Intersex and LGBT

As an extended version of LGBT, LGBTQQIA includes the letter I for intersex. Intersex is defined as “a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside,” (Intersex Society of North America). It is estimated that an intersex condition occurs in around every 1 in 2000 births.

Often, when a child is born with an intersex condition, their body is surgically changed to conform to male or female anatomical standards. Where as a trans person often has consensual surgery to confirm their gender. An intersex individual may not learn about their condition until adulthood. Each individual is different, they may decide to continue living as their assigned gender, they may have a desire to change. So, ultimately it is a personal choice as to how queer one’s identity is as an intersex person. However, as a group it is relevant for people who are intersex to be included in the LGBT umbrella, because of things like the oppressions they face based on gender, and the lack of representation and awareness about various intersex conditions.

The idea that intersex needs to be fixed is problematic and reflects the rigid gender binary that exists, especially in the medical world. Mark ad Pam Crawford give their firsthand experience with having adopted an intersex child, post-surgery, who no longer wanted to identify with their assigned gender. The medicalization of gender seems arbitrary to them as they mention “It took the trio [of doctors] about four months to decide which gender to assign [to their child]” (The Atlantic). In this article the normalcy is brought up “Most parents are disturbed by the appearance of the genitalia and request that something be done as soon as possible so that their baby looks normal.” The idea that male or female needs to be chosen, is further enforced by the fact that their is currently no other legal option for things like passports, or licenses, therefore it is not normal. The idea of normal is persistant. Cordelia Fine notes in Delusions of Gender “The developmental possibilities for an individual are neither infinitely malleable nor solely in the hands of the environment.”

three-gender-option-passportsA person is not mentally a male or a female based on their genitals. As Fine points out, “Once in the public domain these supposed facts about male and female brains become part of the culture, often lingering on well past their best-by dates.” Implying that our culture and our media has influenced our understanding of gender so strictly in the binary that it’s hard to accept things like “Intersex people exist.”

The science behind gender, is complicated. There are no pink or blue brains. Fine expresses the idea that their are differences between body, brain, genitals, chromosomes, etc, etc and any combination of male or female or other can occur, stating, “Genes don’t determine our brains (or our bodies)” She also focusses on the desire to show explicit differences between genders in scientific studies, a.k.a. the desire to enforce the binary. Which, of course, erases intersex identities, as well as trans identities as it suggests conformity between brain and body. Does an intersex person who choses to live as male or female have to identify as trans? No one has to identify as anything they don’t want to identify as. Intersex and trans are not synonymous. But does this mean intersex is inherently a queer identity? There is not one answer for this question, it is yes and no, and maybe. Queer identity is so personal that it’s unfair to dictate someone’s chromosomes or genitals in this group if they dont want to be. However, the oppressions interest people face are inline with other struggles of those other-ed in their gender and/or sexuality.

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Sources:

Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference (New York: W.W. Norton, 2010)

“Intersex Society of North America | A World Free of Shame, Secrecy, and Unwanted Genital Surgery.” Intersex Society of North America | A World Free of Shame, Secrecy, and Unwanted Genital Surgery. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.

Greenfield, Charlotte. “Should We ‘Fix’ Intersex Children?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.

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