Monday, July 21, 2008

Diversity Lesson 101: Intersexuality

Intersexuality is a very misunderstood minority with very little scientific research or cultural and educational awareness on this group of individuals who suffer enormously at the expense of society and the medical establishment.

Intersexuality is when individuals are neither exclusively male or female. People who are born intersex may have differing degrees of being both male and female, internally, externally, or both. Typically society has regarded these individuals as “hermaphrodites” but this term is offensive and incorrect. A hermaphrodite would be someone who was fully man and woman, this is a biological impossibility, and as such we must refer to those with amibiguous genitalia as intersexual. Intersexuality is described by the medical establishment as a biological disorder, there is a growing movement of Queer/Intersexual activists who seek to remove this stigma, and say this is NOT disorder but a variation of the complex diversity that exists within gender.

Our society is so fully constructed in a gender binary system, believing everyone is either 100% male or female that we often ridicule those who don’t quite fall into one of those two categories. Intersexuals are often genitally mutilated by their doctors with the permission of their parents from a young age, to pre-determine their gender as either male or female. This is a terrible and painful procedure that often results in gender identity confusion growing up, leftover scars, and feeling incomplete as an individual. Studies have shown that many intersexuals who were left as they were made, grow up to be healthy and productive individuals in society as the third gender they really are. Some adults choose to go for surgery to match their genitalia/organs with the gender they more closely identify with, but this is their decision to make as an adult and not one for the medical community.

Intersexuality is nothing new it has been around since the dawn of time, but now with the internet and people speaking up the subject is gaining visibility and as such it is imperative the Queer community stand up for this small segment of our community who desperately needs our help.

As activists we can seek to educate ourselves and others about people who are intersexual and break the stigma associated with being born an intersexual. We can also follow closely the events and action alerts on this site and others listed where we can help the intersexual community gain acceptance as well as put an end to these horrific surgical procedures that are unnecessary and result in major difficulties later on in life.

Please post your thoughts on the subject and let me know any action alerts that I should post in the struggle for intersexual liberation.

Short Clips on Intersexuality:

Intersexual Resources:

Intersex Society of North America

Organization Intersex International

Intersex Initiative

Intersex Initiative

Intersex Community Forums


Stellewriter said...

Thank you for yur blog and the tasteful manner of representation. Too many chose to ignore or cover the facts of our situation.

Every ten minutes a child is born, 1/2500, in which the doctor cannot determine the sex, or gender. This is not talking about homosexuality, but tragically a congenital condition of birth which can be caused by endocrine agents and chemicals. These children are Intersex; they are born into a life of not male or female. Likewise in similar fashion the Transsexual is identified with a Bioneurological congenital condition, and they too are locked into something not quite so clearly defined as male, or female. The best we can do is live as close to what we seem to believe we are. That may preclude the wants, and often ignorant and bigoted beliefs of others. In what case do we ignore this issue and abandon the children who now cannot hide? How can anyone continue in hate and prejudice so as to deny simple equality and justice? Not an easy thing to resolve, but one that is present and will not go away. I can appreciate social opinion, and the freedom to express same, but I would hope our culture and ethos would be with regard to the children, teens, and emerging adults, and all who are not so fortunate to have been born by someone’s idea of “normal.”

Stellewriter – Conservative Christian, Parent, and Transsexual.

Sofia said...

Great post. Thanks for the information.

I've peeked at the ISNA's site before and they seem to be very adamant that intersex kids should be placed somewhere in the gender binary (see .) How do you feel about that? Personally, I understand their desire to get children legal rights and social acceptance with as little trouble as possible, but, as someone who doesn't identify as either a man or woman all of the time, I find their remarks to be rather disparaging. They seem to have science that supports their claims that labelling intersex children as boys or girls is good for them, but I wish they'd stick to that and not make commentary about how a third gender "doesn’t exist." I'd hope they'd be the first to realize that the first two genders don't really exist in an objective or universal sense, either. :)

Nicky said...

okay post, but you should have put a disclaimer that intersex is not the same as transgender and that intersex is a pure medical condition and not a social or identity issue. You should have told people that intersex is far different than transgender and that intersex needs are far different than transgender.

Anonymous said...

Dear QU, as always you manage to enlighten us; the first video touched me deeply. How you manage to continually assemble such interesting and informative topics is amazing. Also amazing is that you continue to make all of us members of the "club" feel more connected to other "members" who are different than our usual "comfort group."

Anonymous said...

PS Dear Nick, your addition to the topic was also an important one. Perhaps you could have been more gracious toward QU? It was really more than an "OK post!"

Queers United said...

