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Hermaphrodite Questions

Published: April 22, 2003
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I've heard that some babies are born with both male and female hormones and they are called hermaphrodites. Is this a myth or a true fact of life?
Signed: Hermaphrodite Questions

Dear Hermaphrodite Questions,

 

Hermaphrodites are born with both male and female sex organs, this phenomenon occurs in the human population, although it is very rare. In these rare cases, a person may have a penis and clitoris, or one testis and one ovary. Rather than live with pieces of both sexual organs, parents and medical professionals may determine which genitalia is present to a greater degree and then remove the other structures. For instance, if a baby is born with organs that look like a vagina, but also has a testicle that is either present, or is internal, they may choose to remove the testicle and raise the child as a female. This can cause confusion, as the child grows because they may feel that their body parts do not accurately reflect how they feel internally. Also, due to hormonal differences, they may not go through puberty at all or may begin to exhibit characteristics from the other gender. Through the use of therapy, hormone therapy, and plastic surgery to change the outward appearance of a person, their bodies may be altered to better match their feelings.

It may be more difficult for Hermaphrodites emotionally than it is physically. It is usually recommended that this person be followed throughout life medically, and also have emotional help and support. They can experience varying feelings and may need help professionally from a counselor or therapist to deal with issues that can arise.

If you know a hermaphrodite, understand that they are experiencing some very unique feelings and emotions. Adjustment to puberty that is either inconsistent with their body or non-existent can be very upsetting. Imagine what feeling uncomfortable in your own skin must feel like, and try to be an understanding friend. If you would like more information on this topic, ask your health teacher, school nurse, or physician.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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