Monday, October 26, 2015

Super Duper Rare Intersex Q&A: Your Questions, My Answers!

Q (from Justice McPherson): Is there a strong overarching intersex community? I'm never quite sure what to say because I don't know what the community agrees on in terms of language, etc.

A:  Absolutely! We're a small community, but mighty when we come out of the woodwork and join forces (usually on Facebook and Twitter) to communicate, learn from each other on the varieties and complexities of all the intersex conditions that exist, what we share in common in our journeys with its highs and lows, and so forth. One example of this is our #IntersexStories Twitter Storm:

Here are what the community agrees on with terms (in general): 

- NEVER call someone or anyone a "hermaphrodite."

- Don't assume everyone's gender neutral. Intersex people can identify with any gender, man, woman, both, or neither. 

- Respect people's privacy (like don't ask someone "So what's the matter with you?" or "May I see your genitals?"). It's common sense not to ask nosy questions, but people do, and it's rude. Nobody's entitled to ask intrusive questions and nobody owes it to anybody to give them an answer. Respectfully let people reveal something private and personal about themselves in their own terms.

Keep these things in mind, and you'll be fine! We don't bite ;). Most of us are a friendly bunch.   

Q (from Craig Clark): From what you have observed, is there any one group that Intersex identify with more than another? For sample Bisexual or Pansexual ? Thank you for your time on this topic. I understand that there will be some variety in this answer, thank you.

A: Honestly, not really. I'm pansexual. I've met some intersex people that are also pansexual, but I've also met a fair share of those who identify as straight, lesbian, gay, and bisexual. I've yet to see any one particular sexuality dominate. It's a pretty nice and balanced variety in the community. 

Q (from Scarlett Knight): Do you find many religious (we'll say Christian) people in the intersex community given that the bible talks so much about gender roles and makes no mention of any third pronoun?

A: Actually, I haven't (yet). I can imagine that religious (Christian) intersex people are out there. What I deeply admire is that for LGBTQI people in general, from what I've noticed, that when it comes to their religion, they put their sexuality aside and focus on what really matters: their faith in God. Even if the Bible is against them, and for intersex in this case, even though there is no mention at all of intersex, all that matters is that they believe despite the odds. Isn't that what faith is all about?

Q (from Justice McPherson): What are the biggest and most annoying things you have to deal with on a day to day basis that come from being intersex? Is it basically just the same annoyances that trans people deal with, or is there some other headaches that people don't usually think about?

A:  Ooh, this is one loaded question that gives a lot of food for thought! First, here's the difference between transgender and intersex. Most transgender people were born with a body that's typically male or typically female, but the gender they were assigned at birth does not align with how they identify at the heart. Intersex is when you were born with a body that's NOT typically male and NOT typically female, and how they're gender identified at birth usually entails either the baby getting corrective surgery without consent (and in some cases, not even with the parent's consent), or where the parent chooses a gender for the child that they feel is "best" (based on the child's outside appearance, usually). These are not only two entirely different definitions, but the experiences are too unique to say that transgender people and intersex people are the same. People often lump us together as one and the same when we aren't. "Transgender" and "intersex" should never be used interchangeably and "intersex" should never be used to justify why someone is a trans male or a trans female (that happens a lot, which adds much unnecessary confusion). But safely, I can say that despite our remarkable differences, there are things like the fetishization, objectification, stigmatization, the transphobia, and so many other things of this nature, where if we got together and talked about it, we can go "Oh yeah, I relate to this!" or "OMG, I know how you feel, that happens to me too!" And some intersex people (like myself) shared the same gender identity issues as transgender people do, and can also feel that their assigned gender does not fit with their actual gender identity. Are the annoyances the same? Sure, but it's very different. What I deal with is not going to be the same as what a transgender person (MtF, FtM) deals with. Like for instance, most people know what "transgender" is. Most people on average have never heard of "intersex" let alone met an intersex person. So with just about every person I get to know personally, not only do I have to explain my gender identity, I have to also get into what intersex is, simplifying it best I can. That's  double the ignorance I'm faced with. And unfortunately, not everyone has double the open-mindedness. More frustrating is when/if I meet someone who knows what "intersex" is, they use outdated and stigmatizing language like "So you're half and half," "in-between," "part male, part female," or the worst, biggest no-no of all: "hermaphrodite." It's challenging for people to understand intersex people in a world where we're still pretty invisible (even within the LGBTQI community). And since "intersex" is still not in the mainstream either, most people have no clue about the term, don't know how to behave when they meet an intersex person, etc. I don't take it to heart. I can understand why their ignorance is there. They can't help it and it's not their fault. Most people when knowing me, they will listen, learn from me, "get it," and treat me no differently than before they knew I was intersex while others cannot or will not change (and those were the ones that would boast about how "open minded" they are). The biggest annoyance of all is how unpredictable and yet predictable people can be. People take their visibility and inclusivity for granted. For someone like me, it's not a given or just there. I have to work a little bit harder for that and acceptance too. It's annoying and a headache, but with a heaping dose of positivity, patience, and understanding (it's a two-way street), I can only hope that with time, things will be easier for us and people will do better.

