Friday, January 20, 2012

The war on Intersex, transsexual, transgender and gay

Let me write plainly: we fall victim to a war of fear meant for others. In reading an article in Curve, a lesbian magazine on whether T is included or welcome in LGBT but also reading chats and articles about the proposed cookie bann from the girl scouts over trans girls, I was surprised to find Intersex children and intersex females to be given prominence in both of them.

I fear that already Intersex is the new catchword or idea, as it has shown up in general media from Terry Moore’s Echo to many, many other popular works in the last 18 months. And the problem is that very few people have the slightest idea of the dozen’s of intersex conditions much less what risks, markers or experiences each condition entail. Curve writer calls intersex individuals ‘chromosomal and anatomically diverse’ with a silent ‘challenged’ hanging above. I wish the article in Curve was done to bring education about the intersex individuals people already know, or barbaric ‘standard practices’ in North America, Australia and Europe on par with female genitalia mutilation known as ‘to circumcise.’ But as the article is about the T in LGBT, it is not.

T is itself not understood, even within gay and lesbian groups, even though it was T individuals who started the stonewall riots, and the idea of a collective identity and equality. T can include crossdressing for pleasure, dressing or presenting opposite to birth gender by choice or inclination, a medical condition known as transsexualism, trans which can mean almost as many things as individuals want it to mean, plus gender presentation as art/entertainment/persona such as drag kings and drag queens.

What does that have to do with intersex? Primarily what T or trans has to do with being gay: Only ignorance.

I remembered, while I looked at the pictures in Curve of a street protest walk of lesbians in South Africa, what it was like in the UK. In Victoria, however determined vanilla the inhabitants might want to be, discrimination comes often in subtle harassment, or the loss of certain equalities. In the UK, and we lived in a city which had at least a ‘safe(ish) area’ of two or three blocks, being out was the daily struggle against a population who believed that your right to exist was eliminated if you were out. That my existence, and even more so for out or suspected out gay men, was an actual threat. And you lived knowing that you may be attacked in your house, as several we knew were, may be attacked on the street in daylight, or killed, set on fire, hung, stabbed. I remember the week there was a stabbing of a gay man a day in London. That is just what it was: which is why we met in secret, we went out on valentines to a gay only establishment, etc. While transsexuals, and trans individuals, had a level of concentrated harassment from the entire community where they lived until they often chose to kill themselves. Three hours was the record for one person who came out as trans before being knifed. A local Cardiff trans individual had their home broken into and was attacked by a group. Standard. And as the FBI hate crimes, the book Pink Blood on Canadian Hate Crimes, the work by Arthur Dong on Serial Killers of Gays, and news reports universally indicate, the person harassing, attacking and killing trans individuals always thought they were gay.

Indeed, ‘fag’, ‘homo’, ‘queer’ are often carved into the bodies of killed Trans individuals, or reasons given for why they were killed. Sometimes that is a drag queen, who is tortured for three days being being set on fire, or by a man in NY who chasing after a T female they had been attracted and flirting with, shot them, and while the woman was on the ground, fired into them, reloaded the gun then unloaded it entirely into the woman. Why? Because, as the person said who shot, “I ain’t no fag.” Does the confusion that a woman isn't a gay man stop someone from death or serious injury? No.

As the murder of the transsexual Gwen Araujo in California showed, a jury will not convict of murder if there is sex or sexual attraction of men toward a female (for under the UK law, Gwen could have likely been legally female). The state prosecution (the people who represent the police and state attempting to prove that having four men strangle and smash Gwen in the head with a frying pan, shovel, tin cans until dead was murder) first could not or would not charge murder. Then, when charging murder, the prosecutor said that decisions to flirt, have overt sexual attention or acts between two consenting adults was ‘indefensible’ for Gwen because she was T. The defense said that the four males acted ‘as anyone would’, known as the ‘gay-panic/trans-panic defence’ (now illegal in California…for hate crimes against gay men).

