from Clinical/Therapeutic Issues
The summer issue, devoted to "Transgender Issues In Psychology," and features numerous articles dealing with intersexuals, transgenders, and gender variant individuals in cross-cultural settings.
"Cross-Cultural Examples of Gender Variance," by psychologist Randall D. Ehrbar, describes several Native American tribes and the Sambia, a New Guinea tribe that institutionalizes gender variant individuals who known in the United States as hermaphrodites. According to Ehrbar, the Sambia tribe has a high incident of intersexed (hermaphroditic) individuals and this tribe recognizes three sexes and two genders. The Sambia raise these individuals as males but they are unable to complete the requirements to be considered fully male.
Ehrbar notes that in the U.S., parents of a child born with malformed genitals typically have the child operated on to be assigned a sex as either a boy or girl. However, intersex activists are urging a change in policy in dealing with these children. Activists argue that it is unethical to operate on an infant without his or her consent and that surgery often has negative effects on later sexual development.
The author observes that there is frequently a strong "spiritual component to gender variant statuses. This is true for some Native American cultures and Indian hirja. This is also an important aspect of the acault in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma)."
Ehrbar also reviewed Transgender Emergence: Therapeutic Guidelines for Working with Gender-Variant People and Their Families, authored by Arlene Istar Lev, with Division 44's Transgender Taskforce. Ehrbar has served on this task force with Lev.
He observes: "Lev is very thorough and addresses the needs of the full range of transgender people and their families, including people who cross-dress; bi-gendered, non-gendered, and other alternatively gendered people; transsexual people, and intersex people. ... While she is frankly in favor of a non-pathologizing approach, she is fair and respectful in her presentation of other approaches."