Charlotte Greenfield examines the medical profession’s response to intersex children:
During the 1990s, intersex adults who had received surgery as infants came forward speaking about their sense of mutilation. At the same time, an experiment from Johns Hopkins University that claimed to prove young children could safely be assigned any gender with surgical “reinforcement” was revealed to be a failure. The study had been initiated in 1967 by psychologist John Money, who claimed to have successfully given a boy female anatomy and had the child live as a girl. The child, whose penis was burnt off in a circumcision accident, was castrated and operated on to look female at the age of 22 months – eight months before the age at which Money claimed gender became fixed.
Until the 1950s, intersex children had largely been left alone, but Money’s experiment provided support for early surgical intervention. However, one of Money’s rival researchers tracked down his study’s subject and, in 1997, showed that the child had never been happy as a girl and had converted back to living as man, sending shockwaves through the medical profession. Nevertheless, the surgeries continue.