There is a great rift between the transsexual and intersexed communities because of the cultural dichotomies of sex, and mostly because of the discrimination and erasure of ‘non-binary’ identities. The perception or belief is that somehow through choice many of us with in our communities refuse to live as “Proper Men” and “Proper Women” with no regards to our unique conditions. This applies to both transsexuals and intersexed persons. Even within and between these two groups there is discrimination of those regards from that culturally nonsensical vitriol. But why should we be enemies, when in all considerations these two very closely related components should be cooperative. But when you start talking about suffering it drives a wedge of entitlement into the issue that is hard to dislodge. Each group has claims to suffering for their unique conditions and ultimately have valid reasons to cry foul. What, however, is not valid is the divisiveness of this diatribe between the two. Most of us spend hours, months and years trying to define ourselves, most often depending on Wikipedia for definition.
You’d only have to look a forum away to find an intersexed person who will beat you about the head, neck, and shoulders for claiming transsexuality as anything resembling intersexuality. This is especially true of forums that cater to the intersexed persons who “did conform” under the treatment of a physician. These groups, like the rest of heteronormative society, are very disparaging to all who “fail to conform their genders under duress, and hormone therapies“. If you are intersexed and transgender you are unwanted, shunned even ridiculed for the same circumstances that some of those very people experienced. The two titles convolutes the issue greatly. It is even present in medical literature as I have mentioned before as well as the same erasure we see of all non-binary identities. With such a rift such mentalities are inevitable.
The intersexed community itself is divided down the same lines as our culture is… Those who conformed to their assigned genders, and those who don’t. It’s a newly made visible dichotomy in our culture that has for centuries tried to deny and vehemently so. Of even those who are intersex and conform to their assigned role, many experience significant gender dysphoria though quite a few would deny it. Also there is a community wide denial of any gender identity disorder among that community at large, in trying to make itself insular from the transgender community. This denial is of course false, and trying to define one as different from the others. What is ironic about this sentiment, is that it disappears when talking to some of the foremost experts in the fields of medicine surrounding them.
Dr. Milton Diamond for one believes that transsexuality is a form of intersexuality, and there is medical evidence to back up this conclusion, he also has the medical research, and experience to back up why he claims such things. I can hear it now, the scorning voices of the intersexed persons out there who suffered through the genital mutilations of normalization therapies. In this same token, there are many intersexed persons who never experienced this, or whose conditions were more mildly ambiguous but who are no less intersexed, or even more rare that their families didn’t consign them to corrective surgeries. Does suffering at the hands of doctors make you more or less valid as a person, or intersexed? Does it make your identity any less valid? The idea that intersexed people are not like transsexuals on the basis of suffering alone (while no amount of unnecessary suffering is justifiable for any reason) this does not hold water as a justification for division. On a whole we are both at war with the social dynamic, some of us stuck between bayonets and cannon blasts with no middle ground to stand on.
Indeed, being intersexed and transsexual both have issues that vary slightly, this in itself does not prove such a rift between the two. The rift between the two is driven there by both the senses of entitlement to reparation for being different, and because of the cultish and obtrusiveness of heteronormative ideology. Being transgender or intersex has no variation in validity or need despite what some may say. If you transition as an intersexed person it is no different from transitioning as a transgender person. There are varying legal considerations, but the overall cultural account is the same. In fact, if you are intersexed, you are treated similarly, as you would be if you were transsexual, though I’d argue there are differences. In the end the sex of the brain really does matter to our lives as human beings, and it is the denial of this that is the source of all of our suffering. Why should these communities be divided, either inside or out? The real answer is there is no reason for it.
There is no reason for intersexed people to be offended by their similarities with transsexual person, and no valid entitlement because of suffering. If you live in that frame of thought, then no amount of suffering will ever validate someone’s need. Any argument that says that transsexuals don’t suffer and the intersexual do is going to be flat-out wrong. I don’t see those pains as being any different, or separate or valid. The validity of self is not based on the premise of suffering, though holding true to one’s identity in spite of suffering is admirable. Furthermore, the definition of intersexed is much to narrow to really be inclusive of all variations of human gender and sex. This is just how things are. Denying the sky is blue doesn’t make it purple. But, now you may be asking since I got through the meat of what I was presenting, why and how is this pertinent to me.