It is clear that T women and trans individuals are being killed because others are worried people will think THEY (the person interacting with a T person) is gay. That is exactly what you will see in the interview of a man who murdered and multilated a trans female in Arthur Dong’s documentary Licenced to Kill. Plus the killer refers to the woman as 'it' (which is not an uncommon slur against T individuals). The Gwen Araujo case showed that a male consenting to Anal sex with a female was okay. But if the medical history or genitalia were suspected, even to hunting and killing that person LATER, as occurred in BC, was ‘involuntary’, 'natural', 'normal.' Yes, 'normal' to kill so someone doesn't think you are gay. Why? Because it is so univerally recognized that people hate gay men. Men don’t want to be thought of as gay so they killed someone who they thought made them look gay. They were ignorant, and someone died.

See, Gwen having sex with a guy is called ‘heterosexual’ as who you have sex with is orientation and whether you see yourself as male, female, androgynous or neuter is gender.

But people get that confused. And people who are the most aggressive to defend their orientation as ‘hetero’ or harass others for not being hetero are also the least likely to be aware or understand such distinctions. So, to them, they are harassing a ‘super-fag’, or ‘super-dyke’ or ‘unnatural being’

Except that it is becoming less acceptable to attack trans individuals in some parts of the US simply for existing. The amount of films where the villian is a cross-dresser, a transsexual or a trans has diminished from the heyday of the 90’s and early 21st century to a thankful rarity (when intersex individual as villian started rising).

So when people can’t ‘get’ trans kids, those who are ‘educated’ bring up intersex kids, pointing out that there are several tens of thousands of girls who have or have had ambiguous genitalia, or are intersex. Sadly, they don’t know enough about intersex conditions or individuals to say much beyond that. And thus individuals are starting to connect trans with intersex. So we have gay men, which is about orientation, and those who hate gay men killing T-individuals, which is about gender, now attacking and villanizing the intersex, which often is more of a medical experience.

In the kind of horrible irony, for the last few decades, gays and lesbians have often been trying to dump the T out of the human rights groups on the basis that ‘everyone hates T people.’ When that hate is more about the perceptions of expression of gay and lesbian identity than understanding and hating people for having a medical condition which requires hormones. Sort of like the two fathers in the same year who was afraid their two year old were not ‘man’ enough, and to avoid them being gay decided to teach them boxing, until they killed them.

South Africa, in the military with aparthied, gays who could not be ‘made straight’ were forced to become transsexual women. Meanwhile, in North America, Michael Bailey (a man who seems obsessed with finding who is and who is not gay in order to, in his own words, ‘fix that in the womb’) puts out a book saying that all transsexual women who live as women are actually gay men (The man who would be Queen, is the book name AND the name of the ‘academic presentation’ he made at over a dozen universities).

So, hate gay men? Attack t-women, so says academic Michael Bailey.

And so Governor Bush did, in Texas, eliminating marriages between transsexuals and non transsexuals. And when he became president, he used federal authority to refuse green cards for legal marriages if one of the individuals was transsexual in their medical history. And other states followed. And when those who advocate that people should be exactly as they were born, like ‘Adam and Eve’ because ‘God doesn’t make mistakes’, people start talking about intersex condition. And remember, what most people know of this is when House, M.D. in season 2 or 3 comes into the father and tells him that he isn’t having incest and rape with his daughter, but rather he’s gay……because his child is intersex.

As so officials, as the Curve article pointed out one case, are eliminating marriages, or rights of those found to be intersex. This is not because they know what intersex means or the various conditions, but simply on the basis that it, like this T and Trans stuff and the whole GAY thing is WRONG. And so, as I watch, and worry about the future of a group which have suffered at the hands of adults and children since a young age, or who only find out about it when something else, like infertility occurs. And there is, at present, no literature in the west to explain.

