So I was browsing around and found this article on Time. It talks about Dr. Maria New's advocacy for the drug dexamethasone which she recommends to patients to prevent gender ambiguities and unwanted/masculine behaviors for those diagnosed with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH).
CAH is an inherited disorder of the adrenal glands that causes an overexposure of male hormones in utero that can cause ambiguous genitalia and leads to what New states as a lifetime of taking powerful steroid medications to compensate for...faulty adrenal glands. If dexamethasone is taken prenatally, it can prevent some of the symptoms of CAH-- especially in girls, where the genitalia can appear more male like. Dexamethasone is not FDA approved for prenatal use, and is not proven to curb later implications of CAH in girls, such as eliminate or even reduce their need for hormonal medications. Research did, however, suggest that those women who were treated with dexamethasone in utero showed more 'typical gender behavior' while those who were not treated with the drug tended to "behave more tomboyishly"and expressed "little interest in having children."
On the benefits and intent of giving dexamethasone in utero, New states:
"The challenge here is...to see what could be done to restore this baby to the normal female appearance which would be compatible with her parents presenting her as a girl, with her eventually becoming somebody's wife, and having normal sexual development, and becoming a mother. And she has all the machinery for motherhood, and therefore nothing should stop that, if we can repair her surgically and help her psychologically to continue to grow and develop as a girl."
So we are getting into this technological state where we can begin to say: I want a girl...but only if she looks like a girl and later behaves like a girl and I don't have to worry about her lack of femininity or ambiguity towards motherhood. And New isn't the only one pushing dexamethasone for these same reasons. Her collaborator, Heino F.L. Meyer-Bahlburg recent report "What Causes Low Rates of Child-Bearing in Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia?" states that:
"CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups."
The report goes on to state:
"The largest clinic population was studied by Mulaikal et al...Half of the women were not heterosexually active. Those who were heterosexually active nevertheless appeared to have low fertility...The evidence clearly indicates that the reduced fertility of CAH women with classical CAH...has a variety of reasons. The main reason, it seems, is not the dysregulation of ovulation and suppression of conception, but the lower rate of heterosexual involvement combined with the lower rate of interest in having children. The lower rate of heterosexual involvement is probably related to the postoperative status of the genitalia and possibly also to prenatal androgen effects on the brain. The lower interest in having children seems to be part of the overall masculinization of childhood behavior in girls with classical CAH; in adolescent and adult CAH women, the various problems with heterosexuality may further contribute."
There are definite benefits to researching CAH, which can cause great problems in individuals who are born with it, but why this focus on gendered behavior, sexuality and motherhood? The idea of experimenting with a risky and under-tested drug in utero in order to potentially avoid gender ambiguities and behaviors after birth hardly seems worth the effort for those with CAH. I'm not sure why parents are so concerned about engineering their child's sexual orientations and gender roles period. Is stepping outside these roles and appearances the worst thing that could happen to your child? (There are far worse fates that are debilitating and deadly.) Additionally, anything 'abnormal' is going to be hard for the child, and the parents as well. But we all have something. All of us, at some point or another, step outside the norm, live outside the norm, speak outside of the norm.
A drug to normalize gendered behavior and....prevent lesbianism? Did you ever see that movie Gattaca? I'm just saying...
Story by: Brook Buesking | Photo Credit: Bitchmag.org
Friday, July 2, 2010
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