Well because to a degree I live between these worlds. I have enough symptoms of intersexed characteristics to assert that I am likely one, but I am transgender so doctors refuse to take me seriously when I tell them about my condition. I menstruate minus bleeding because I can’t. I cycle like a woman. Around the full moon I get tenderness in my breasts, and experience a pain near my hip bones that feels like being kicked in the genitals. I also experience depression around the time most women are ovulating. Since 2003 my body displayed the onset of gynecomastia, but not from obesity. I weighed 155 lbs at 5’8″ when it started, and 165 now. My body began “flipping” in 2008 when my body odor changed and my monthly hormonal cycles worsen, and my breast soreness started to get bad. My body started to change shape, from androgynous to more feminine. My emotional responses changed, as did my libido.
Even with all the signs, even blood tests with decreased testosterone and increased estrogen I couldn’t convince a doctor that something “weird” was going on. At the time I was not considered transgender, but I felt very much that I was a woman though I kept much of that to myself. I had fertility issues, but I wasn’t married so I had no reason to complain about it. Eventually my endocrine disruption landed me in a psychotherapists office at which point I was diagnosed with GID. I never got tested for it, because no one took me serious. By that point hiding it required very strategic clothing choices, and very tight waist jeans to hide my feminine hips. Since then my cycles have gotten much more intense as well as the menstrual like pains, and mood swings. With no more testosterone my body makes a decent amount of its own estrogen, more than technically should. But it’s hard to avoid getting beat up by trans and intersexed people alike for admitting this, or admitting my wish to give myself for intersexed testing.
This is something of a problem, that people believe that if you are transsexual, that getting tested is somehow validating the pathology of it. You also get beat up by the intersexed for the perception that you are trying to claim the “supposed freedom of intersexed status” as an excuse. In fact, there are intersexed people out there who believe like other in our culture that being transgender is all in your head. It is all, of course, a result of the deriding and demoralizing power of sexism, that somehow you are less of a person if you aren’t of the status quo. No sane intersexed person should support this mentality, furthermore, no transsexual person should scoff at another transsexual person who has real reason to believe there body is different beyond their gender identity. As I feel I can attest, being intersexed has its own questions which munch on thoughts at the back of your mind. Why am I like this, why am I different? Not all transsexual persons out there are “looking of an easy out” by trying to declare intersexed conditions.
I, for one, couldn’t care less about what intersexed conditions mean about me as a person, and it makes no difference in the course I’ll take in my life. I don’t need, nor want a justification, I just want to know why I feel how I do and the RIGHT to pursue those ends. But that is the problem with our culture. They tend to deny that which lies outside of the confines of their silly little binaries, whether it be my boobs, my menstrual-like cycles, or my gender identity. Even with all my symptoms, and even validated with in-depth medical testing, you aren’t guaranteed an intersexed diagnosis, much less so insurance coverage for such or fertility treatments to allow you the same privilege as cisgendered infertile people. Indeed, it would almost seem as though our culture has a want to be very “eugenic” about allowing the “others” to reproduce. It is not the pathological or biological method by which people are transsexual or intersexed, nor testing that searches for them that needs scrutiny, but the cultural perception that such people are unfavorable and should be denied the rights entitled to other human beings (including right to life).
Transsexuals who get tested aren’t transgressing transness by seeking such testing, or for the pathologization of all who “fail to conform to normalization” to include intersexed. It is our culture and our mentalities about sex and gender that are truly blameworthy for this great rift that lies between the two, not those who seek to understand the cause of our conditions. In a culture that wasn’t so entangled in its denial getting tested would be socially inconsequential and medically helpful. Ignorance is no excuse for maintaining practices which discriminate against others. No one has the right to declare who lives and dies on the basis of their preference or their gender or lack of definable gender. It is no different from the murder of female babies in India and China because female children are less valuable. Transsexuals aren’t deplorable for simply by declaring their similarities with those who are intersexed. As with anything, transsexuality is little more than another variation of standard models of sex, and comes with it its own suffering as great and can be greater than the intolerance and discrimination shown to intersexed people. It is time for these communities to stop letting those binaryists, and conformists tell us how we should live our lives, or who we should live it as. The transsexual and intersexed people of the world have a lot to gain by uniting more and a lot to lose by not doing so. Remember, some transgender people are symptomatic, and others are not… Just as some intersexed people are, and in my opinion both of which have biological origins. It’s time for us to shatter the entitlement via suffering, otherwise we all lose.
