Understanding the differences between Intersex and Transgender is critical. There are far too many organizations that extol they are fully inclusive when in reality they are not inclusive at all. They proudly display LGBTI. Yet they have no understanding of Intersex nor Transgender.
A basic marketing/business concept is not to say to you understand a topic or issue, if you do not.
The following essay by Curtis Hinkle, founder of Oranisation Intersex International is a must read for all. It provides important information about Intersex people and their issues.
United States affiliate of the Organisation Intersex International, a non-profit organisation incorporated in the Province of Quebec, Canada. We have members throughout the United States. OII–USA resists all efforts to make intersex invisible, including genital mutilation, medicalization and normalization without consent and offers another face to intersex lives and experience by highlighting the richness and diversity of intersex identities and culture.
OII is the largest intersex organisation in the world with members representing almost all known intersex variations. It has members in Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America.
Ten Misconceptions about Intersex
By Curtis E. Hinkle
Founder, Organisation Intersex International
1. Intersex means that a person has both sets of genitalia.
This is probably one of the most common misconceptions about intersex. Intersex usually has nothing to do with the genitalia of the person, much less having two sets. There are intersex people with a penis and a vaginal opening. However, there are no documented cases of a person being born with fully developed male and female genitalia. The vast majority of intersex people have genitalia that look pretty typically male or female with a small minority having atypical genitalia. As a matter of fact, the quaint, pseudoscientific term “true hermaphrodite” can refer to a person with totally typical male or female genitalia.
2. 1 in 2000 infants is born intersex.
This is one of the most common statistics given. It would be more accurate to state simply that in hospitals with gender assignment teams, 1 in 2000 infants is born with genitalia that are so atypical that the attending physician requests the help of the specialists in the team to assign a sex. Most hospitals in the world have no gender assignment teams and most intersex people have typical genitalia. One should be careful to note that even in the majority of births with atypical genitalia, the doctor does not request any assistance from a gender assignment team even if one is available. Therefore, one can readily see that this figure gives the impression that intersex is very, very rare. It isn’t.
There are so many different ways of being intersexed that it is very hard to give a statistic at this time. A more accurate estimate is given by Sharon Preves who has researched the topic of intersex very thoroughly. According to Preves, “The frequency could be as high as four percent.”
3. Intersex is about homosexuality.
The underlying reasons for pathologizing intersex and suggesting treatments which are often barbaric most likely are a result of homophobia. However, there is nothing about intersex per se that would cause one to state that intersex and homosexuality are the same issue or that they are directly related. There quite possibly are links but the physiological reasons are not fully understood at this time.
What is important to understand is that many intersexed people do identify as gay or lesbian. At the same time, many intersex adults find the whole issue of homosexuality irrelevant to their perception of themselves. More and more intersex people are comfortable with an intersex gender identity which they feel is more accurate in describing how they perceive themselves. The socially constructed model of eroticism offered up by many cultures which divides people into homosexual and heterosexual erases their identity. Even bisexuality which has been reluctantly accepted further perpetuates the idea of only two genders by the use of the prefix “bi” which means “both.” Actual experience has led me to realize that there are people who are primarily attracted to androgynous people, to “masculine” women or “feminine” men. And most important of all, what is the opposite sex of an intersex person who clearly states they have an intersex identity?
4. Intersex is not about gender.
To many intersex people, gender is the main issue. In many countries around the world, there are no early surgeries to “treat” intersex bodies. These people’s main issues are often based on not being able to fit into either gender or growing up with a body incompatible with the gender in which they were raised.
The very theories used to support mutilating intersex bodies both surgically and hormonally are based on notions of gender which have been proved to be unreliable. According to the theories often espoused by followers of Dr. John Money, gender is merely the result of social factors. We have very reliable proof that this is not true. Many other factors are involved that are not simply social. The individual is the best source for determining their identity – not someone looking at them from the outside.
Intersex is not just about our bodies but also about how we perceive ourselves within those bodies and gender identity is a crucial part of everyone’s identity. To erase the importance of gender to the individual intersex person is to reduce that person to only the physical aspects of their body, neglecting the more important part of the equation, their own perception of that body and themselves, as opposed to how other’s perceive them.
5. Intersex is part of the transgender movement.
No. Whereas individuals who are intersexed might identify as transgender, the opposite is not true. Most people who are part of the transgender movement are not intersexed. To include intersex under the umbrella term “transgender,” overlooks our specific needs which often are medical reform, legal issues concerning which gender we are, health issues specific to intersexed bodies and more importantly, the fact that most intersexed people are not trans. Many are perfectly happy with being men or women and more and more of us are quite happy being simply intersex and find the notion of trans totally foreign to our identity because we are rejecting binary gender categories altogether and the prefix “trans,” just like the prefix “bi” mentioned earlier, keeps the binary well intact.
6. Only true hermaphrodites are real hermaphrodites.
This is as silly as saying there are true males and pseudomales. The whole idea of dividing intersexed people into true hermaphrodites and pseudohermaphrodites is just another desperate attempt to keep the arbitrary binary gender categories intact. According to this pseudoscientific terminology, only people with gonadal tissue of both “official” sexes are hermaphrodites. Choosing only testicles and ovaries as the indicator of one’s true sex has been totally dismissed by modern science. There are women born with no ovaries, men born with no testicles and their true sex as they perceive it is often clearly that of a man or a woman.
7. Transsexualism is not an intersex condition.
We don’t know. The definition for Transsexualism can lead one to think so because it is so intricately bound to the diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria that one is left with the impression that it is a mental disorder. The fact that many infants born intersexed reject their sex assigned at birth would cause a reasonable person to wonder if in fact all cases of Transsexualism are simply a mental phenomenon. Is the intersexed person merely delusional about their true sex? Should they just try harder and get over the “Gender Dysphoria?” I find it more likely that the medical personnel are the ones that are delusional in thinking that they can determine what sex an intersexed infant is without asking first. The Organisation Intersex International maintains that all persons born intersexed should have the right to speak for themselves and this includes those who were assigned the wrong sex. To view us through the lens of Gender Dysphoria simply silences us once again, making our problem a mental one and not a societal one. The delusion and mental pathology are in the society at large which feels the need to determine one’s true sex based on genitals and to stigmatize individuals who do not fit into neatly packaged gender stereotypes.
8. The intersex movement is an identity movement like other GLBT movements.
No. The Organisation Intersex International campaigns for full Human Rights for all people born intersexed and one of those rights should be the right to selfidentify. The intersex movement should include us all whether we identify as a man, woman or simply intersex, and regardless of sexual orientation.
9. Most intersex people were assigned female.
From personal experience, I have not found this to be the case. Many intersexed infants assigned male are often overlooked and the parents are simply told there is some work necessary for proper urination or that a testicle has not descended, etc. When one reads about all the various ways of being intersexed, one realizes that an intersex person is just as likely to be assigned male as female.
10. Intersexuality is a condition which can be cured.
Intersex people have health problems just like everyone else. Mutilating our bodies is not a cure. It is simply barbaric. Being a male or a female is not in and of itself a health problem but there are health problems specific to females and males. This is also true of people born intersexed. To view intersex as a condition which can be cured only further justifies the barbaric medical practices we are often subjected to, such as mutilating surgeries, hormones which may be contrary to our own core identity and psychological treatments for not wishing to comply with the barbaric treatments.
Intersex rights are Human Rights and all people born with an intersex condition should have all the rights granted all other people. This is the mission of the Organisation Intersex International.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Posted by De Sube at 2/24/2010 10:30:00 AM