But Japan does. Japan is obsessed with children, and the same way girls’ day, on the 3rd of March (3/3), and what used to be boys’ day on the 5th of May (5/5 – now ‘children’s day), has included trans children day on the 4th of april, (4/4) and the manga title ‘Wandering Son (available in English now), and the anime of the same name (available at crunchyroll) about a girl who identifies as a boy and a boy who identifies as a girl, and how they progress, in school, in meeting each other, in limited acceptance. Into the Light, now in the 8th volume in english, is about raising an autistic child, so all could understand. And the series IS, for ‘InterSex’ are individual volumes in which a different baby is born with a different intersex condition. In the series readers can see the pressure on the parents for early operations, and the effect for those who have conditions which develop later in life. IS not in english, however I have several of the books in translation and will email the first book to you if you request it on my mpshiel address ( and then the next two after confirmation of getting the first book.

The series is sadly the only functionally plot driven but educational series or book on intersex conditions. I have previously reviewed the two books in the west: Middlesex and Annabel, and shown how not only did both authors NOT do any research but the conditions they present are not intersex, nor realistic of intersex experience.

In a war of ignorance, no one wins. And with each law that passes, whether it is intended towards gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans, or intersex, any removal of rights is an injustice to us all. Worse when we shoot people for something that is literally encoded into their cells.

In finishing, I have been asked several times why those with intersex conditions don’t like ‘hermaphrodite’ as a term. Beyond that there really aren’t any hermaphrodites in the greek sense, it is the same way gay men don’t like the host of names for them, or how people don’t like to be referred to as ‘white man’s burden’ or ‘Our little brown brothers’, or many other common phrases in the US, Canada, UK, EU, Australia and New Zealand for immigrants from certain regions, or those who were the first nations.


Nicky said...

The problem is that a lot of trans like to claim intersex because to trans people. The word intersex seems to be less stigmatizing than trans. It's also something they use as an excuse to throw at people to justify why they are trans and why they transition. It's why when trans people pretend and claim to be intersex, it irritates and piss off alot of biological born intersex people like myself.

Some do it thinking that it's something they can claim or be without the medical testing or diagnosis from a medical doctor.

What trans people don't understand and don't seem to grasp is that it ain't no fun being born intersex and it ain't no party being born intersex. What trans fail to see is that being born intersex has medical and reproductive implications that affect you for the rest of your life. It dose things that no sane person would not want to be born with.

cheryl g said...

Thank you for continuing to speak out and bring attention to this. I wasn’t even aware of a lot of the things you touch on like the Girl Scout cookie ban. I have some reading and research to do.

I personally feel very strongly that the LGBT should not only include the T but should truly be LGBTQI. All these groups are targeted for hate crimes due to prejudices about what is natural whether that is about gender or orientation or something else. Since those who would prosecute us lump us into one big group to fear and hate I think we should not limit that group by what are prejudices held by some members of the group. I was recently told by someone in my local lesbian community that the reason I am viewed as somewhat of an outsider is I vocally declare any event we do (such as dances) be open to not only lesbians but gays, trans, bisexuals and (gasp) even heterosexual friends. I just think all the labels and exclusions add to the ignorance and slow down acceptance and tolerance of all.

“So we have gay men, which is about orientation, and those who hate gay men killing T-individuals, which is about gender, now attacking and villanizing the intersex, which often is more of a medical experience.”

That is the best and most succinct explanation I think I have ever seen. So much of the prejudice and hate is about orientation and yet it spills over onto other groups.

I can second your recommendation for “IS”. You have sent it to me and it was very helpful in teaching me the differences in the medical conditions which make up the intersex grouping.

Trans is not a label that has to do with orientation although you can be trans and be lesbian or gay. Intersex is not a label that has anything to do with orientation although you can be intersex and be gay or lesbian. To use all these different labels interchangeably (gay, lesbian, trans, intersex) or link them (trans, intersex) just shows a failure to do the research and does nothing more than spread ignorance.

“In a war of ignorance, no one wins. And with each law that passes, whether it is intended towards gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans, or intersex, any removal of rights is an injustice to us all. Worse when we shoot people for something that is literally encoded into their cells.”

Yes, exactly. Well written and well said!

Elizabeth McClung said...

Nicky: I agree, and even those who do want to claim intersex don't want to be an XXY, or XX male or an XY or X0 female. I think that trans individuals assume that there are a host of rights or understanding being intersex. Yet, not only is it often an experience which is socially scarring at a young age, medical, but also if the 'public' doesn't get the diversity of trans, why they think there are arms open for the diversity of intersex is an unusual idea. Maybe it is the hope that the grass is greener elsewhere.