- Dangers of intersex inclusion with DSM 5 (kallmannssyndrome.wordpress.com)
- Trans-border crossings (macleans.ca)
- Beyond Male and Female: Gender Trouble, Biology Trouble. (queeringthechurch.com)
- How a Woman Became a Dominican Priest, and Teacher of Moral Theology. (queeringthechurch.com)
- Making Peace with the Grue-some Monsters (mhairi.wordpress.com)
- A Transsexual Vs. the Government (time.com)
- More Marginalized Than Women: Who are Hijras? (sairasays.wordpress.com)
Update: I concede that perhaps I don’t know enough on this issue to represent it on all sides. But that is part of what blogging is about or at least to me. It’s more than a wall you bounce your words off, it’s more interactive. There is a lot more to this issue that what I can possibly represent from what I know about it. It is something I have spent a good deal of time researching (though sometimes there is little to be had on certain topics), but it is pretty clear that perhaps we are not at a point where we can make a “Call to Arms” to unite these groups. That being said, I should boil down the inspiration of this blog to what it means. I am against the dichotomization of groups for no other reasons than the cultural state of mind. Where this plays in to me is the denial and erasure of intersexed people who transition, and the denial and erasure of the need of some transgendered people to receive treatment and testing for intersexed conditions. These conditions aren’t exclusive, being one doesn’t prohibit the other.
Also, I am against the way the medical establishment treats these groups. Their positions tend to be medical normalization focused without regards to the patient, and very surgery heavy in goals. This is because it is perceived to be a “bad thing” or “culturally unacceptable” to exist between the gender binary sex constructs so often endorsed, especially here in westernized cultures. Many people can’t afford to get surgeries, and many others are forced into unnecessary ones. This needs to change, and I think it is a valid point of focus for both the intersexed and transgendered communities. Like many others I also would disagree with the position and inclusion in the DSM-IV of intersexed conditions, I also disagree with the inclusion of transsexuals. I do admit that treatment for people with GID is necessary, and intersexed people can suffer gender dysphoria as well, I don’t believe it should be targeted at transgendered people as a mental disorder. It only serves to stigmatize.
I feel it should be labeled and codified as a medical condition (note: still independent of intersexed conditions) and live firmly in the realm of medicine. Not everyone who is transgendered has gender dysphoria, or has trouble dealing with it. Transgenderism/Transsexuality is not a mental illness as is prescribed by some, nor is the need of some intersexed people to transition a “failure to conform to treatment”. I also resent the idea that intersexed or transgendered people “need” to be normalized, unless of course they ask for it themselves. I am resistant to the idea that transgender people aren’t “real men” and “real women”, as do I resist other categorizations being forced on people. I also feel that every opportunity for medical transition needs to be granted equally to all intersexed people as well. It is my sincerest wish to see a world where gender isn’t forced upon us by a majority, that all people regardless of status and medical condition have a choice over their body based on what they need. This I feel is something all of us can strive toward as a whole, not just intersexed and transgender people.
Lastly, I understand that my hormonal status before transition, physical pains, hormonal cycles and body proportions don’t in and of themselves necessarily guarantee that an intersexed condition is the cause. There are certainly other and rare conditions that can contribute to what I experienced (from body changes to hormonal interventions, et cetera). The main reason I even care is because of the pain, and issues it produces. Honestly, the possibility frightens me because I don’t want to lose access to treatment because of it. I want to know, and I don’t. Finding the cause seems important enough, but it makes it no less scary. I really don’t have anything else to say on this topic, accept that I concede that I am not an expert, and I can only speak from my unique position. I do not, and can not speak for others on this issue, as I am neither a doctor, nor a scientist. It is the negotiator in me that hates to see division and always searches for common ground. I can assert certain things I know, but I don’t know everything.