Larry thank you so much for your gracious comment, I really do appreciate it. I am glad you found the post and video informative =)

Anonymous said...


Hi, I am a male - according to the "binary" system of sexual identification. But, I believe I fit the definition of "intersexual."

Going through puberty as a "male," I often wondered why all my buddies had this huge interest in the opposite sex. I had a gay friend and wondered why he had a sexual interest in those of the same sex. I wondered why my friends, both hetero and homosexual could always easily gain an erection and I could not. I still cannot.

I wondered why I looked like the statue you have on this page. I wondered.

I married a conservative Roman Catholic. Today, she has turned to a conservative religion that resembles the conservative catholic side. My three children marginalize me because I rejected the thoughts of gay-bashing people who claim they have leaders "representative of God" when these peope are merely control freaks who wish to use the Bible and religion to justify traditionalist thoughts, including any new research uncovering medical conditions such as intersexuality.

I really tried to adapt to a hateful religion. But it was not until my doctor told me (when I was in my 40s) about conditions of low testosterone that have impacted me all my life that the cowards in religions totally decided to reject, marginalize and demonize me. The wife asked for a divorce and my children have followed the ways of narrow religious thinking in demonizing their father. It is sad, but I have to live with it.

I have always wondered whether my genitals were changed at birth, but parents refuse to discuss the issue. There are just certain signs that only the "owner" - me - would know. I have always had a time in the month when I simply am unable to get blood into the genitals and have wondered about this event - that it takes place once a month.

Doctor solutions? Give me steroids. Fine, but even the ex-wife "empathizes" with warnings about the effects of steroids. Too bad she cannot walk the walk and reject the hateful religious thoughts that brainwash her and the kids by people who seek power and control through traditionalist thoughts (frankly, may they all go to hell). Quite frankly, she demonstrates signs of understanding but would prefer religious "fathers" (carryover from the catholics) control her life rather than an intersexual who truly loved her more at one time.

That's my life. I am happy spending time with another man. And it is nobody's business with regard to my sex life. Except what I have just shared - anonymously - about my medical sexual condition.

I obtained the name of the peditrician in NY, but have wondered whether it would be worth contacting him. I really don't care if it embarasses my parents or not. But, somehow, I am not certain if I want to pursue questions about what happened at birth. However, as time passes, the doctor could die and then I may never know. Working in a medical library many years ago, I saw books with photos describing changes of genitalia at birth, so the medical community has known about it for some years, but have kept it hush hush.


Queers United said...

Thank you so much for being so forthcoming and sharing your story! I am sorry to hear about the ignorance of your wife and kids but its the sad truth that many people are still very intolerant of what they don't understand. It is a shame and I hope that even though the experience was negative that you have perhaps changed them slightly for the better. In the least even if you don't see it, I am sure you have gotten them to think twice about their antiquated and religiously bigoted point of view.

I cannot tell you what to do from a medical standpoint, nobody can. You have to follow your heart, and if knowing what happened at birth is important to you, I'd say go for it. I also highly recommend using some of the links to connect with others who are intersex. We also have some wonderful people on this website who are intersex, and you should definitely reach out to them for support as they best know the struggle you are going through. Please consider Queers United your home on the net, as we proudly welcome all sexual and gender minorities and love you for who you are, regardless of the genitals you do or do not have.

Unknown said...

THIS SITE IS AMAZING!!!! I am a teacher who teaches adults who will be socail workers and this iste has been invaluable in providing resourses so that we as support workers can better understand your needs (which are the same as any human :) and possibly some of the trauma of living life as an intersexual. thank you
sue simpson Australia

Shauna said...

Oh my did you happen upon my myspace site?

To each and everyone who will be reading this comment, as an Intersex person my gender mishap is inside my body. I have often asked why I was different with no reasons to be given so I feel this has made me a better person. I may have been born different, but I am unique in my own way.

At this time I am going through an ovarian problem which may be cancerous, I will let you know.

Leslie said...

I was born male, but I firmly believe myself to be transgendered, a woman in a man's body. I'm still coming to terms with the idea that I'm not crazy, instead I'm just not part of the gender binary. What a relief!

I had a friend in high school many years ago that was intersex (I think), and he had to get a letter excusing him from showering with the other boys after PE. Summer came and we all went about our usual activities. Apparently puberty set in and she came back to school looking completely different. Of the other 5 friends he had, I was the only one that stayed.

I only ever told her about my trans status, until this last summer. I tried like a fool to fix my "condition" with prayer and the rest of the blarney we all have spewed at us by the hateful right.

Thanks for reminding me of her and the strength she had. I really need that memory right now, as I prepare to enter into my own transition.

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