Not everyone is born as a boy or a girl biologically. In almost every distinguishable way [e.g. 1) genetically, 2) discerning by genitalia, and/or 3) hormone profile], some people are born ambiguous- i.e. with both sets of male and female genitalia and/or atypical genes [e.g. XXY or XXYY instead of typical XY or XX]. Though rare, hundreds of people find themselves in this class [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klinefelter's_syndrome,
http://www.isna.org/, and especially
the references section of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex]. Though in these cases it is obstreperously difficult to determine gender, many parents choose either male or female for their child and raise the child as that gender.
We also know that:
"Gender is an essential characteristic of individual
premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." - The Family: a Proclamation to the World
Yet courts, parents, and individuals often elect, necessarily arbitrarily in many cases, to subject a child to surgery and subsequent hormone therapy and counseling to socialize the child as a chosen gender. Societal pressure buttresses this practice.
There is a rising movement opposing this insistence on selecting a gender: "intersex people, activists, supporters and academics have contested the adoption of the terminology, seeing it as offensive to intersex individuals who do not feel that there is something wrong with them" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex). This movement regards the societal consensus as "reinforcing the normativity of early surgical interventions." They insist: "Alternatives to categorising intersex conditions as "disorders" have been suggested, including "variations of sex development". Organisation Intersex International questions a disease/disability approach, argues for deferral of intervention unless medically necessary, when fully informed consent of the individual involved is possible, and self-determination of sex/gender orientation and identity."
So, here we stand! Extant questions:
1) If gender is an essential characteristic of premortal identity, yet many children come into the world with biologically indistinguishable gender, how do we as mortals discern that "essential characteristic"?
2) Would it be appropriate for the individual, the individual's parent, or a judge to refrain from committing an intersex person to a gender, and instead allow the individual to remain intersex? Would in be ethical not to do so?
3) Is an individual, parent, or judge accountable for the decision to mandate an invasive course of action including hormone therapy, surgery, and counseling to make a biologically intersex individual either male or female? What if they "mess up," as measured by the individual later in life? [e.g. some intersex people such as Brian/Bonnie Chase (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheryl_Chase_(activist)), who was initially given a boy's name due to her ambiguous genitalia but was subsequently raised a girl based on the advice of baffled doctors, later speak out about the psychological harm caused them by the surgical mutilation they're subjected to]
4) Should an individual in this class seek to change one's gender later in life in some cases, no cases, or all cases? Should society permit or forbid this later-on "switching" behavior? Same questions for less gender indistinct individuals? How about non-ambiguous people like probably every person reading this blog?
5) On what basis should we as a society classify gender? Genitalia? Genes? Hormone profile? Parent choice? Effeminate behavior? Some other factor or combination of the above?