I am ashamed to say that I did not realize until earlier this evening that yesterday was Intersex Awareness Day. I spend so much of my time focusing on the struggles of the trans* community, both men and women, that I completely neglected that there were others in our midst who have been even more marginalized. In our struggle to be where we want to be in the gender binary, we so easily forget that there are those that will never fit into it.
These folks often have to live with the fact that someone else has arbitrarily assigned them a sex at birth. I know many of us in the trans* community feel that way, but in our cases it is a matter of ignorance in our upbringing, and an understandable mistake based on anatomy. It does not make it right, it does not make our struggles less, but there is a certain sort of logic to it, flawed though it may be. Intersex people have someone look at their bodies at birth, and often say “this does not make sense.” So their bodies are altered when they are very young to make either their physician or parents comfortable.
Never mind that sex is no more defined by genitalia than gender is. These doctors may, and often do, leave someone with a brain chemistry that does not match the sex they took pains to assign them. It is not until years later that these people realize there is something different from them. Some are told early in life by their parents (I knew an DMAB intersex child when I was a kid,) some later, some never. Some accept their designation, and some do not.
Then there are those who are never assigned a sex, at least not anatomically. Maybe they had less bigoted parents and physicians. Perhaps a medical reason kept the doctors from performing the surgery. Either way, these folks exist outside of the gender binary, and that can be a scary place to be. Many of us in the trans* community may end up feeling comfortable outside it, but a lot of us, myself included, want to be there, just not in the role we have had foisted upon us.
Intersex folk have to go through life in a culture that is obsessed with gender roles. We revel in them. We display them in out tastes, our professions, and our politics. We fight ardently for women’s rights against a vicious patriarchy, all the while (rightfully) proud to proclaim our femininity. Meanwhile our movies, songs, books, and public discourse all reinforce the notion of a gender binary. We remind the intersex community, however accidentally, that they exist in a place we cannot see. We leave them invisible, and display to them that they are so outside, that their needs are not worth our consideration.
Well they are worth our consideration. They deserve to be heard, and more than just one day in late October every year (though I am glad they have it.) The sexist, hetero sexist, and cis sexist structures that slam the entire LGBTQ community hit them harder than many of us. They deserve to be accepted into the fold of all society and if we are going to be true to ourselves we need to realize that means accepting them into the fold of our community. They are our siblings and deserve whatever help they want amplifying their voices. So in all of our struggles for gay marriage, bathroom rights, and anti-bullying campaigns, let us not forget them. They are us, and what hurts them, hurts us all.
- Today is Intersex Awareness Day (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Neither Seen Nor Heard a Commentary on XXY Health (sagefusion.wordpress.com)
- QUILTBAG. Queer, Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual, Ally, Gay, Genderqueer. (slacktivist.typepad.com)
- Transgender issues: Trans needs assessment survey (Canada) (blogs.montrealgazette.com)