Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cat 'Aww!', woman as construct, crossdressing and Intersex/DSD issues

Last time I blogged before the video, I mentioned in a blog post about how the societal expectation of women is a construct, one that is expected by men and maintained by the silence of women.

Part of our western womanhood is beening taught that if we are NOT like the Barbie/June Clever image then it is shameful, embarrassing, and something that if talked about at all, is talked about, or rather TOLD to you in a female only assembly with the instruction of silence. Always told not to tell.

So who then is to blame the guys for being a little confused that women have all sorts of things they just ‘don’t talk about’? US! That ranges from disordered eating, facial hair (40% clear facial hair once a week, 5% every day), hair loss, balding, monobrows and thick eyebrows, PCOS, extreme cramps, extreme PMS, periods every 10 days or once every 2 years. Of course we NEVER fart and we don’t ‘sweat’, we ‘glow’. I am sure that each woman could list how they are not…. Fill in the blank. Is the ‘Swimmer Shoulders’ or even the host of disease which only now are not just considered ‘women’s disease’ like CFS/M.E. and fibro. Why a ‘woman’s disease’? Because it goes in the section the general population and most men either don’t understand, don’t WANT to know about, or is just part of the mystery of ‘you know, women get……stuff.’

Only in the last year or two were the same sexual disorders men have like lack of arousal (erection issue for dudes) which were present in women (no sensation or too much or constant sensation) were considered to NOT be part of a) a psychological issue stemming from the woman and b) probably Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And that is AFTER studies show MRI’s that women are telling the truth and even then, it takes on average a woman FIVE doctors before she is believed.

If we had a stack of medical diseases and conditions that women who had them were blamed and shunned for having them, it would be quite the Tower of Babel. Of course, that shunning also induces silence, when the word ‘hysterical’ is involved, or is blamed on psychological factors though that includes, or has included, MS, seizure disorders/epilepsy, Autism Spectrum, CFS, Fibro, Lupus (yeah, that used to be ‘mental’) along with most genetic disorders (now only believed due to genetic testing).

We are part of that silence. We too easily accept that there is ‘too much’ to know and that stereotypes of what we shouldn’t talk about dictate our responses. I too easily accepted that, and in parts I still do.

Intersex does not mean something where there are three boxes: ‘male’, ‘female’ and ‘other.’ Though the six to eight heavy machinery laying foundation 6-20 feet from me for 10-12 hours a day and computer problems have slowed me down, to the point of very ill and supported by Linda, I will be talking about the lie we believe, the lie of ‘normal.’ Over this and other topic specific posts. It was the reaction from the intersex issue earlier that encouraged me to start with a 'Basic' intro.

Survey after survey, do you know the first thing that parents feel when told their baby has ambiguous genitalia or an intersex condition? Shame. Shame and ‘what did I do wrong?’ That also happens to be the SAME feeling that parents with babies who have large wine birthmarks on their face feel. Does that make that little boy or girl an ‘other’? Not a boy? Not a girl? Because of a birthmark? Sure, it is different: it doesn’t involve those words: the one we get all hyper about, particularly in the USA: SEX.

First, don’t use the term Hermaphrodite. Sure, it is a ‘historically medical’ term (as are SO MANY offense terms). But the same ‘historically medical’ people who made and used the terms like Pliny the Elder also said that the only cure for a headache was tying fox testicles around your forehead (People with Migraines might be so desperate to try but trust me, or trust Stephen Fry, it doesn’t work!). So unless you feel confident enough in medicine to separate the four humours from the anatomy of melancholy and can explain the use of SRY in genitalia development, please don’t use terms that those with intersex disorders (including the 1 in 500 men with klinefelter syndrome) find hurtful. That’s why clinically now they are called DSD (Disorders of Sexual Development: which to many people SOUND like the person has some puberty problem or has become a peeper, hence not really loved by many intersex individuals). It is called DSD because most conditions stem from that time at 17 weeks when the sexual development occurs (Not gender identity, but the actual 'bits').

Okay, if you, a loved one, a friend have a white spot, if you have webbing in your toes, if you have an extra nipple or like me a few extra ribs, then you have some anomalies in your 46 (or 45 or 47) chromosomes. So do people who are born with ambiguous genitalia, or people who like those with diabetes who have problems with insulin, have problems with androgen, or estrogen. Except androgen and estrogen can make you stand out as different during puberty, when you least WANT to be different that way. Of course, it also happens in male and female menopause, but we don’t email or tell all the women taking hormone supplements due to early onset or post menopause that, “It’s okay, I still try to think of you as a woman.” No more than we tell a guy with diabetes, “Don’t worry, It doesn’t matter to me...just, um, you know, use the stall shower after the game...cause, I don’t mind that you’re different but…”

This may appear to be me going wonky, but please, yes, have questions, have opinions but if you want to reassure me, question me, or others about intersex conditions, please, please put it in the comments. Why? Because so few people EVER talk about this that I don’t want a bunch of whispers in emails. When someone does a search because they just got some doctor’s report and have to wait 2-6 weeks for tests, I want them to find the questions, the things people might have already said to them in comments, and dealt with. I’m letting you know, if you email about it when I post like this, I WILL put your question/statements in the comments.


Because I wrote that three million women in the USA have just those 4 intersex conditions, I didn’t count the dozen plus other ones, and yet, I got a lot of assumption about one person: me. Yeah, because of those anomalies in my 46 (or 45, or 47) chromosomes, they are doing a genetic and chromosome work-up and a doctor seems SURE that I have condition X, another person thinks I have condition Q which is actually rare enough not to be listed in the intersex/DSD conditions (different conditions means different parts of chomosome code are missing, which means you can be prone to heart, lung or other conditions). But either way, if I have Huntington’s or other diseases found from hereditary (remember that doctor who was convinced I was inbred, my mother was not amused when I let her know my medical records sort of now indicate that her sex partner was granddad or another close relative is my ‘real’ genetic father) or other chromosomal issues, maybe it will help. For the most part, the diseases found cannot be treated, or some can, but not in Canada unless you are in Toronto. And since in this city people can’t get diagnosed for cancer because they won’t actually give them an X-ray, or follow up on blood work, I am not seeing stem cell treatment in my future oddly. But I am going to talk about it.

