What Do Intersex and Cochlear Implant Surgeries Have in Common? Last summer we had a learning experience when we attended the American Psychological Association’s annual conference and found ourselves in the audience of an intersex workshop. Intersex refers to certain conditions that occur when someone is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to meet society’s expectations of female or male.
The Intersex Society of North America identifies five critical issues related to intersex. What we find intriguing is that if you read the links below, keeping in mind the words “Deaf” and “cochlear implant” and substituting them where appropriate, many of the points about intersex surgery resemble those made by people who are concerned about the impact of cochlear implant surgery on children.
• Intersexuality is primarily a problem of stigma and trauma, not gender.
• Parents’ distress must not be treated by surgery on the child.
• Professional mental health care is essential.
• Honest, complete disclosure is good medicine.
• All children should be assigned as male or female, without early surgery.
Examples: Physicians and other helping professionals, the media, and the general public have typically interpreted intersex as being primarily a problem of gender. Change this to: Physicians and other helping professionals, the media, and the general public have typically interpreted being Deaf as being primarily a problem of disability.
Parental distress should not be treated with “normalizing” surgery on children, nor should surgeons, endocrinologists, and other non-psycho-social specialists attempt to cover family’s counseling needs. Change this to: Parental distress should not be treated with cochlear implant surgery on children, nor should surgeons, audiologists, and other non-psycho-social specialists attempt to cover family’s counseling needs.