A Voice for Intersexual Infants: The Case of M.C

BY JANE HOPPEN

      My debut novel, In Between,In Between 300 DPI and my novella, The Man Who Was Not, both have main characters who were born intersexual. Sophie Schmidt, of In Between, was born in the early sixties, at the time when doctors had obtained the ability to perform gender reassignment surgery on infants. After being pressured by the doctors, Sophie’s parents allowed them to perform surgery on her five days after birth to make her as much of a girl as possible. Stephen Hyde, of The Man Who Was Not, The Man Who Was Notwas born as an intersexual in the mid-1800s, at a time when the intersexual condition was not even recognized. Stephen’s biology was both male and female, and he lived as a man for the first part of his life and as a woman for the second.

I have grown to have great passion for the subject of intersexuality and for the struggles of people who are born intersexual; thus, I have taken particular interest in the first lawsuit to be filed in the United States against the South Carolina Department of Social Services, the Greenville Hospital System, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the doctors who performed gender reassignment surgery on a 16-month-old infant known as M.C. The lawsuit was filed by the Advocates for Informed Choice, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and pro bono counselors from two private law firms on behalf of M.C.’s adoptive parents on May 14th, 2013. When the defendants proposed a motion to dismiss the case, the U.S. District Judge of the South Carolina Charleston Division, David C. Norton, denied the motion after oral arguments were made on August 22, 2013.

At birth M.C. could not easily be labeled as male or female, and the doctors labeled the baby as a “true hermaphrodite.” After that determination, the doctors removed a completely healthy phallus and testes, rendering the baby as “female.” The lawsuit, which was filed in both state and federal courts, states that it was a violation of the U.S. Constitution for the doctors who were working for the state to surgically remove the healthy genitals, not knowing if M.C. would grow up to identify as a man or a woman. At age eight, M.C. identifies himself as a boy, though he no longer possesses his male genitalia.

The importance of this case is paramount, as it is about ensuring the safety of children who have no voice, since no one advocated for M.C. when he was an infant in the South Carolina Social Services System. The case also will be the first attempt at putting an end to the sex assignment surgeries that have been performed on intersexual infants in the United States since the 1950s. We’re not talking about just a few infants, as it is estimated that 1 in every 2,000 babies is born with an intersex condition. As M.C.’s adoptive mother stated, “They disfigured him because they could not accept him for who he was—not because he needed surgery.” My hope is that this case will ensure that all intersexual infants in the United States are treated with justice and dignity as we proceed into the future. Once again, we are at a critical juncture at which, as a society, we can put forth the reality that never have there been only two genders.

8 Responses to “A Voice for Intersexual Infants: The Case of M.C”


  1. 1 JULIANN RICH May 27, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    I can’t wait to read InBetween, Jane! Thanks for writing it as well as blogging about this important lawsuit. All best!

    Like

  2. 2 David Holly May 27, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    I’ve read several articles about intersex babies, and I’m glad that Jane Hoppen is writing about this subject. I believe in the value of choice, and denying any human the choice of gender when it is an option is morally wrong. We humans really do come in more than two genders, but at present the world wants to classify us as either/or, which is a fallacy in logic.

    Like

  3. 3 Ann Aptaker May 27, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    Important work, Jane.

    Like

  4. 4 Devlyn May 27, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    Very informative and very important subject. Thanks for writing about it.

    Like

  5. 5 Henriette May 28, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    Jane, I very much enjoyed In Between and thank you for keeping us informed about the newest developments. It is about time that time advocates for those young lifes!

    Like

  6. 6 S.A. May 28, 2014 at 9:36 AM

    I was unaware of the lawsuit; thanks for bringing it to my attention. Your stories sound interesting and I look forward to reading them. Thanks!

    Like

  7. 7 Kate May 28, 2014 at 7:42 PM

    It’s is interesting to look into the lives of people we think must be so foreign to ourselves because we only discover just how similar we all are. I am sure these doctors do what they do because they believe it is what is best. But can anyone make that decision for another person? Especially one so young and powerless. Studies should be done on the children who have had this surgery performed on them to see if it is effective or harmful. Do they grow up wishing they had been left alone or are they glad someone made the decision for them before puberty? I would really like to know the answer to this. Thank you for helping to open up this discussion. I know I am going to research it for myself.

    Like


  1. 1 The haps! | Women and Words Trackback on June 7, 2014 at 9:02 AM

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