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Douchebag Decree: Dr. Maria New, In Utero Gender Norm Enforcer!

douchebag_decree.jpg

You know how in Gattaca doctors used hormones to control the personalities of fetuses, ensuring a creepily uniform generation of "perfect" people, like the guy who plays Ethan Hawke's brother in the movie? Well, now there is a doctor who is attempting to do something similar by eradicating non-"feminine" traits in female fetuses—an "abnormal" disinterest in babies, not wanting to play with girls' toys or become mothers, "career preferences" that are deemed too "masculine"—and she's this week's Douchebag Decree recipient. Dr. Maria New, come on down!

That's right—Pediatric endocrinologist Maria New, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Florida International University, is using a hormonal drug called dexamethasone, or "dex", to regulate prenatal androgens in female fetuses that may have a form of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). What this means in terms us non-endocrinologists can understand is that New is hoping this hormone therapy will eradicate female tendencies toward childlessness, masculine career choices, and even bisexuality or homosexuality. The real breakdown? New and her colleagues want to prevent females from being "too masculine" starting in the womb.


I don't mind getting this Douchebag Decree because douchebags are traditionally feminine!

Apparently, some people would rather experiment with a risky and potentially dangerous drug than have to live with a daughter who doesn't want to have children or who is *gasp!* a lesbian. Dr. New, with her "Dex" is offering some assholes the opportunity to police non-normative gendered behavior before a baby is even born. This is fucking ridiculous.

Since I am decidedly not a doctor (you know, the way New is, even though she is trying to discourage women from choosing "masculine" careers) I will leave you with some further reading on this drug and its unbelievably shitty and terrible potential outcomes. And Dr. Maria New, I will leave you with a Douchebag Decree.

Further reading:

"Preventing Homosexuality (and Uppity Women) in the Womb?" from Bioethics Forum

To Have is to Hold" from Psychology Today

"A Prenatal Treatment Raises Questions of Medical Ethics" from Time

"Doctor Treating Pregnant Women With Experimental Drug To Prevent Lesbianism" from Slog

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Comments

24 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Rather Crazy

Wow, this is just about the stupidest research I've ever heard of. There's an assumption that non-normative gender identity is linked with homo- or bi-sexuality. As a woman who is normatively feminine and a lesbian, I'm rather disturbed by this research. I display normative gender cues, have a job in a female-dominated profession, and am a mother--and none of this has anything to do with orientation.

I don't understand how this so-called medical professional could be putting her patients clearly in harm's way and still be opperating within the bounds of her ethics. However, I do want to point out that women are voluntarily participating in this research, which in and of itself is highly problematic.

CAH

Did it say somewhere that she was trying to eradicate non-feminine behavior rather than trying to treat the disease of CAH which can cause menstrual problems, ambiguous genitalia, abnormal physical development, or adrenal crisis? In newborns with CAH, they can suffer from dehydration, cardiac arrhythmias and other severe symptoms. The treatment is dexamethasone or other forms of cortisol.

If she is doing the research to help treat a medical condition, that's a good thing. I'm not sure where the info is that she is doing this to prevent "non-feminine" behaviors which of course, would not be a good thing. Is there a link to where it says what her motives are? Thanks.

Yes, as far as I understand it

Anonymous, you are right to point out that there may be some medical benefits to researching CAH. However, here is a quote from the Bioethics forum (linked to above) that has me worried about New's motives:

Pediatric endocrinologist Maria New, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Florida International University, and her long-time collaborator, psychologist Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg, of Columbia University, have been tracing evidence for the influence of prenatal androgens in sexual orientation.... They specifically point to reasons to believe that it is prenatal androgens that have an impact on the development of sexual orientation. The authors write, "Most women were heterosexual, but the rates of bisexual and homosexual orientation were increased above controls . . . and correlated with the degree of prenatal androgenization.” They go on to suggest that the work might offer some insight into the influence of prenatal hormones on the development of sexual orientation in general. “That this may apply also to sexual orientation in at least a subgroup of women is suggested by the fact that earlier research has repeatedly shown that about one-third of homosexual women have (modestly) increased levels of androgens.” They “conclude that the findings support a sexual-differentiation perspective involving prenatal androgens on the development of sexual orientation.”

Later, New is quoted as saying:

“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.”

Again, I am sooo not a doctor, but that strikes me as evidence that New is concerned mainly with gender norms and presentation. Boo!

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

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Kelsey Wallace, contributor

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Wow, those quotes are disgusting.

CAH is also considered by many to be an intersex condition, which I'd imagine scares New as much as anything. Must uphold the myth of two sexes as well as two genders, right? I wonder what the great Thea Hillman (http://www.theahillman.com/) has to say about this...

