Tag Archives: intersex

Erased by two sexes

One of the standard ways of undermining any consideration of trans rights, is to focus on the idea that two fixed sexes are a biological reality. Anyone taking this stance because they are averse to trans people is not likely to be persuaded by any arguments relating to that. However, trans people are not the only people hurt and harmed by a focus on the idea of two sexes.

Intersex people exist. If the idea of ‘choosing’ your gender offends someone, then there is none of that argument to make here. Intersex people do not choose. When we focus on the idea of two sexes, we totally erase them. It is a hard enough situation to be in without also being told that you don’t exist.

The idea of two sexes is firmly rooted in white, western culture, and is not a world-wide ‘truth’. When we insist that there are only two sexes, we erase the cultures and experiences of many other people around the world. This is particularly an issue with indigenous peoples who have had to deal with colonialism trying to strip away their approaches to gender – along with the rest of their cultures – for some time. White erasure of non-white experience is something we really need to stop doing.

Many people don’t sit neatly in the boxes offered by the notion of two genders only. My experience suggests that people who do not respect trans folk also tend to have no qualms about harming non-binary people as well – again I think because there’s the sense that we choose. So, let’s focus on the people who cannot choose – the people whose bodies do not conform to gender norms. Women with male pattern baldness and women with beards are perhaps the most obvious examples. The more we tell people there are only two sexes, the more we exclude and disempower people whose bodies don’t fit with that. We erase their complexity and we deny their existence.

Traditionally, feminism has been all about championing equality. I don’t know what to do with the kind of ‘feminism’ that will happily erase people in this way simply to try and create a context that invalidates trans people. However, I think pointing out the erasure of intersex people and indigenous people is really important. Attacking trans people makes it easier to attack other people as well, and if your basis for not liking trans is that you think trans people are choosing, you should be able to spare a thought for people who clearly cannot choose and are being hurt by this ideology.


Rainbow related awareness – a guest blog from Suvi

On facebook earlier this week, Suvi shared a post of things that they, as an intersex person, wanted the world to know. I offered Druid Life as a platform (this is something I am always happy to do, get in touch if you need to borrow the space.) For anyone not familiar with the term, intersex people are born with mixed sexual characteristics. I’ve seen estimates of around 2% of the population affected by this. Surgery to ‘normalise’ their bodies to one or other gender is usually carried out in infancy, with little regard to internal organs or how the child might self-identify.

Over to Suvi…

I have no physical sense of self or desire to make that connection

Puberty is bad enough; second puberties really suck

The secret we carry leads to our complete isolation

I have never been able to undertake any gender specific activities of either gender including sports

I’m inhibited, a mass of numb physical scars

I want to run away

Relationships with those of the gender you have been forced to conform to are difficult as faced with a body that looks nothing like yours. Normally they freak out and run away.

You avoid mirrors; outward appearances are very outward

If you can never live up to expectations of your parents; you don’t feel like you are loved

Desperation to be loved makes you very vulnerable as a young person and can lock you into abusive relationships; terrified that no one else will want you

Any manipulator can use the no one else will want you card; employers will use it against you too

Then, for many we don’t exist. That is until we have to fill in a form with gender boxes; we get caught up in every piece of red tape going. Until recently (in the last 5 years) we had no human rights. Tick the box ticked on your birth certificate they say; mine says “undetermined”

Trans and intersex are not the same thing; they want surgery and can’t get it, we don’t want surgery and have no choice in the matter. Apart from in Malta where intersex surgeries are illegal.

That said intersex people can be trans if they identify as male or female gendered and not amalga-gendered. Currently 10% of intersex people identify as trans. All of us have little choice but to be mis-gendered by those who don’t know us, and most of us play binary in public to avoid assault. Verbal and physical violence against intersex people is horribly common.

Intersex is not a sexuality. We are on the rainbow as due to being intersex the sexuality or sexualities we do have are going to be queer. Yes; we can have sex. No, we can’t have children.

If we have been operated on as babies or small children we are most likely to have been lied to. As have our parents. Trying to get any truth out of the medical establishment is like trying to get blood out of a stone. It was only confirmed in January that my condition (though I’ve known for decades) only affects boys; up to then I was told I was a girl and it was my fault I looked and felt differently. You would think though that having a prostate gland would be a give-away.

Please could we be included in the legalisation our existence is used to justify. Australian intersex folk can marry who they choose and Scotland to her credit is working on it. But nowhere else can we marry.

Could the world get over bathrooms please; if you have one in your home its unisex

My sign for Pride this year and no its not original, but very apt will say: Ugh, where do I start?