Q (from Amber Morant)Just curious but I know you are intersex which means you are born with both genitals and a bunch of other medical stuff that goes into it and such but being trans does that mean you were operated on then as a kid and they did the wrong genitalia removal? Or more so you are trans in the sense of fluidity or ace? Just curious and confused.

A: I was very lucky. Sadly, many intersex babies are operated on without consent, but I wasn't. Neither my parents or the doctors wanted me correctively operated at birth (they call it "corrective surgery"). They did the right thing by not "normalizing" me. They let me have my male and my female genitals as they naturally are. I love my body as it is, unique and different. Outside of the transgender community, people only think of "trans" as MtF and FtM. In actuality, there are many faces of trans, and I'm one of them. I identify not as a man, not as a woman, but agender. I don't identify with "male" or "female" despite being raised as one gender but perceived as another (that's a whole other complex and complicated story!). Agender can also mean "genderless." Some will call it "gender neutral." They/them/their pronouns. My genitals don't speak for me. It's my heart  and mind that always knew what I am, just a person that can't, doesn't, and won't conform to the gender binary of man or woman. That is what makes me "trans." This may seem confusing, but I'm not confused!

I hope this "trans umbrella" helps too. Under this are the many identities that hold their distinctive journey and experiences. Not lumped together or one and the same, only uniquely their own. 

Q (from Julie Mouton)Do identify with one gender more than another?

A: I deeply admire the feminine aesthetic, but it doesn't fit right on me. I feel most comfortable expressing myself in the masculine. 

Q (from Karen McCrary): I was curious though of your opinion about gender mark on a document. Do you think including a intersex spot would help or lead to more questioning and problems, ie: airport security?

A:  As of now, there isn't a third/"other" gender marker on most USA documents. We aren't there (yet) at accepting the fact that there are hundreds of us out there that identify with the non-binary/gender non-conformity. If/when this does happen, I honestly don't think it would create any issues. Maybe some raised eyebrows in the beginning, but since when has that hurt an entire nation? I believe that having a third/"other" option would only help make the identification of intersex folks easier, more fair (instead of forcing us to have to make a choice between F or M on the document), and will further make this country a place of equality for ALL, the non-binary included. 

Q (from Julie Mouton): I read Middlesex and in the sex scenes it doesn't mention the main character climaxing. Why?

A: That is the quirk of the literary genre ("general fiction") where the sex scenes don't explicitly "show" the climaxing. That's left for the reader to imagine. In real life, contrary to where the book might have implied that the intersex character didn't or couldn't climax, intersex people do have orgasms! 

A major THANK YOU to everyone and their wonderful questions! I'm going to keep this an open space for people to continue asking questions below and I'll answer them as soon as I get them! 

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