If you live in a city, if you know over 1000 people, including bank tellers, store clerks, managers, students, people in your high school then you already know, several people with Intersex/DSD conditions. That is what I said before and I say it again, no, not on the internet, face to face. If you feel you ‘know’ someone who has an intersex condition over the internet, I am telling you that you ‘know’ about 4-5 people minimum who have a DSD/intersex condition in your regular daily, monthly life: face to face. They just never told you. And maybe we should all ask ourselves why?

When people transition their sex to their gender identity as an adult, it is hard not to notice, not to hear about it. Because people talk, and look and have think because they saw it on a TV show they know the score. “Not a real woman”, we hear and see the intolerance of those around them. What do you think those whose earliest memories are of a gaggle of doctors examining, measuring, re-examening their genitalia while making comments to the student doctors who were watching are feeling?What do you think those men and women whose early memories are those of surgeries they were told to lie about to class mates, and were told, ‘Kept it secret’, are thinking?

Even the most basic intolences I have heard: sitting next to Linda, my spouse with a German mother, about how ‘Those Germans are heartless bastards to the last one.”, heard how “lesbians just need a good.. (arm pump)..ya know” or "all them short haired lesbians want to be men". I have been treated and all but told that being disabled and being on welfare was the same thing (and the same type of people..ya know). That drug users are a drain on society (I know a few transit workers who are steady heroin users), that people who take X should be locked up (I tell them I take drug X – “Oh, but you’re a different story”). I am pretty bold, but I didn't stop enough of that crap. I too ended up with a head full of baggage; actually I think I have an whole train of baggage cars! So imagine, in Cardiff, when an eight year old girl with leukemia finally had her hair grown back long enough to go to school and the first day her head is set on fire by her fellow schoolmates (true story), how much attention do you want to draw to yourself?

In the UK, there is anti-bullying day, and the Prime Minister wore a patch. Is there an anti-bullying day here? What kind of rape is it when classmates, children viscously open about their stereotypes, want a look and force you down to rip off clothes and check your groin? And when adults, who have the same stereotypes, just a little more restraint, just want to whisper about it, or treat a person different?

The responses regarding a few paragraphs of about intersex and that, yes, I am being tested for one, depressed me to the point that my health deteriorated because of what people thought, in a post about me having a fever. No one seem to care about the fever. But over a dozen emails, from people I had not even had an email before to let me know their ideas on a topic they knew next to nothing about. We keep the silence, and we enforce the silence.

Linda said not to write on it again, because of the pain it put me through. She did want to have to pick up the pieces, she doesn't want to see me hurt. She remembers the fragility.

I lost my will. But I'm back.
And maybe I will lose some readers, or be hurt or burned again, but I will talk about this, about FSD, about all the things women are supposed to enforce the silence about. And convince others to STOP the silence about it: Neither I nor the women who get clothes from the men’s section (or the men who get clothes from the women’s section - go androgyny, YUM! Okay, terrible clothes for an archer but he is looking good!) want to be a the opposite gender (at least that is the majority – male cross dressing is primarily a heterosexual ritual for reasons I am still trying to figure out – 10% of hetero men do it regularly, (two dudes, deal with it)
almost ALL have done it at least once for some reason - whether sober or otherwise). As for women and crossdressing: we steal everything that might make us look good – your shirt is our sleepshirt, your sweater…MINE NOW! We are crows, if it is shiny, it is mine, if it smells good, it is mine! Mens socks are thicker…mine! I used to buy my shoes in London at a store for gay guys, because it had FAR better selection in better colours (pink, powder blue, a velvet burgandy) for larger feet and wider feet. Hey guys: we saw your tights and high heels in the 18th century to make your ankles look svelte and we have been wearing them ever since, same with the eyeliner we stole in Egypt. And the corsets to keep a gentleman slim in 1895-1910 have become the underlining of today’s goth girl corsets.

Sorry, clothes…got distracted.

Okay, research done, articles being written, now time for kittens and cats. Oh geez, out of room kinda. Um, I hope more tomorrow if the fever isn’t back, but this here is Oreo, a black and white cute little cat that likes me, hates all other cats and isn’t too fond of Linda. Also my purple Skelanimal top which I like a lot because it helps show off my…um, kittens? Oh, the reason that Oreo isn’t fond of anyone else is a territory issue. You see, Oreo walked into my lap and made herself comfortable. She rode everywhere with me, the only problem is that every time I got her off, she would just figure a way to step back on as I wheeled past something. When she got on the first time I said, “Oh, do you want me to be your owner?”

As you can see by the look she is giving Linda, I got that relationship wrong, as she is saying, “This is MY property, back off!” But still a very good lap cat and 10 years old, though she looks much younger.

There were also two twins, the one in black is the dominant one, female and is bigger (and a bit of a bully). They need to be adopted together. Alex, the boy, was very, very cute and inquisitive, but we could only see him while throwing treats to the back of the area. Here Alex is very interested in the Camera.
Very, very interested.
Okay, that was your ‘AWWW!” moment. Back tomorrow with some lighter stuff I hope. With all the noise, earth shaking and heavy equipment so close it is hard to maintain my health and my state of mind.

