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Guide to Medical Intersexuality Vocabulary

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from the Merck Manual

How to Understand Medical Writing on Intersex

ambiguous genitalia

Genitalia that refuse to declare their sex to doctors--no doubt on the principle that under interrogation by the enemy you should give only name, rank, and serial number.

androgen

Andro=male; gen=making. Androgens are administered to infants to prevent their becoming androgynes. See testosterone.

androgen insensitivity

The condition of infants who callously refuse to respond to testosterone treatment; the cause of many an endocrinologist's hurt feelings.

circumcision

A mass-market edition of intersexed surgery, priced for the common man. The reasons for circumcision are too numerous to treat here, but T.V.N. Persaud of the University of Manitoba recites one ingenious opinion:

Some conditions, such as phimosis, often lead to circumcision at a later age that could have been prevented if it had been performed earlier.

Physicians thus exhibit the same prescience as the Monopods in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, who boiled potatoes before planting them in order to save doing it when they were dug up.

clitoral recession

See female genital mutilation. Despite Webster's false cognate, "recession" is derived from "rescission," the noun form of the verb "rescind." Endocrinologists, like certain Congressmen, like to rescind budgets they feel are too large, even when this means cutting off essential services.

clitoromegaly

Micropenis in the female. A longer definition would be superfluous, since this condition is apt to be cut off before the patient can pronounce it.

cryptorchidism

A condition in which the testes (-orchid) are hidden (crypto-). Hidden from whom? Obviously, from the doctors. Cryptorchidism is thus practiced by those discriminating infants who do not wish to put pearls before swine.

distress

A condition caused in parents when their intersexed children go unmutilated.

estrogen

1. A character in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, who was just pining away for a doctor to come change his sex.

2. A character in Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, who bloody well wasn't.

female

1. A male intersexual when the endocrinologist is through with him.

2. A female intersexual whom the urologist has not seen yet.

female genital mutilation (FGM)

The scarring or removal of the clitoris, performed by witch doctors and condemned by all right-thinking people. If the clitoris is a bit larger than average, however, it is performed by accredited surgeons and covered by all major insurance plans.

gynecomastia

Enlargement of the breasts in a patient whom we have decided to call male. In a patient whom we have decided to call female, the same trait is called "excellent breast development."

hypertrophy

Literally, too much meat. How much is too much? More, madam, than your sister has; less, sir, than you will have when we are through.