We first heard the term hermaphrodite in elementary school. We have no idea how our source actually found out about this term, but he was more than happy to share his new found knowledge with us. Adding to the "collective vocabulary of insults" was a badge of honor back then and our source was catapulted from the bottom rank to the top in one day. Of course his status only lasted for a day, but the word itself stuck.
We found ourselves using the word to make fun of this person or that person. Or our siblings. It was especially useful on our siblings!! Did we have any idea what the word meant? We only knew the basics, because anytime it was discussed we just giggled. We thought it was SOOOO funny! But we were kids. We still thought we would get somewhere by putting someone else down. Yes, we've learned a bit since then. But let's not digress.
Hermaphrodites have been in the news lately. It started with Lady Gaga's questionable status a month ago and now Caster Semenya, the runner from S. Africa. But this term has been in and out of the news for a while. Do you remember the rumors about Jamie Lee Curtis? People wondered about her as well. THE GUYS don't quite get that one, but we do get that gossip sells, and this type of controversy is good for talk shows, newspapers, TV and yes, BLOGS!
So let's be clear. A hermaphrodite is a person born with both male and female sex organs. A hermaphrodite is NOT a she-male, cross dresser, transvestite, or a transsexual person. But how do we categorize this type of person? Where does someone who blurs the lines of gender actually fit? The government of S. Africa is adamant that the runner, Semenya is a she! But her hormones and testosterone levels really put her more in the category of a man. Wow, this is confusing!! What characteristic makes a person a she or he? Is it sex organs, hormone levels or just their word or belief?
When a person is born with both sex organs, one of the organs is often underdeveloped. It's possible parents could make the difficult decision of surgically removing the underdeveloped organ, or they could just wait and allow their son or daughter to make the decision when they're older. But what if they just don't want to make that decision. Is there something wrong with having both? Would that be classified as a third gender?
If you've ever seen Tru Blood, the vampire series on TV, you get a sense of how confusing this could be. In that series, Vampires have actually assimilated into mainstream society. They are actually a totally separate species living among humans, drinking blood from a bottle and generally minding their own business. Talk about confusing!! People don't know what to make of them, except that they don't trust them. However there are those that seek them out BECAUSE they are different and unique.
Hermaphrodites are far from a totally separate species. They are just part of a movement of people that are challenging the definitions of gender and sexuality. More and more college aged kids are experimenting with bisexuality. People are taking hormones to help them become their "true" selves. Some people like to cross dress in private, and some like to dress up and actually become the opposite gender for an entire evening. (Remember the Crying Game?) And many "normal" people also seek these people out BECAUSE they are different. They are looking for a totally unique experience.
So where do THE GUYS stand on all of this? We think the world is too large a place to live small. This fringe population may be a bit "out there" but they certainly aren't boring. And they give us "normal" people something to think about and talk about. (See the news everyday.) And don't we all need a dose of different every once a while, just to mix things up a bit? Keep us on our toes?
So we've come a long way from the giggles we exuded every time we used the word hermaphrodite. But as a society we've still got a long way to go. Race, religion and sexual orientation are still divisive in this country and in the world and it doesn't look like that's changing too much anytime soon. But for us, we want life to be interesting. So bring on the hermaphrodites and anyone else of any unusual bent. It's all good to us.
But what do we know, we're just plain old GUYS.
What are your opinions?
Where is our society at in terms of sexual orientation?
Do you see any changes on the horizon?
And how do you define a he or she?
(Read our friend Badgal for her take on Caster Semenya)