Hermaphroditism

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  • Topic: Sex, Hermaphrodite, Male
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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Hermaphroditism

Hermaphroditism, in biology, is the union of the two sexes in the same individual,or the combination of some of their characteristics or organs in one individual.1 A hermaphrodite individual is sexually unfinished or partly male and partly female. Due to the similarities between male and female sex organs, it may be difficult to tell whether a human hermaphrodite is a female with overdeveloped clitoris or a male with underdeveloped penis, cleft scrotum, and nondescendant testes.2 Recently, many persons have undergone surgical or hormone treatment to modify their nonfunctioning sex characteristics and emphasize the sex indicated by those that are functional. Hermaphroditism occurs in the great majority of flowering plants, and sometimes occurs in many invertebrate animals. It occurs occasionally in other fishes, in frogs, toads, and certain newts among the amphibians. True functional Hermaphroditism is rare or absent in higher animals.3 Very few cases of human hermaphrodite have been reported. The term "Hermaphroditism" derived from the legend of Hermaphroditus. He was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. When he was fifteen years old, the nymph of the fountain Salmacis fell in love with him, but he rejected her. One day, Salmacis pulled Hermaphroditus into the fountain and she wrapped herself around him and prayed that they would never be separated. The gods granted her prayer that they never be separated. Their two bodies were joined together, and they no longer were boy or girl but share of both sexes.4

1. Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. "Hermaphroditism". Hermaphroditism [Online], http://www.funkandwagnalls.com/encyclopedia/low/articles/h/h011000803f.html (1998). 2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Mark Morford, "The Homeric Hymn to Hermes". Classical Mythology Online [Online], http://longman.awl.com/mythology/chaptertopics/summary_10.asp (1995)
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