There are two sexes, right? WRONG! At birth, a doctor assigns an infant a sex (and therefore, a gender) based on the appearance of the genitals: a “protrusion” less than 3/8″ is considered a clitoris (and therefore the child is a “female”) while a “protrusion” greater than 1″ is labeled as a phallus/penis (child is assigned “male.) Those whose external “protrusion” falls between these limits or those who have other “non-typical” genital or gonadal anatomy and/or non-XX/XY chromosomes are branded as having a “Disorder of Sex Development” (DSD), though many in this biocommunity prefer the term intersex, though this term as an identity label is in flux. There are over 40 natural variations of sex found in humans that affect the genitals, gonads, and/or genetics of a person and more than two sexes are commonly found throughout the animal kingdom. With rare exception, these differences are not life-threatening. Despite this, parents of intersex children are often pressured by physicians to submit their child to genital “normalization” surgeries, which are often kept as a secret from the child. Progress is slowly being made around the world to end these unnecessary procedures though many are hesitant to abandon the sex binary.
Katja Tetzlaff* is a graduate from the Biomedical Visualization MS program from the University of Illinois at Chicago and graduated with a BS in Molecular Biology. Katja gives lectures about health-related issues pertaining to transgender, trans, and gender diverse patients beginning as part of their graduate Research Project, which entailed illustrating the physical changes a person undergoes through medical transitioning (hormones and/or surgery) incorporating these images into lecture materials for M3/third-year medical students during their OB/GYN rotation. In addition to lectures at the UIC’s medical school, Katja is also a guest lecturer about transgender bioethics as well as normativity in healthcare imagery and non binary bodies for Columbia College’s Human Sexuality and Gender & Women’s Studies classes.
Outside of their guest lectures and medical illustration career, Katja is an active medical activist and an LGBTQAI+ health educator with a focus on trans, gender diverse, and intersex topics. Currently, they work with healthcare professionals at institutions such as Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital to further patient, family, and physician education about non-binary health issues. Katja also works with non-profit groups, graduate student researchers, and health educators to create medical illustrations for the purposes of representing trans and intersex bodies in medical imagery, improving the understanding of queer health issues, and promoting medical education on behalf of gender, sex, and sexual minority communities.
*Katja’s pronouns are the gender neutral ‘they/them/theirs’