“The thing I don't want to compromise is scientific integrity, even when it clashes with the community narrative.” The idea that there are only two sexes is so entrenched in society that the first question many people ask on finding out that a friend is pregnant is: boy or girl?“People don't answer 'I'm having a baby',” says Vilain.Among the sequential hermaphrodites are protogynous species in which an individual begins reproductive life as a female and later may switch to male, protandrous species in which a fish starts as a male and later may switch to female, and serial bi-directional sex changers.Among the synchronous hermaphrodites (in which an individual can simultaneously produce eggs and sperm) are several outcrossing and one predominantly selfing species.“I just lost my patience,” says Alice Dreger, a bioethicist who used to work at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and who was among the first to leave the study.Although dismayed by their departure, Vilain refuses to take a stance until it is supported by science.
No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
But there are no estimates as to how often a child's surgically assigned sex ends up different from the gender they come to identify with.
What do exist, however, are stories of people who say that they have been harmed: children who struggle to fit in with peers, adolescents who are stressed, harassed or attempt suicide, and adults who are furious that they were not involved in the decision to modify their bodies.
As a medical student in Paris in the 1980s, Eric Vilain found himself pondering the differences between men and women.
What causes them to develop differently, and what happens when the process goes awry?