For those of us who have hard to diagnose diseases, how often has the ego of the doctor been of more importance than our well being? How often has what they ‘feel’ been our commands? Now try to imagine living 15 years ago, pre-google (yes, I know, PRE-google?), and before genetic testing was available and imagine what it would be like to see those doctors 2 hours after the birth of your child. Imagine being a child and having five or more of those doctors telling you what to do, what to think, how to act, and how often to come and be touched by them, from earliest memory. Imagine pictures of you, your genitals being passed around at conferences, being taken against your will, at four, at six, at 12. Never get between a doctor and his ego, his paper, his publication, his test theory.

Without diversity, there would be no wonder in the universe.
I'll let you in on a secret: Women fart. Linda doesn’t of course, but OTHER women. Women can have PMS so bad, or mood swings from it so violent they scared me (how can a woman that small scream so much!?). And women can miss a period while hetero partner is away without it being a virgin birth. Oh yeah, and some of us women have little mustaches, and some of us have fuzz, and some of us have lots and lots of black hair all over, and big sideburns. And we are still loving and lovable.


Lorna Kaufman said...

First time commenter... a Canadian friend of yours suggested your blog and two hours of amazing reading later, here I am.

In no particular order:

* I thank you, with I hope the greatest humility, for sharing so much of yourself - your journey, your intellect, your heart, your love for manga! - it is a gift to all who visit here. I don't need a postcard, now, you've made me feel acknowledged, stimulated (no, no, in a platonic way, tell Linda to relax!), worthwhile, unalone... at a time when I really needed it.

* The complexity of physical form - I teach a university level class on diversity, and when I talk about folks who are intersexed, it rocks the students' worlds. When you upset the cart regarding a binary that most people view as unquestionable and fundamental - whoooeee, that's something. The good news is how many of them do choose to grapple with it and admit it to their worldview - and this is in a BUSINESS program.

* I am sorry even your physical environment is conspiring to challenge you (*snort*, major understatement), although I must say, when you are feverish your writing is... creative. Still, less fever would be better.

* Are you keeping Oreo?

* Boxing is awesomeness personified when you do it. Kewl. ;-)

Thanks. Stay strong.


rachelcreative said...

Well I'm learning a lot. Because like you say it's not talked about. There you go expanding my world and opening my mind again Elizabeth :)

I got a postcard from you. Thank you so much. A week where there has been much to be grumpy about (that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things). So a piece of post just for me was brilliant. And it was a fab postcard too. Cameras. Ha ha :)

Love the kitties. So sorry the construction is still banging on and getting worse and impacting worse on your well being. Grrr.

Nancy said...

There's a really interesting book on intersex issues by Anne Fausto-Sterling--it's easy to read and well researched, and provides a great introduction. (It was assigned in a body theory class that I took recently.) Thanks for opening a dialogue on the topic!

shiva said...

I got your postcard the other day - thankyou, you definitely know what kind of images i like! Sorry for not commenting much recently - i've been going through a few phases of finding commenting on other blogs difficult, but am still reading.

I'll probably come back with more on the whole intersex thing, as i'm pretty tired right now, but i vagely remember there being links between at least one well-known-ish intersex condition and connective tissue disorders such as EDS or Marfan's. (I can't remember which one, unfortunately - will try to look it up for you.)

My younger "brother" (who is taller than you, by about 1") has just come out as actually being a sister, and it turns out that although outwardly "normal male" in anatomy she's actually a chimera of XY and XXY. Whether that has anything to do with her being a trans woman, i'm not sure, but it's interesting nonetheless - i'm thinking about getting tested myself, as things like premature births as well as some degree of gender-non-conforming, and connective tissue "oddness" (eg joints that bend where it really isn't normal to) do run in the family.

I hope the fever and the noise situation get better.

Tom P. said...

Do you notice how many commercials there are for drugs for men who can't get it up? Where are the commercials for drugs for women who can't have an orgasm? I guess as long as the man is happy, who cares what the woman feels?

When I saw Oreo sitting on your lap I shouted, "Captain Biggles!!!" Oreo looks exactly like our cat, Captain Biggles, and she even has Biggles' personality. Biggles ran away about 5 years ago when she was 18. She was terminally ill and sickly and she wanted to go off to be somewhere alone to die. We never found her. She was a good cat in many ways although she hated the other cats in the house. We miss her.

cheryl g said...

Oh yes, if you are not like Barbie or June Cleever you will never get a husband and your whole life will be a failure. That’s the message western society drills into women from childhood on. I agree, it is time to speak up and let guys deal with the fact that we sweat, fart, belch and grow hair in places society claims women don’t have hair.

Perhaps if all women were more open about the biological aspects of themselves instead of pretending to doll-like perfection the medical community would treat our illnesses as organic medical issues instead of attention-seeking psychological problems.

Human genetics is complex as is the process of fetal development. Babies are born with all sorts of variation depending on how those complex genetics play out. I believe the misinformation, mistreatment and discrimination against the intersexed is truly because we have so many societal issues where sex is involved.

Without diversity, there would be no wonder in the universe. How true that is…

I love the pictures you used to illustrate with.

On to the cats…

It would appear that Oreo has totally claimed you. I wonder if she has prior experience with a human in a wheelchair? The twins are cute but I like Oreo better.

yanub said...

Back when I was a kid, I had asthma (much like I do now! Coincidence? Uh, no). But I didn't have asthma, I was also informed. See, asthma was a problem boys had. Not girls. Or not many girls. I guess we girls were supposed to have the vapors instead. But nowadays, I have read that asthma is more common among girls than boys. I actually rather doubt there is a significant gender difference in prevalence, but I don't doubt that social expectations bias diagnosis, or even what is perceived as a problem. And there is no problem society in general is so eager to "fix" than a problem of not matching prevailing categories.

You always write both thoughtfully and provocatively about gender and social norms. Oh, and brave, too. I'm saying that because I know that every time you write about such topics, you get a lot of email and comments that are poorly considered at best and vicious at worst.

Also the pictures of adorable cats are great. Especially Oreo. I wish you could keep her.

Anonymous said...