Several of the things you

Several of the things you mention about CAH are not actually health problems: menstrual problems (this is only a "problem" if it adversely effects the person's health and/or they desire to have children themselves), ambiguous genitalia (not actually a health concern - there's a lot more natural variation than the medical establishment would like to have you think). And I'm not sure what is meant by "abnormal physical development."

So yeah - I'm all for treating the actual health problems associated with CAH (which is one of the few types of intersex that actually does have health risks), but treating the gender and sexuality? Horrible and ridiculous.

Erin, you are right.

Also, prenatal dex does absolutely nothing to change any of the actual health problems associated with CAH. For more info on CAH: http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/cah.htm. For more detailed information about New's work which has thwarted numerous ethical standards of medicine: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11673-012-9384-9?LI=true

there they go ruining it again!

my husband and I are trying to have a baby, and have opted to do IVF with gender selection. We are doing this because my husband has muscular dystrophy, which caused him to require a heart transplant, which forces him to take immune suppressants every day.
I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to a) have a baby, when in the past doctors would have discouraged it, and b) ensure that my future child will not suffer the way my husband does. we really struggled to reach this decision, because I don't want my husband to feel like his existence isn't valid or worthwhile. I will admit to thinking of Gattaca the whole time my doctor was explaining things to me.

but as with all technology, along comes a doctor like Dr. New, who is abusing this technology just the way Gattaca predicted. Who is saying that it is not valid, not worthwhile to bring children into this world with certain personality traits.
well screw her, and screw the potential parents who are employing her technique. Quit ruining it for those of us who need it for legitimate medical reasons.

well done

I've been thinking all day about who might be the douchiest of douchbags this week (still a bit uncomfortable using the term to slam people, especially as a male, but yes I get your reasoning), with little success. THIS, my friends, is insane. Well done on picking someone who may just end up qualifying for douchebag of the year.

PS FIU deserves one for not firing her on ethical grounds.

Shame on You New

Disturbing and ridiculous in my opinion. Shouldn't more money and research go into Women's health, not altering womanhood all together? Being non-gender conforming is a part of being a human now.

more info on CAH

I seriously recommend that everyone read the information on CAH at the Intersex Society of North America website. It is informative and written by people who have a stake in the issue.

http://www.isna.org/faq/conditions/cah

That said, CAH isn't life threatening because of issues of genitalia, it is life threatening because they can't make their own cortisone, used to help the body heal from stress and absorb salt. this is taken care of with cortisone shots.

Any concern about CAH in infants is a red herring for this woman's true intents.

A Slippery Pharmaceutical Slope

If experimental drugs are being tested (Stage 3 trials?) on women in order to try to manipulate female offspring into being less aggressive, more feminine, and less gay (probable FAIL) then what is to stop people with other desired outcomes from trying to manipulate nature in this manner? Does that mean hormonal drugs could be developed with the intent of producing more feminine, less aggressive boys/men? Some people like me might think that could be more desirable. Mightn't some lesbians consider the desirous aspects of an opposite hormonal drug could be developed to deliberately increase the probability having a child who would grow up to be an aggressive lesbian? Bring on the amazons! Seriously though, i suspect this kind of pharmacological meddling would undoubtedly come with a slew of negative side effects health-wise in addition to the science-fiction-become-nightmare-reality aspects of it if it is implemented as is reportedly being advocated by an "In Utero Gender Norm Enforcer. i concur with your Douchebag Decree. Great supplemental reading too.

You don't understand what

You don't understand what this doctor does. She treats a disease in babies called CAH.
This genetic disorder occurs in males and females. The person cannot produce cortisol.
In female babies this disorder causes Masculization of the fetus. Doctor New's research using dexamethozone shows great promise in preventing this from occuring.
This has nothing to do with Gay or straight, but helping to prevent this genetic condition from harming the un-born baby. It is not a cure, the initial issue of the body not being able to produce cortisol still exists. It is treated with replacement therapy.

This Doctor has helped hundrens of children with this rare disease, and you are denegrating her without knowing the facts. Disgusting. And the media is disgusting for not relaying the facts. Disgusting.
The author of this article is also Disgusting.

When I say masculization, I

When I say masculization, I mean the external genitals are deformed because the lack of cortisol cause increased testosterone production in the female fetus.
Dr. New's "Replacement" therapy is intended to prevent this disfigurment. Not to prevent / cure homosexuality like the stupid media reports. When was homosexuality ever declared a disease... What a stupid media we have. And the sheepable who believe it.

Deformed according to whom?

