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gender selection Updated: You can choose the gender of a child AFTER its born

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Did you even think that this was possible?  To surgically transform a baby girl into a baby boy?  And  did you know that there are families that elect to have the gender of their baby surgically switched after their birth.

Jezebel recently reported on this controversial practice in India – where some families take their preference for male offspring to the extreme by hiring a surgeon to turn their little girl into a little boy. Seriously.

Around the world it is common, albeit rare, for children who are born intersex to have surgery at a young age to assign them a gender. There is even debate, however, as to the necessity of genital surgery in that scenario. Performing it on a definitively female child is obviously a whole different disturbed kettle of crazy.

Aside from the alarming and depraved aspects of this trend, I struggle to fathom that whilst we’re yet to tackle hunger, displace tyrannical dictators, cure disease or even plant more trees, somehow there is time and money in this world to switch Jane to John.  The mind boggles.

Can we please all agree that surgically creating male genitals on a baby girl is ludicrous? Because I’m trying to be open minded here but there is not one tiny nook or cranny in my mind where I can even begin to understand it.  Giving birth and thinking ‘Oh, this isn’t what I had in mind. I really want a son. Oh I know! Let’s get a surgeon in here and make that happen’.

Last year a Melbourne family created headlines when they sought to abort their twin sons in utero on the basis of gender. They had three sons already and wanted a daughter. The application was denied. These two practices are extreme but the crux is the same – what length would you go to for a particular gender?

Grazia magazine recently published an article by fashion journalist Natasha Silva-Jelly. She wrote frankly about her strong desire for a little girl and detailed her real and painful disappointment on discovering she was carrying another boy at her 20 week scan. After giving birth she fell madly in love with her second son but concedes she would consider sex selection IVF in Thailand.

It really got me thinking. Choosing a gender prior to conception through IVF is far less confronting than surgically changing your child’s gender or aborting an established pregnancy. But at the heart of it, is it really that different? It is. But I don’t necessarily think they’re light years apart.

I know very little about parenting but one observation I have made from life in general is that expectations are at the root of most dysfunctional parent-child relationships. Not broad expectations about behaviour – being polite, being responsible, refraining from illegal activity but specific expectations about life. About what career to pursue, which partner to seek, which friends to mingle with, what clothes to wear, what kind of person you should be.

Whether they’re implicit or explicit, those types of expectations tend to be corrosive. And picking your child’s gender – with all of the associated hopes, dreams and expectations you have for that gender – seems as bad a place to start as any.

Because any preference you might have – for a boy or a girl – is hypothetical. Until you meet your own child everything you’ve imagined about them is hypothetical. You may picture yourself with a baby girl, but until you meet your daughter, the picture is abstract.

It’s not to diminish or criticise the disappointment that a parent might experience if they miss out on a particular gender. I have no doubt such disappointment – initially at least – is real and commonplace. I suppose I prefer to believe the love you feel for the actual child who ends up in your arms far outweighs the love you might have imagined for a hypothetical spawn.

Or am I living in a dream land. How far would you go for a boy or a girl? Would you consider switching your child’s sex or using sex selection in IVF?

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