Another thing women aren't supposed to get: fetishes. According to doctors, females with fetishes are EXTREMELY rare. modern studies still cite Freud on the matter. I bet women with fetishes have to stay silent; that's why so few have been reported.

Anonymous said...

And that kitty is adorable.

FridaWrites said...

I have had a bad computer virus while the family was at my husbands' grandmother's funeral--I click into some regular blogs and kept getting redirected but closed it down; the last time, it downloaded something rapidly without my permission before I could close it. Since I've had important and timely email to send, it's been awful--and I still can't get into it. Thank goodness for some of the goodies you guys sent to keep me occupied today!

I'm sorry about the construction noise, fevers, that some people have upset you badly by their responses to your original post on this topic. I really appreciate your writing/educating me more about intersex conditions--the term "disorder" really is off-putting with it. And "intersex" makes a lot more sense, is less culturally loaded than "hermaphrodite" (which I may have used before, don't remember).

The conspiracy of silence/shame around this topic must be really difficult for people who are intersex (and really, aren't we all to some exent?, not something some would like to admit). And silence perpetuates itself, makes it difficult ever to bring the issues out into the open so that people can begin to be educated, though that exposes one to prejudices--it takes an act of courage to do so.

The medical speciman that doctors attempt to turn anomalous bodies into sometimes...we are people first.

I remember reading a story about a woman whose first child had been taken from her because supposedly she could not have been hers--apparently only when her second child was born (and immediately taken from her for genetic testing) was it proven she was the mother to each. She is a chimera--some of whom are intersex.

Anti-bullying--that's what I like about my kids' schools. They really mean it, and it impresses me. We're lucky.

Cute kitties--love that Alex!

JaneB said...

Oreo looks great, lots of cattitude!

Very interesting, this series of posts - you're not losing this reader that way!

shiva said...

FridaWrites - you're probably thinking of Lydia Fairchild:

There was a huge horrible mess of racism, sexism and other nasty bigoted stuff around that case. I need to write about it some time.

Neil said...

Beth, I simply do not know what to say about intersex; maybe I'm too openminded, but I feel that it just doesn't matter to me what gender my male and female coworkers 'really' are.

And that sounds less caring than I mean it to. I understand that it's important to recognize that the issue exists, but I also feel that it's not a big deal if someone is equipped differently than my wife or me. At least, it shouldn't be a big deal. Maybe I'll just shut up and put my foot back in my mouth now...

Likewise, I feel it's not a big deal if guy want to wear skirts, though they should be tailored for men. Are kilt-wearing Scots crossdresing? How about guys wearing the traditional male apparel of Sri Lanka; tubular sraongs are a purely male item of apparel there, while the women flow around wearing saris. Traditionally, at least, and on formal occasions, I gather from reading Arthur C. Clarke's nonfiction.

Thank you for being such a col teacher, Beth. you're expanding my world a whole lot.

Love and zen hugs,

wendryn said...

Sorry it took some time to get to responding - yesterday was really nuts.

Yes, social expectations of women are constructs, and generally BS. I am most definitely not Barbi or June Cleaver, and that was really hard for a long time. I have come to be proud of my strength, my abilities, and my intelligence, despite everything saying that men don't like smart women and other such crap. I sweat, I fart, I even burp (especially if I drink sodas! :P ). Life happens. It irritates me when guys can't be bothered to understand what PMS is and all of the ways it isn't what they think it is, for instance, and that it isn't the same for every woman.

I am amazed and saddened that women can't get the same help for the same kind of issues. Viagra for men - how nice. Something to help arousal in women? ....Anyone? Of course not. Just put on a little lubricant and you'll be fine. Argh.

I didn't, to my knowledge, grow up around people who had DSDs, but, as you said, it's doubtful anyone would have told me. I grew up around people with various disabilities, and a lot of the comments made were cruel. A friend of mine, in a wheelchair due to CP, got comments all the time about how she must be stupid or useless. She was smart, but talking was a bit hard for her, so she had to talk slowly, and people finished her sentences, often wrong. It made me so mad I didn't know how to handle it. I will try not to say anything in this discussion that would cause that kind of anger in others on your behalf, and I will try not to upset you, as I know you have limited energy and that is definitely not my intent.

I do have one question, and I'm not sure how to phrase it. How can we make it safer for people who have intersex conditions to feel safe? I already object when I hear actively bigoted or just ignorant talk on a lot of subjects (sometimes to the chagrin of the people around me) but is there anything else I/we can do?

I wish doctors could actually act on "first, do no harm." It would make such a difference.

I love seeing you with cats again - you look much happier when you are with them!

"Without diversity, there would be no wonder in the universe." - Absolutely. The world is a fascinating and interesting place, and the differences in people, not the samenesses, make it more, not less, wonderful.

*hugs* I know it's a hard time right now. I hope the twits who crawl out to make mean comments lay off for a bit, and I hope you have found a little joy today.

Lene Andersen said...

Human beings like labels, eating everything to fit neatly into a niche or they get uncomfortable. Anything that doesn't fit has a stigma attached and the bigger the stigma, the deeper the silence. Anything that messes with the supposedly norm of male/female seems to weird people out more than many other stigmas. Maybe it's because so many of the other labels have a certain politically correct requirements that at least make people feel like they ought to feel bad while they’re staring at the freak. Intersex doesn’t. Because of the silence. Thanks for being open about this.

When I was a child with RA, I was studied like that, by doctors pontificating to medical students. Not my genitals, but the rest of my body. I've repressed much of it until I read this and I'm not altogether sure what my feelings are (will most likely repress it all again). It's hard to hold on to your humanity when you’re looked at as a clinical specimen.

FridaWrites said...

Thanks, Shiva--it was Lydia Fairchild. I'd love to read more of your thoughts about what happened to her and her family.