Deformed according to whom? You? the media? People have a right to their genetically-given body parts. If these organs don't fit the traditional male/female dichotomy, it is nobody's business but the organs' owner's. If the owner reaches adulthood and finds their organs are interfering with their identity, they can certainly elect to undergo surgery to correct that. Their body, their descision.

Also, the treatment is being reported and marketed for its possible behavioral/sexuality-changing effects. As a way to make girls with this condition more traditionally feminine, it isn't just a way to normalize their anatomy. It's a way to alter their natural identity without their consent.

Great sensible response.

Great sensible response. (NOT) Because by the time we reach adulthood we can always fix the years of emotional, mental, or physical, trauma, under event he best of cicurmstances, that many endure through childhood and adolescence. Especially any physical malformation that may have shaped our entire identity and been responsible for a tormented social existence. Why avoid any of that when it's all a god given right? Is this treatment really being "Marketed" as a genetic engineering breakthrough or are these side effects of "normalizing" what could otherwise be, by definition, a malformed body? If god didn't want to give us the ability to help those in need of developmental assistance he would'nt have given us the capacity to develop the technology. The last time I checked a parent is responsible to care for all aspects of physical and mental well being of the beautiful blessings that are put in our care. Would you criticize a parent of two year old for putting the kid through chemo without it's consent?

Oh, yeah?

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.

This is a bioethics quote from New herself, which Kelsey both linked to in the article and copied out specifically in a comment above. "This has nothing to do with Gay or straight?" I think it's completely clear, with these words and others, that New is not looking to cure congenital adrenal hyperplasia; she wants to "cure" queerness, sexual variance, and the tendencies some women have to -- GASP! -- not become wives and mothers. As for "When was homosexuality ever declared a disease..." the answer is "constantly." It didn't stop being officially considered a disease by the American Psychiatric Association until 1974, and many people still hold onto the hateful notion that it is one.

We are well aware of the pretense for what New is doing. Take a look at the whole picture before you dismiss us all as "Disgusting."

Wow. That is genuinely scary.

Wow. That is genuinely scary. I totally love that other people have seen Gattaca, which is what i was going to say before i read this, but holy shit. That is terrifying. Imagine being one of the kids when they grow up. Knowing that you're not the person nature made. You're not who you should have been. It reminds me of that doctor from Dollhouse. The day she realized who she was was created by Topher.
How do you tell your daughter that you chose to have her genetically altered?!

I'm totally going off on tangents, but i believe someone who commented on the first link said it best: Someone needs to pull her credentials, now. This isn't going to end well for anyone.

CAH and Dr. New

I actually have 2 children with this condition. My first born was a boy. When I became pregnant with my second child, I was told to seek the assistance of a genetic counselor to determine if the baby I was carrying was also affected with this condition. I was made aware that dexamethasone therapy was widely used as a treatment for the condition in utero, but never once was it explained to me that there could be potential cognitive, behavioral, or health risks as a result of the treatment. Nor was it explained to me that intent of the treatment was to "normalize" female behavior if I was indeed carrying a girl. I started the treatment, and in fact, I was carrying a girl, so I was kept on the treatment for the remainder of my pregnancy. I feel hoodwinked after reading this article and the Time magazine piece on Dr. New. Dexamethasone treatment for CAH in utero was presented to me as a way to help ensure the safety of my child, as well as a recognized and accepted use of the medication. I think it is abominable that parents would choose to risk the health of their growing babies as well as the health of the mother in an attempt to control masculine behavior or potential sexual orientation of the baby. Ethically, this practice is wrong, and I fear that I am not the only new mother to have been pushed into a treatment without having been given full disclosure.

for the record

For the record, I was not treated by Dr. New during my dexamethasone treatment. My issue with this therapy is that I was not presented with all the facts and dangers associated with it's use to either myself or my daughter. I also take issue with the use of the medication to "normalize" female behavior. Parents who are using this treatment as a way of ensuring their daughters will favor dresses and dolls over trucks and mudpies are what scare me most of all.

