatable” published July 2009: “C.A.H. —(is) a hormone deficiency that leads to excess production of androgens. In women it can interfere with ovulation; in men it can cause low sperm count. In addition, it can lead to short stature, body odor, acne, irregular menstruation and the excessive hair growth called hirsutism.
Quoting from the Health-Cares dot net website, “CAH, a genetic disorder, is the most common adrenal gland disorder in infants and children, occurring in one in 10,000 total births worldwide. It affects both females and males. It is also called adrenogenital syndrome.”…“In its most severe form, called salt-wasting CAH, a life-threatening adrenal crisis can occur if the disorder is untreated. Adrenal crisis can cause dehydration, shock, and death within 14 days of birth. There is also a mild form of CAH that occurs later in childhood or young adult life in which patients have partial enzyme deficiency.”..” the enzyme that produces two important adrenal steroid hormones, cortisol and aldosterone, is deficient. Because cortisol production is impeded, the adrenal gland instead overproduces androgens (male steroid hormones). Females with CAH are born with an enlarged clitoris and normal internal reproductive tract structures..”…

So, is what they are talking about there in fact a treatment to prevent a little girl from being a lesbian? I really do not know. Some are taking it that way, and it sounds like they have a good argument for that belief.

Being trans is very difficult, but as we know, all life is difficult, mysterious and unpredictable. The Buddha said that a long time ago.
When somebody tells me they have a way to make the lives of people with *abnormalities* ‘better’ or more *normal*, my ears start twitching. The message is ‘danger nearby; be ready to flee!’ Since the human genome project, more advances are being made all of the time. There are many ‘conditions’ that may come to be treated. The question is, how domesticated (normal) should the human population become through the application of simple, low cost pre-natal ‘remedies’. Who gets to police what preventatives are for really ‘good’ reasons and which ones are simply part of a plan, conscious or not, to make a ‘homogenized human race’?

If you have been reading here for a while, or if you would care to look back a bit, you will remember that my philosophy is that we need to work with what we have. We need to reflect on who we are, and who we would like to be, and find ways to take ourselves from here to there. Emphasis on take ourselves. Sure we need help along the way to understanding. Sure we need support. We do not need an unknown hand stepping in to make us all the same… all ‘normal’ before we even start our lives.

Oh Halle, you say, you are over-reacting to this. All the good doctor and others want to do is to eliminate a nasty genetic defect that kills some and makes life difficult for others.

Folks, we are the result of generations of genetic defects; a process called evolution. There is no telling where this amazing genetic experiment called life might lead. My children might be part of a chain that leads to a wonderful future, or not. That is the beauty of unstructured life and struggle.

So you are going to tell me that if it were my child who might die because of this defect, I would sing a different tune. Well, yes my child ‘bearing’ years are gone, but I hope to have grandchildren someday. I hope they are unique. The very thought of those lives being made 'normal' and boring like some dairy cow makes my blood boil, and it should yours too.

If anybody said the world would be better off if only we could eliminate this or that kind of person, you would be horrified I hope. So be horrified, because in the long run, that is really what this sort of ‘treatment’ will come to be about.

Please, let’s not allow the human race to become 'normal'.



  1. Halle,

    This was beautiful. I've said many times that if someone could have made me a "normal boy" it would have been like altering my soul. It just isn't cool to mess with people's identity all willy-nilly. As you say, when it's a true health issue, fine, but when it's in the pursuit of "normal" or "ideal" or even "inoffensive," then NO WAY!

    Thank you for your beautiful writing...


  2. I've often thought about this. If only I could have been born "normal", wouldn't my life have been so much easier? Well, maybe it would have, but would it have made me a better person? I think in some ways, growing up trans has made me a more empathetic person.

    Nice post Halle!

    Melissa XX

  3. It made us different, and yes, I think better human beings; kinder and more empathetic. I knew what 'real men' were like as a young person, and I hated them for being that way. No way I could have accepted the idea of becoming callous and ignorant of the feelings of those around me in order to 'pass' as a tough guy. Strangely, it never occurred to me that I might not be a guy at all.

  4. I've been seeing many links to the story about CAH, most of which repeat the same information. At this point, I'm not sure what to think.

    As for "normal," I think we're a long way from being able to impose that. There are far too many variables to deal with at this point.

    If it had been possible to alter me in utero so that I would have been born cissexual, I don't think that's monstrous. I have no belief in souls. As far as I'm concerned, "me," my personality, is the result of my genes and how they are or are not expressed due to environmental factors. I don't really have a personality until I'm born.

    But if such a thing had been possible, I would be a different person now. My basic personality would be different, and since I wouldn't know any other way to be, that would be OK. However, given how I actually am, I would prefer that it had been possible to change the development of my body. :) For all my flaws, I like who I am.

    Excellent questions, Halle, and much to think about.

  5. Advocates for Informed Choice is a non-profit organization advocating for the legal and human rights of children with intersex conditions or differences of sex development, like the ones in this story. We work in collaboration with bioethicists, doctors, parents, affected adults, and many others. If you are interested in taking action to help protect these children, and to be sure that possible human rights violations are investigated, please join our Facebook page at http://ow.ly/20wTY or sign up for our Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/aiclegal. You can also donate to support our work at http://aiclegal.org/we-need-your-support

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