Lene Andersen said...

p.s. Cats don't have owners, they have minions. Oreo seems to have adopted you as hers. ;)

Yvette said...

Firstly, thank you for the beautiful postcard and the wonderful tea. I hope my lame attempt at reciprocation wasn't too embarrassing.

Secondly,when you first wrote about intersex conditions I read up a little more and was startled by the commonality of it. It's so little spoken of, that I had assumed it must be rare.

Come to find, not rare, just not spoken of. Not surprising in this society, I suppose. Is there any society that isn't so uptight about gender?

Raccoon said...

I thought "Swimmer's Shoulder" was like tennis elbow: tendinitis due to a specific sport.

I had a roommate, when I was just out of college, that would get cramps so bad that she needed to get help to get into the bathroom. I guess she was lucky: they only hit like that a couple times a year, and they weren't bothering her by the time she was 27. And I know that after menopause, estrogen levels decrease, which allows testosterone to take over, increasing the likelihood of baldness, "unfeminine" hair growth, etc.

If not "hermaphrodite," and not DSD, what is the preferred descriptor? Or is it like the descriptor "tetraplegic?" Tetraplegic is the correct term for quadriplegic -- something about mixing Latin and Greek root words being wrong -- but every time I use "tetraplegic" I have to explain what it is?

Your province won't diagnose cancer? You really are making a sales push for socialized medicine, aren't you? How many people are diagnosed after the fact?

Yeah, okay, the archer is wearing robes (or a dress, if you really insist), but did you look at the bow? It's one of the "wheelchair bows" that you talked about here once. Okay, meant for horse riders, but you know what I meant.

Velvet burgundy boots actually sound nice. Heh. At faire, there were a couple of times that I picked up "women's" style shoes. They looked nice, they fit, they were a decent price, and I could wear them ballroom dancing. The bodice I only work once, to prove that a properly laced bodice could give me cleavage. Not much -- I was only 145 pounds -- but it was there!

The girl with the pink dress and parasol -- does she have two tails?

SharonMV said...

Dear Beth,
I'm so sorry that you got hurtful comments/e-mails. How can it be such a shock to anyone that people are different, that variety & diversity exist? I'm sorry that it made you ill (along with noise & lack of sleep). It's harder to deal with mental/emotional pain & anger when you deal with chronic illness. You need all your strength to deal with everyday living.

Very Cut cats! I wish I could take such good pictures of Chloe.


e said...

You definitely haven't lost this reader either, Beth. I do hope the fever and noise subside. I am getting caught up after being away.

Tonight, before reading this post, I heard a segment of Ira Glass on This American Life dealing with intersexed children and the issues faced by the kids and their parents. At the center of the piece were two eight-year-olds who had decided that they wanted to live as girls from an even earlier age, and their parents had to deal with this and for the most part recognised their children as females. The two girls became friends after they met at a conference for intersex families, so the silence is slowly being undone, at least in some respects, although not rapidly enough for many. I hope more people will write about or discuss this.

As for Oreo, you have been claimed as her owner. Will you keep her?

I'm sending you some shots of the Mojave Desert from my trip.

Take care.

Diane J Standiford said...

I don't think much about this stuff anymore. We are what we are. people must deal or not. I am older and on the down hill side of life. I am a str8 man trapped in a woman's body. A spy my whole life. I made a game of it. If I hadn't had a lifetime mate I might feel different. I love women in any shape or fate, hairy, scary, whatever. I look for souls not the outside crap that is just organic and passing. (Like gas.) PS---if I were Linda I'd stay away from your pussy! Oreo looks serious.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Lorna: thanks for reading – though from my viewpoint, everyone could use a postcard now and then.

Yes, I completely agree, I wish that the church taught stuff as well. As with large populations in North America following ‘Christian Leaders’ this would be a good time for Churches, Feminist, or any authority to stand for education – most people don’t realize how institutionalized in obstetrics eliminating diversity is. For example 1 in 10,000 children are still born with horns or tails but the parents never know. An operation is done, without knowledge or consent, and the ‘normal’ child is presented to the parents a day or two later with, “Oh there was a small growth” not, “By the way, your daughter had three horns so we took them off without telling you.”

Yes, fevers do tend to make me, um, a bit off. But still me. No, sadly the manager was up here recently when our fridge died and reinforced that NO PETS were allowed of any kind, alas

Rachel: Thanks, yes, I wish they taught it in primary school nut little hope on that. I am glad you liked the postcard, please look for another! Construction noise will be the worst of the worst Monday and I am not expecting to sleep more than a few hours Monday and Tuesday so fevers all around. Bah.

Nancy: It looks like an excellent book. It starts with the story and social consequences of 1988 when Maria Patino of Spain a top hurdler who forgot her ‘certificate’ stating she was female and thus had to visit the “femininity control head office” (1984 anyone? Surreal!). Test showed that she, though having a woman’s strength and the rest had a Y chromosome (which is not at all unrealistic if SRY genome gets attached to Y instead of an X Chromosome). Told to fake an injury, she refused and the news got out. She was to come home to severe social penalties: “Spanish Officials stripped her of past titles and barred her from further competition. Her boyfriend deserted her. She was evicted from the national athletic residence, her scholarship was revoked and suddenly she had to struggle to make a living. The national press had a field day at her expense. As she later said, “I was erased from the map, as if I never existed. I gave 12 years to sports”

While for most, only a story to debate around the cooler: for the millions of intersex women, every year is a chilling tale, ‘that could be me, everything could be taken away.’ Why did the boyfriend leave? Because she was different than two weeks earlier? No, because she was publicly different and that makes fear.

Shiva: I am glad the postcard was good. I would be interested to know which condition. Many conditions of intersex which are connected to phyiscal issues, for example the aspects of Turners: the arched palate, the scoliosis, the joint and muscle extension and even the heart problems are all signs of marfans as well, except as Abi pointed out last time, people with Turners are traditionally short (though there are some who are tall) and those with Marfans are tall generally. There are some conditions where a severely decreased lifespan of 20 years or only 30 years is expected. With stemcell medicine, that is now being extended.

