When we can’t even define what constitutes normal, we shouldn’t be performing surgeries on infants to make them conform to gender preconceptions.
Research on what constitutes “normal” genitalia, for both men and women, is somewhat scarce - but labia reductions are becoming more common, and so a Dutch study in 2009 examined what doctors believe a normal labia looks like. It found that plastic surgeons were more likely to find larger labia minora “distasteful and unnatural, compared with general practitioners and gynaecologists”. It also found that male doctors in each of those specialties were more inclined than women doctors to recommend surgery.
A cross-party Senate Standing Committee report released last month found such evidence “disturbing”; we can’t objectively define “normal”. The Senate committee goes further: "Normalising appearance goes hand in hand with the stigmatisation of difference."
The Senate Committee has been highly critical of current practice, saying that while enormous medical “effort has gone into assigning and ‘normalising’ sex: none has gone into asking whether this is necessary or beneficial”. In calmly restrained parliamentary language, they described this as “extremely unfortunate”.
Whether too big or too small, when outcomes are contested and we can’t even define what constitutes “normal”, normalising surgeries on infants and children can’t be justified. Australian intersex organisations have called for such surgeries to end, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has even called for such surgeries to be outlawed, along with gay conversion therapy.
Great to see this reposted, written by our president last year.