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Intersex on House MD

2009 March 15
by Shikha

I am a huge fan of the TV show House MD. I love the mystery (perhaps it stems from my *former* deep desire to become a doctor) and I’m intrigued by House’s character. The newest episode is about an intersex child. The episode starts with the birth of the child. The doctor tells the parents that their child has genetic mosaicism, in which the body has cells of two genotypes, and that they can choose what gender they want their child to be. The parents are perplexed, but eventually choose their child to be a boy. Cut to present day. The child is around 12 (don’t remember the exact age) and is taken to the hospital when he faints from pelvic pain while playing basketball. He is taken to the hospital and the parents ask the doctors not to tell him about his testosterone supplement since they haven’t told him the truth. As House’s team tries to figure out what is wrong with the boy, we are shown what the parents go through and why they did not tell their child the truth. He tells one of the doctors that he wanted to learn dance, but his mother made him choose basketball. At one point, the doctor tells the mother than they have to stop the testosterone, and the mother says, “…he’ll never grow up to be a man.” The parents are also shown wondering whether they made the right choice. The father often wants to tell him the truth, but the mother thinks it will make him more confused, and that his present confusion stems from the fact that he is a teenager.

Eventually, the kid is told the truth. When a doctor asks whether he feels like a girl, the response is, “I like dancing more than basketball.” Again, it’s highlighting the gender stereotypes that exist even in the minds of children.

I thought it was interesting that a show was trying to portray this issue, but I wish they had spent more time on it and let us deeper into the minds of the the child and the parents to learn more about what they were going through.

2 Responses
  1. March 15, 2009

    Well, the show is okay, but we have to remember, it’s just a show. I did like how they made it out about being intersex and that it is better than none at all.

  2. Guinevere permalink
    March 15, 2009

    In the scene you mention, Thirteen (one of the doctors) has just asked Jackson if he feels like a girl. He responds “I like dancing more than basketball. Is that what that means?” Thirteen doesn’t respond to this question, but I don’t think that this dialogue necessarily implies a larger problem with childrens’ conceptual understanding of gender and gender stereotypes. Jackson points out something about himself that he views as unusual for a boy, but this difference doesn’t sway him to believe that he is not a boy. He’s smart enough to question what the difference means and I would say that this scene may actually be evidence of gender stereotypes being less rigid than they have been in the past. This dialogue says to me that we, as a society, are O.K. with an adolescent boy preferring dancing to basketball. Jackson, himself, doesn’t seem to consider his preference to be freak-ish or so outlandish that society would never accept it and no one in the show is pressuring him to think that either. I think this episode shows that we’ve grown much more comfortable with blurring the lines of our gender system in the last decade.

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