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Moravian College

Carolyn Raufer

2008-2009 Honors Student

Name: Carolyn Raufer
Honors in: Psychology and Sociology
Hometown: Palmyra, NJ
Major(s): Psychology and Sociology

Title of project: Redefining Normal: An Examination of the Biological, Psychological and Sociological Aspects of Intersex

Abstract or brief description: Intersex occurs when a person is born with ambiguous genitalia, making it difficult to determine the sex and gender of the individual. This type of birth often raises biological, psychological, and sociological issues that are overlooked with typical births. This thesis examines the traditional methods of treating intersex individuals, and how these methods often create more physical, emotional, and societal problems and issues to be addressed. This examination will include a study of the arguments against the prevailing methods, and why these arguments have largely been ignored. Having examined where many of the flaws in the current treatments and assumptions are, this thesis will also offer some suggestions and advice for future intersex interactions, such as delaying surgery and improving available counseling, so that the current problems are not repeatedly perpetuated.

How did you get interested in your topic? I took Dr. Zaremba's Sex and Gender seminar last spring, where intersex was one of the main topics that we discussed. I was fascinated by the topic and, with the encouragement of Dr. Jasper, decided to further examine the issues surrounding intersex.

Do you intend to research your topic further, if so, how? I intend to eventually obtain a Masters in Counseling, focusing on diversity issues. My Honors thesis examined how intersex diversity counseling can be strengthened and improved, so hopefully I will be able to put these ideas into practice.

How did you benefit academically by conducting redsearch/participating in honors? I feel like I have a much stronger academic background, and I much more confident in my research, writing, and time management abilities. Although I am not entering graduate school directly after I graduate, I feel that I am strongly qualified for continuing in my field of study.I also learned how to present my research calmly and confidently to a group of academic peers and advisors.

How has the department (or faculty advisor) in which you studied prepared you for the future? I have a rich and knowledgable backgrounds in both psychology and sociology, and have been taught everything from how to take decent field notes to how to conduct a counseling session. I believe that Moravian's psychology and sociology department do an excellent job of preparing students for work in the field. Dr. Zaremba and Dr. Jasper both supported me through Honors, and reminded me that I am capable of this level of work, as long as I keep at it.

What advice do you have for other students interested in honors? First, trust yourself: you can actually complete this project. Start writing early, and write often; you'll be thankful later. Finally, find other people who are also working on Honors, and spend time with them: it'll help to be reminded that you're not the only one struggling through the program.