11th EMBL/EMBO Conference, November 6, 2010    --> Open Letter

Human Rights for Hermaphrodites too!In the first seven weeks in the womb, all of us were hermaphrodites, equipped with rudimentary ovaries and testicles, and 100% "ambiguous" genitals. Only thereafter "sexual development" kicks in an we begin to divide physically, usually (but not always) the XXs into girls and XYs into boys—and about 0.2% of us physically deloping into something of both or inbetween.

The term "Hermaphrodite" stems from Greek mythology, the tale of Hermaphroditos, reluctant son of Hermes and Aphrodite, and enamoured nymph Salmacis, two originally distinct persons forcibly rolled into one body because of unrequited love, a tragic male-female hybrid cursing the world to bear more of its kind.

Commonly used as a derogatory and offensive term, "Hermaphrodite" is recently being reclaimed with pride by individuals and advocacy groups alike. However, many prefer the terms "intersex" or "intersexed" (to avoid conflation with "heterosexual", "homosexual", "transsexual" etc.).

In medicine, "Hermaphroditism" was official nomenclature until after World War II, followed by "Intersex". The current medical term "Disorders of Sex Development DSD" is opposed by the vast majority of "patients"—they refuse to be considered and treated as "disordered". Proposals to exchange "Disorders" for "Differences" or "Variations" were ignored by the medical establishment.

Since the late 1950s, medical guidelines around the globe recommend "Hermaphrodites/Intersexed/DSD patients" to be surgically "corrected" preferably within the first 18 months of their lives. According to the classic surgeons' motto "It's easier to dig a hole than to build a pole", most of them are "made to girls", although in the meantime urologists increasingly indulge in the "challenge" of "masculinization".

Today, according to studies by the mutilators themselves, at least 90% of the population born with "indeterminate" or otherwise "unusual" physical "sex markers" were (and still are!) submitted to on average multiple medically unnecessary genital surgeries starting in early childhood, resulting in appallingly high risk of lifelong loss of genital sensation, physical pain and massive psychological traumata.

For two decades now, hermaphrodites are fighting against forced "corrective" genital surgery without informed consent, denouncing them as "Western Form of Genital Mutilation", and are demanding "Human Rights for Hermaphrodites, too!"