Congrats to your sister and to you. It must be wonderful to get to know the sibling hiding in front of you! If a Mosaic of XY and XXY that would indicate a resistance to absorbing androgen and thus more estrogen based brain thinking and body typing, unless she in one of the rarer XXY females (for some reason most XXY are males). I certainly feel the medical aspect should have been noted and treated earlier and I hope that she is given dignity in her transition. Earlier is better, for hormones to work, so the evidence shows. So many times people with intersex conditions will be unaware until later in life and when told, it helps everything ‘click’ and then they realize that basically the doctors at the time did not have the tech or did not do the tests, or did not note things in the files. I am happy for her, and you.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Tom P: Yes, exactly, that is the problem with FSD (female sexual disorders) is that while mens ‘problems’ fill our spam box and commercial time, females aren’t even talked about.

I am glad that the cat brought back good memories for you. Yes, Oreo was very hissing when I got within about 6 feet of another cat – perhaps biggles in cat reincarnation?

Cheryl: Oh no! Neither of us must have got the handbook on how to be June Cleaver after the assembly, you know the ‘secret’ one, that we weren’t supposed to talk about. I completely agree.

What is sad is that doctors who KNOW that things like PMS are natural, as is the variation within it, still end up with, as the DSM V is expected to have, even MORE labels for women with emotional swings in PMS – a natural medical condition listed as a mental health one. While the testosterone/androgen insanity which has been proved and used successfully in several court cases, as when there are sports or other activities with impact, each aggressive impact increases a males testosterone and adrenaline until they are aggressive to the point they are no longer in control, literally ‘roid rage’ – we have all seen it in Hockey, also in war zones where soldiers just…can’t stop, fencing also produces such extreme androgen that the males SCREAM from the pain of the need to rip their opponents head off. That is NOT in the DSM V – that is suppose to be ‘normal’ and not a mental issue. Yeah.

Sex for North America is a taboo word and all those goes with it. How different now is it from when the belief that the Merrick (the ‘Elephant Man’) mother had him due to being assaulted by an elephant – is something is ‘wrong’ the parent feels the blame and shame. But of course nothing is wong. As the film XXY, the father said, “They wanted to operate but when I saw the baby I saw that she was perfect…….he was absolutely perfect.”

Because of the high rate of elderly, often some pets are attracted to people in wheelchairs and scooters as that is where the food and loving is.

Yanub: ha, yes, I love the ‘gendering’ of illness (or rather I hate it – it has accounted for too many deaths of male breast cancer patients and in a documentary, the transman is dying of ovarian cancer because….no one will allow a man in the office, they would literally rather die that allow a man to sit in the waiting room with other people with ovarian cancer). I completely agree, and noticed when my father went in with the same symptoms I had: he diagnosed with ‘unknown onset of neurological condition’, I diagnosed with PTSD and conversion disorder. They see what they expect to see based on gender. Thanks, yeah sometimes is it hard, I often cry more than I smile after I have posted something that took me a week or more to do. That is the enforcement of silence, to let those who break it know that they could be next, ‘exposed, have their life stripped away, friends stripped away.’

Anon: I think any doctor who doesn’t think women get fetishes should think of Amelda Marcos and shoes! But seriously, why fetishes are linked with S & M and goth (??) but are coming out in places like San Francisco and Vancouver, but what about those in the midwest or south. Well, there are whispers, ‘there is something a bit….strange, about her” – I think after 50 years, it is time for another Kinsey study and some real honesty – but notice how when Kinsey did the report on gay man – big press and panic. When his book on women came out, about bisexuality AND fetish AND masturbation….hardly covered, or rather the book was covered in silence, so much that few know that Kinsey did TWO books, not just the one. Yeah, the kitty is adorable.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Frida: I have been having computer issues as well so I am glad you are able to comment. More medical pain relief as prescribed by Dr. McClung and EMT Cheryl on the way.

Dying and disability pulls all the masks away from us, simply by the energy it takes to keep them up. So while able to research, I am also like a mid to late stage Alzheimers patient, scared, confused where I am many times a day, lost, emotionally fragile. So to print things, and to get responses that assume I must have a penis, or that I feel a freak because I am on feel like an attack, an attack with no place to go, or energy to go there. Hermaphrodite assumes this condition which is 1 in a billion (literally) while the conditions that are 1 in 500 or 1 in 1000 are loaded with, ‘oh you have breast and a penis, and a vagina too maybe?’ There is so much of ‘oh what type of freak are you exactly?’ that is not there when someone or I say, “I have an autoimmune disease’ (no one assumes things about my genitalia then oddly). So yes, hermaphrodite is a term which is learned to mean ‘I am about to be emotionally hit’ – some intersex people are trying to reclaim it but since so few people understand intersex conditions, that tend to not work well.

In many ways, the experience of intersex is the experience of being intertwined with being a ‘subject’, being examined, being judged, being told clinically what you are or not (though often wrong as happened near me, where after pouring huge amounts of androgen in a 6-17 year old they rechecked and found they had it backward; she was a she not a he, only now a 17 year old with extreme male pattern baldness, strong jaw and the trauma of a life of being a ‘failure’ because she did not respond as ‘they had hoped.’ This is the experience in which intersex often say is different than someone who transitions at the same time like a transsexual – that the intersex person was from the first, a child whose parents stared at them too long, who spent too much time in doctor offices, who knew what a pause before the half lie about what surgery or treatment it would be this time meant.

We are people first – someone might want to tell the doctors that, particularly the one who recently told me that there was no way we could be ‘equals’ – not as humans, not as colleagues, not in any way. This man treats me, and tells me I am not a human equal to him. That is intersex.

