Intersexuality, transsexuality and all the other possibilities – a challenge of perception

by Lena Nyhus

English: From the female and male symbols. Int...

I have always felt strongly about the plight of intersexual people or hermaphrodites as their were called, when I grew up. I have only ever spoken to very few. I have no idea about how frequently it happens, that children are born with genitals that are different from the norm of either female or male. I don’t know anything about how often it happens that people are born into bodies that appear to belong to one gender, but actually feel as the opposite gender either. I’m simply uninformed about these things. One thing I do know though is that people are people. Period.

But I understand that it must be immensely difficult to feel trapped in a body, that does not conform to the norm, at least to the extent that anyone who hasn’t tried it can possibly understand it.  I understand that it must be challenging to come to terms with something that is only rarely seen or heard of in society. I understand that it must be heart breaking to be brought up under circumstances where parents, doctors or society with the best of intentions try to raise the child to certain gender norms or perhaps even force it to undergo operations.

I do not claim to have the right answer – or any answer at all – to the challenges faced by families with children who do not conform to the norm of male or female, but I don’t think that forcing operations on the children from an early age is the answer.

The two videos, I have posted here, represent my very first slow conscious venture into forming an informed opinion about the genital integrity  of intersexual children. At this point I fully support the intersexual child’s right to genital integrity and acceptance in society as they are and equally fully support the informed adult’ right to operation if they find that they live in bodies that do not correspond to the gender, they feel they belong to.

I’m not sure I understand the term intersex. Transgender and transsexuality, I get. Because it appears in most cases to be about swopping from one gender to another, but it appears to me that intersexuality is not merely about being something in between. Why are intersex children or hermaphrodites not simply just something in their own right? Perhaps I’m missing something here?

One thing I am absolutely sure about at this point is, that society as a whole has to grow to become much more accepting and embracing of people who do not fit into neat little boxes. I don’t particularly care whether the challenge is gender, colour, culture, sexuality, mental illness, physical disabilities or whatever it could possibly be. I really don’t care. We simply need to respect, accept and embrace each other. Simple as that. People are people.

When I posted this piece to my Facebook page one of my kind readers made me aware of a great page with a virtual abundance of information about intersex people, it’s called The Intersex Roadshow and from the little I have read so far, it appears to be a really great blog. I had the pleasure to read a piece called Intersex Genitalia Illustrated and Explaned and it was absolutely brilliant.


8 thoughts on “Intersexuality, transsexuality and all the other possibilities – a challenge of perception

  1. The problem here is that Intersex people are not trapped in their own bodies. They are born with a Medical condition, but society and some people choose to sexualize and fetishize Intersex people.

    • Interesting point Nicky, when I wrote “trapped in their own bodies” I was actually referring primarily to transgender persons and to intersex people, who are forced to live as one gender when actually, they feel as another gender. It may not have been perfectly clear the way I put it.

      But I fail to see, why being intersex should be considered a medical condition. Why is it, that they could not simply be accepted for what they are? And then perhaps as adults make informed decisions to change that to conform with either their perception of female or male, if they find it relevant. The point made in the videos is, that it rarely is a success for the intersex individual, if we (as society) perceive their conditions as medical and proceed to try to cure or mend it.

      I was just made aware of a great site a few minutes ago called The Intersex Roadshow, I haven’t had time to dive into all the content, but I read this one piece which has some great points.

      • The problem here is that their are people within the trans and genderqueer community who tend to see being born with an Intersex condition as a sex and gender identity. Their are even some in the trans community who have been known to use the Intersex name as an excuse or alibi to justify their trans status. Which is why most intersex people don’t see themselves as a sex and gender identity. They simply see themselves as a normal human being with a medical condition that they are born with from birth and have to live with for the rest of their lives.

        Which is why Intersex people are offended when their condition is sexualized and fetishized by the trans and genderqueer community. It’s why Intersex people try to distance themselves far away from the Trans and genderqueer community. It’s because they have nothing in common with them and don’t want to anything to do with them. On top of that, their are parents of Intersex children who are very weary and afraid of trans and gender queer people who associate with Intersex people. It’s why they don’t want intersex community to be associated with Trans and genderqueer people. They don’t want their child’s intersex condition to be thought of as a sex and gender identity.They simply want them to be seen as a normal person with a lifelong medical condition.

      • Ok, now I understand your point. It’s a very interesting perspective. My question is, if so many children feel, that they have not been met and felt understood in the medical system during their childhoods, where they were perceived as normal but with a medical condition, is it then a fair approach? Would it be better for the children if we were to try to educate the public to come to an acceptance that perhaps there are not only two genders, perhaps there are three or maybe more?

        At this very early point in my educational process it seems to me that there are two dominant perspectives. One in which the children are perceived as belonging to the conventional genders male or female, but with a medical condition and another which focuses on the intersexuality as a gender of it’s own, and then there is the challenge that you mention of the (perhaps unwanted) sexualisation of the intersex people.

        I didn’t realise until now, that there could be a tension between the groups of intersex, transgender and transsexual, but I’ll have to learn more about that too.

      • It’s because parents of Intersex children don’t want their child’s Intersex condition to be sexualized and fetishized by trans and genderqueer people. They simply want to have their Intersex children to have a somewhat a normal life. Which is why vast majority of Intersex people including myself who don’t want anything to do with the Trans and gender community. They simply want to avoid it at all cost and try to heal from all the childhood surgical treatments that were done to them without their consent or knowledge.

        Here’s articles where you want to read on this issue

      • Nicky, as I understand it, you have undergone surgery, may I ask; do you think, that you would have been better off without the surgery or are you happy, that you have gone through surgery?

        I guess what I am asking is also; would you rather have had the choice yourself and perhaps waited or is it ok with you that your parents made the decision? And what if your parents had made the wrong decision, meaning they had decided to designate a sex to you, which turned out to be the wrong one?

        I understand that I am asking some highly sensitive and personal question, so I of course fully respect if you chose to answer partially or not at all.

      • It would depend upon if it’s life threatening or endangering my health. I would be happy without the Surgery. For me, I would try and correct the mistakes of what my parents did and if not, I would try to live as normal as possible.

  2. Pingback: Congratulatons! It’s a…. uhm… congratulations… | Just a Snip - against genital mutilation aka circumcision

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