We've seen a few stories about transgender children who feel strongly about dressing and living as the opposite gender they were supposedly born as. But what about children with an intersex condition -- kids born with the genitalia of both genders? Who gets to decide what their gender is, and when? One couple is suing their state social services for deciding that for their adopted son when he was just a toddler.
Mark and Pam Crawford say that their son, now 8, wants to live as a boy. But before they adopted him, when he was 16 months old, South Carolina Social Services gave the child sexual reassignment surgery that made him a girl. The suit calls it "dangerous and mutilating surgery" that took away the child's right to choose his own gender.
Of course a lawsuit isn't going to undo what the state did long ago. I can't imagine how heartbreaking this has been for the Crawford family. They must be furious. But for them, this is less about rectifying their own injustice and more about making sure the state never makes this mistake again. "It's too late for my son, but we want to put other doctors on notice," Mark Crawford says.
I'm sure the state assumed the child would be easier to adopt if the gender were clearly one or the other. But still -- how could you just decide that? What criteria did they use? (At the time of the surgery, the toddler had high levels of testosterone.) I wonder if they ever contemplated the consequences of making the wrong choice? This surgery doesn't just affect the child's identity. It can affect their health and sexual life in several significant ways. The state should have known that gender identity is not necessarily determined just by your physical attributes.
And anyway, who's to say that a family wouldn't have adopted a child with an intersex condition? There are compassionate people out there who adopt children with all kinds of severe conditions and illnesses. Not enough, clearly. But still -- this is a condition that would have resolved itself with time and surgery later on. But as for the Crawfords' child, it looks like his troubles are just beginning.
Should social services have gambled with the toddler's future by giving him sexual reassignment surgery?
Image via WISTV.com