Jane B: thanks, though I would love your insight from the academic view.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Neil: Being ‘too open minded’ is not something I have run across. Your comments about skirts, sarongs, and such are extreme gender aware. The fact that you put ‘really’ regarding the gender identity or the sexual bits of your coworkers means that it is something you are aware of, acutely. You are aware of the border what can be gotten away with for men, mention it often. Why not instead talk of your love of wearing lipstick, or eyeliner? Why not talk about the feeling of a silk chemise? Or how aroused a picture of a guy, manga guy, real guy makes you because of the attraction to the sultry androgyny? Because we ‘know’ (meaning socially enforced) that we are not supposed to. Why is it that I talk about how all males typically have had at least one cross dressed experience, and yet, where is yours, if gender is nothing then why not be a beautiful woman for a night?

The thing about intersex the silence: so your wife MAY have been equipped with an ambiguous genitalia at birth born – who knows? Itis not uncommon, and yet what does it matter? You assume that you and your wife are the ‘norm’ and yet realistically you might have an undiagnosed intersex condition and your wife might be equipped ‘bits’ thanks to early intervention. So, how does that mean you don’t judge others? Gynocologist see so much variation that I can’t even begin to fathom the assumptive of the ‘norm’. It wasn’t a big deal, except you needed to mention it. In the same way if dressing in a bridesmaid dress NOT a kilt by a male co-worker was not a big deal, then there would be no clarifying to the world over and over that you are on the correct side of the public gender line, no ‘sorong is okay, as they do it in….’ If that is the standard: the ELITE Greek guards who do the changing of the guard wear what anyone over here would call a full (short) petticoat skirt like you might see on women at square dancing. So go Greek this year, be one of the elite, go for petticoats and frill (if it doesn’t matter).

If I push you it is because you have asked to be pushed, that is how we examine our assumptions.

Wendryn: Yes, sometimes the body says, ‘I can’t be that’ no matter what the desire. I still want to be swept up into the arms at the end of the romance, but that isn’t going to happen. So I get that. Yeah, men don’t like smart women, and women who know they are smart.

I like that you expect the same respect of understanding the variety of your biology and other women as they expect of you understand them. I will have to try to adopt that policy myself.

Yes, in 120 years, how much has it changed from ‘lie back and think of what your are doing for the Queen/Empire/Country” – ARG!

I think I am learning, almost too late, what life for your CP friend was like, or a glimpse of it. I am well aware that once people think a person can’t speak with eloquence, that they are sort of not there, and speak about them, make judgement about them, the cruelest statements, all while they or I sit and listen.

The number one thing that has helped both parents and individuals with intersex conditions is to know they are not alone. I think if you work for an public agency, beyond the MS support group, maybe a small sign or info listed for CAIS or Alpha 5, or a Turners or a general intersex support in the area. To show people that this is something that gets put up, just like the collection tins for research for this or that condition. That intersex is just another medical condition. Maybe if people see it there, and then later hear someone having it, they will realize that it is just a medical condition which benefits from support – that is what I can think of. To (and I hate this word), ‘normalize’ it by making it part of the background, showing that awareness is already there.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Lene: Too true, without the label, how do we know how to ‘judge’ others. Sad laughter and sighs. Very acute observation – the nature of sex polarizes ‘intersex’ and draws people and their opinions (without fact or even basic understanding) but the absence of talking, or laying social rules of what is appropriate means that things can be said which never would for race, religion or anything else. Also the attitude that because of this difference, they are ‘public property’ to be gawked and commented and photographed as desired – no dignity.

It is that aspect of being a specimen, of being a paragraph out of a textbook brought to life, and the whispers round the hospital as they all want to see which is the dehumanization. This is something important that children with all sorts of conditions don’t get to speak about, or those with JSA don’t. I think it would be powerful, and liberating, and educating, and I hope you don’t repress it but print it in you health and write another for you, an intro to your book of essays, on what it feels like to be a specimen – when it was done in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the dicotomy of the treatment and the voice made the person all the more human, and the system all the more exposed.

Yvette: Thank you, I am glad both gave you joy, today I got something that anticipates joy for me (if only the silence to enjoy it in!)

Yes, when you find all the conditions and realize how many people walking around you, how many associates you have who said nothing, because they have seen how a life can be destroyed by misunderstanding, it is sort of staggering. Why is there this need for silence? And who dicated it to begin with? I will try to find out, or we can try together.

In Thailand, there is a caste system which the female caste and all variations are of the same caste. And in this caste, men, in another caste are not allowed to touch - so women can hold hands, and not fear men saying anything at them, since that would be to break a cultural taboo for them. However for example, women are so far down that they cannot speak to a male monk, they have to speak to a male (caste above them) who would speak to the monk. However, the caste system does create a sort of 'everyone has a place' so that differences are not hidden. A male with a female soul and mind is thus in the female caste and no male even a doctor can touch them without a female present. So they are free of harrassment (which is why so many foriegners move to thailand - opposed to Japan where difference is hidden away to save the family name). For the Thai, that is the 'Wheel of Fate', that in a previous life, the person must have done something to make it as IF they rose in caste, but the soul makes it clear they are in the female and lower caste - but still human, which is good. So to them, that is what is decided, who is a person to argue. In some of the famous films exported from Thailand, even blockbusters here, the fact that the head female is a transexual or unmedically treated intersex individual is open in the film, and the disrespect they recieved makes them sympathetic - but ALL that is cut from the film when it arrives here - "too complex" - sigh.

Another area is muslim law and tradition in some countries - which are tolerant of the condition (not always the person) but somewhat rigid in gender identity - sometimes accept it, sometimes not. Sometimes, you are a male, if you want to be or not, with a late onset condition which causes facial hair, but on the other hand, Iran pays for operations for transsexuals, as they accept it is a valid medical condition. Why they don't pay for estrogen for those who don't WANT to be male with a late onset condition of facial hair I have not yet understood. But there is a place and acceptance of 'here you are, God has ordained it' which is a strong protection. I hope that answered the question.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Raccoon: Amoung women, Swimmer's shoulders is the broad strong shoulders that are considered more 'mannish'.