You don't know what you are talking about

Dear Bitch Media/ Kelsey Wallace,

Douchebag award? Really? Not sure why you find it acceptable to hate in this way. I'm embarrassed that your think this kind of hatred is useful, especially given that you don't know Dr. Maria New, you don't understand her research, and you have no knowledge of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Instead of launching a misguided and ignorant diatribe against Dr. New, perhaps you could have taken the time to actually learn what her research is actually about. You could even call her clinic. Or contact her directly (though if you wrote an email with the kind of uneducated nonsense you presented here, I'd be shocked if you'd get a response).
After reading your misrepresentative and manipulative 'report' of Dr. New's research, it's clear that you know nothing about Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (or, I'm sorrier to point out since you write for 'Bitch Media,' about sexuality or gender). I happen to have CAH, and while I am a male and hence did not experience ambiguous genitalia when I was born, pre-natal exposure to high androgen levels (the male hormones which can promote ambiguous genitalia) had many other negative side effects that you have not considered (and I'm pretty certain, do not even know about). Dr. New's use of dexamethasone to suppress these androgens improves the health of newborns in many ways, while also affecting the formation of genitalia. Do you really believe that giving birth to a sick baby with ambiguous genitalia (which, it seems, would suit your politicized views of gender and sexuality) is better than giving birth to a healthier baby? I hope not.
I am shocked at the number of comments here from people who seem to think Dr. New's research is useless or "stupid." It proves that all kinds of tripe on the internet will be believed by at least some people. Just for the record, Dr. New runs the only clinical center in the USA (and as far as I know, in the world) that treats patients with adrenal hyperplasia. She began research on the topic decades ago, and has helped thousands of patients deal with a difficult and rare condition.
Your misdirected and senseless notion of gender and sexuality has made you into a repulsive hatemonger. I am sorry for you.
Meanwhile, you ought to take this kind of garbage off your website.

All the best,

Me

Your comments are absurd. I

Your comments are absurd. I am a female and have been diagnosed with non-classical CAH. I suffer from many medical problems because my body does not produce enough cortisol. If it was not for these doctors and their research, my body would not function properly. I do not have ambiguous genitalia, and most people with this disease do not. You are misreading the doctor's intentions. I believe the issue is: if females with CAH wish to have children, they may not be able to if CAH is not treated properly. She is not trying to control social "normalcy" She is trying to help female body functions maintain homeostasis. Symtoms of untreated CAH become worse with time and age. Unnatural hair loss on head, hair growth on body, inability to have children, painful periods, ovarian cysts, and chronic fatigue are just some symptoms of the imbalance. Do not confuse her motives. She is trying to help the female body function properly to have a healthy life to do what they wish, not genetically alter female traits to behave in a certain way.

Douchebag Decree: Dr. Maria New, In Utero Gender Norm Enforcer!

I really like what you guys are usually up too. This kind of
clever work and coverage! Keep up the excellent works guys I've included you guys to my personal blogroll.

Disagree

This is a rather unfair and biosed synopsis of the reputable, and helpful Medical work Dr. New has been doing for decades. As a former patient of hers I can say she's not someone I'd ever sit down for coffee with, but as a Dr. she is letting her patients know what options are available to them to avoid the complications that could arise with a wide variety of hormonal imbalance. To not advocate for an aggressive solution to a potentially aggressive medical condition would be irresponsible. A large contributing factor to two successful pregnancies that my otherwise not have been possible was the use of "dex" that was willfully insisted upon by dr. New. As a barometer of this when I tried going off it because I thought I didn't need it any more I couldn't get pregnant. With that said, I don't think that her being a proponent of this medication is about genetic engineering as much as it is about addressing developmental medical deformity, which her entire field of medicine is designed for. A by product of the medicine may have to do with the formation of gender characteristics but the main objective is to correct the possibilities of physical or internal malformation. For all you gay rights people who are making this your personal issue, gay, straight, or bi - would you want to be born with ambiguous genitalia? What if you were and you found out as an adult that this could have been avoided only it would have made your gender characteristics more stereo typical so your parents opted out of it? Would you thank them for making such a politically correct choice so you could learn to navigate the socio/physiological waters all on your own that sexual ambiguity threw you into? Dr. New may or may not be a douche bag for a host of other reasons, but to slap a label of genetic engineering bigot on her is unfair and irresponsible. You should do your research as to the history of the drug and what it's original purposes are and how the medical community has and will be enhanced by it. I agree everyone should be fully informed of the complete potential effects the drug could have and the degree of necessity on a case by case basis, but a blanket label on medical professional who is just doing their job, and to do otherwise would be negligent, is unfair!

Dr. New is no douchebag

Sorry, bitches, you don't know what you are talking about. As the parent of someone with CAH who has had the great pleasure of having Dr. New to help, it is clear you don't know anything about CAH. Dr. New has spent her life trying to help people born with CAH to have healthy lives. The trauma one experiences when their hormones aren't naturally regulated with Cortisol production reeks havic on them. Without proper treatment my child could have died. The Dex is also part of the treatment to normalize hormone expression as one grows up. Read up on it, meet people who have had CAH go untreated, listen to their stories of how their out of control hormones caused erratic and sometimes violent behavior, physical pain, poor bone development and other effects of CAH, and then make an educated decision about Dr. New. Clearly, Bitch, you were not using your brains on this one. Shame on you, you are the douchebag.