It sounds a LOT like your roommate had PCOS - because they only happen a few times a year, there is SO much of the uterus to work out that it is very, very painful.

Thanks for explaining to me about Tetraplegic, as I would not have known. I think 'intersexed condition' is probably the best. Or put the person, 'a woman with a intersex condition' in the same we don't like be referred to as 'you know, that cripple!' Some conditions are lifelong, some stop at birth and some once the child is born, it is over, they are what they are, female, or male. For some reason, I have a directness that makes a lot of people tell me things, so I know quite a few people with intersex conditions by face and name. Once you know someone, it is hard to hear people start to speculate about how, 'Oh you know, people with Turners are all retarded, everyone knows that' and it is hard not to burst out and say, "Then maybe you should tell Mary your BOSS that, and see if you still have a job." - once there is a personal face, it is easier to stand up. That is one of the reasons I want to break the silence.

recently found out a friend who had over a year of testing found out they had cancer, a year of testing but no one did an x-ray. All while the cancer spread - It makes me angry, and so sad. I wanted to be the only medical victim of this odd fucked up town. I bet the person was tested a bunch of times for HIV though!

Yes, it is a very cool bow and they guy looks good, he looks like he could shrug off the robes, hit a bunch of targets moving hundreds of yards away and then cover himself with soft silks again and go smell the flowers - the Persian and Japanese warrior, since the Samurai were to be expert in flower arranging, and writing poems.

Once women stole the bodice we changed the angles to hourglass - however, the bustle is all ours, apparently making our ass look ENOURMOUS is supposed to be erotic. hmm?

I have considered you to be the most centered masculine man I know. Probably because you know and are confident enough to realize that a shoe is a shoe is just a label means nothing if it is good for dancing but at the same time, you have and encourage in yourself all those noble aspects of men, honor and chivilry, open and yet open about the boundries of what you don't wish to discuss. I respect all that, I respect you.

Elizabeth McClung said...

SharonMV: True that with so much energy going on keeping going, so little can be spent on the spite or just the ignorance that can sap the energy away. With a few rest days and cease of noise, I hope to stop worrying whether I will live till the end of the week and be able to look up and ahead.

E: Thank you, I hope you had a great trip.

That is great, that the support groups are working and that children are allowed to find the gender that they feel they inhabit and then supported in that. I have the data and the links and some of a post written about gender identity children and the two approaches taken to them and which one works, and which does not. I hope I will be able to do that soon. I find children are often the open battleground of the parents belief system - that it becomes not LOVE for the child, but love for the IDEA the parent HAD about the child. So that a support group was there to help the parents make informed decisions really cheers me.

Ahhh, I wish I could have a cat and Oreo would be in the running...except she is already envious of Linda!

Diana: It is sad that the support wasn't there for you to bring body and mind/soul together. And also that while a little envious of the younger generation who seem to have it easier, you don't think of the abuses that still occur daily in doctor's offices, and in places of employment, much less the touchy subject of 'wymyn's spaces'.

PS - thankfully Oreo is locked away and the one thing I do NOT want to have happen is Linda to avoid my pussy - a little more attention to it would be greatly appreciated!

T som i Timortinel said...

I'd call the strict gender binary system, or what would be appropriate to call it, one of the hugest and most lethal lies ever being told, it crushes so many people in different ways, small ways and huge ways,some more than others, telling people to act and see themselves in ways they're not comfortable with, forcing them to conform to some kind of unrealistic "standard", and telling them they are not "real" women/men/people if they fail to conform, or at least pretend to conform. A systematic lie I see has been ground so deeply in my mind that I sometimes, no, make that often, find myself falling back on it without realizing it.

I get so angry about not being told anything at all about intersex conditions when I was in grade school. A chapter about sex, gender and sexuality, another about chromosomes in my biology book, but not a word, not a single word about intersex people, and not in any other class either, not mentioned anywhere. All we were told was that women had XX-chromosomes and their bodies looked like that, men XY-chromosomes and their bodies looked like this. Silence is sometimes really the same as lying to people up in their face. Such a blatant way of saying that some people doesn't exist. What an experience it must have been for someone growing up being told they don't exist in the public eye.

Also the silence about the forced sterilisations that were performed in my country, mostly to women with disabilities or mental illnesses, or considered "racially impure", even in the seventies, and the law that still remains telling it is okay and perfectly legal to do this to other humans.

(Which also reminded me about the fact that transsexual people are still being sterilised to be allowed to change their legal gender, because it is seen as unnatural and wrong for us to get biological children, at least if we wish to live as who we are)

The silence about disabilities, diseases, mental illnesses and conditions and people having them and living their lives overall, too.

Also, reading about how women has a harder time getting believed by doctors, reminded me about a study from some years ago that showed women received less and worse care than men in hospitals and by doctors.

It should be obligatory for everyone in some way to try to unlearn the lies society and school learned one to believe, and to break the silence that surrounds some subjects, and the humans who are silenced by it.

I hope I am not saying anything insensitive or similar, as I became rather upset writing this.


hi beth,
thanks for this article on intersex. you hit the nail on the head with the word shame. as you know my Ben is now chloe and we've had 7 months of coming to acceptance......acceptance was for other ppls kids not ours....weve come a long way and we love chloe as much as Ben.... but for my husband there is still that ...shame. when chloe spoke recently of selling her story to a tv programme,there was much gnashing of gums. hubby just does not want chloe to draw attention to her self...why? fear...fear of her being rejected and ridiculed ...and ...fear of some sort of shame being attatched to hima as father.