What I worry about is that in claiming or presenting this false image of intersex, fear laws against individuals with intersex conditions will occur or be enacted. It will end up being 'outed' against one's will. This can only lead to stronger advocacy which will seperate those with genetic conditions against the LGBT groups and individuals. How many laws or hate crimes against those with intersex conditions on the belief that they are 'unnatural' or 'gays' before hundreds of thousands of those with intersex conditions in the USA for example come out and say, 'no. Forget it. I'm not dying or losing rights because I want to live my life, have treatment to have kids, and no group is going to threaten that.' I read people asserting that XY females can't get pregnant, and that simply isn't true, as there are several papers on XY 46 pregancies, and Turner's pregancies are rare (X0, or 1 X), as are 45 X0 pregnancies - however, early miscarriage is the most common effect. But as you say, who want to be a woman with multiple miscarriages before finding out that hey, that kind of emotional loss is your 'norm'.

Nor do those who don't come 'out' at puberty think about those who have conditions which exhibit at puberty, from developing breasts and hips for males, or growing tall with a extreme delay of puberty (as examples) to then the social experience of highschool and now the medical 'experts' and what happens when they diagnose wrong, or even explaining to a GP the need to use a plastic speculum in exams, and ending up having a locum the day you come in for an cyst or other exam and going, "No, you just REALLY need to see the notes" much less having to go to a specialist in a teaching hospital, like my gyno, who had 2+ individuals peering over shoulders. Yeah.

Sorry, digress. I guess I would say in my experience and those I know, adult life is more about symptom management than any idea or even thoughts of gender.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Cheryl: I worry about when I am gone, and this is the next talk show theme, and 'intersex girls: are they or aren't they?' is the next bad documentary title, plot twist. To find IS, a story about individuals and how they deal within family, and society with specific intersex conditions was a pleasant discovery. I wish they would translate it over here.

But to read a magazine as a lesbian and find that 'intersex' has been thrown into the 'are T people welcome' section of guest article was a shock. It is bad enough with doctors coming up with bizarre names, and the idea that if we tell people we have 'disorder of sexual dysfunction' that it will make us MORE understood, when all people can say is, 'so you are a hemaphrodite?' - It is I guess like a lot of conditions not talked about: micro equipment for males, extreme facial hair for females, having your period stop due to exercise (for up to a decade), and the host of things which occur. Except people are talking about intersex conditions and getting them wrong, getting the whole idea wrong. And I have seen the damage ignorance already does.

Nicky said...

The thing is, that their are trans out their who have claimed and pretended to be intersex. They even have made claims of pretending to be both and try to pass themselves off as both. I have seen many trans try and claim to be intersex in order to justify their transition to people. As a result it pisses off many intersex people such as myself and it offends intersex people as well.

The problem with trans, is that they are trying to use the intersex name and intersex condition to justify who they are and their transition to people. They try to pass themselves off as being intersex and make wild, outlandish claims of being intersex including self-diagnosing themselves with out ever going to a qualified medical doctor to get tested. Some even go online, pretending to be be intersex or both. When they get caught lying about being intersex in front of a real biological born intersex person. They seem to lash out and attack them for exposing their lies and game.

Even within the trans community, come have this notion in their head that they believe intersex is a sub set of trans or they believe that intersex is part of trans. They push it so much that it diminishes intersex people and erases them. What they don't understand that intersex is a medical condition and isn't related to trans in no shape or form.

JaneB said...

How complicated the world is! I wish people would understand that strange is often beautiful not just scary and to be banished...

How you manage these detailed, thoughtful posts despite your own health issues is another beautiful and strange thing in the world, my friend :-)

Tina Russell said...

(hugs) Thank you for talking about this, it’s so-o-o true. As a transsexual woman it scares me half to death every day that I could have the shit beaten out of me when trying to use the bathroom and the controversy would be about “but should Tina have been using that bathroom?”, or have the shit beaten out of me by someone I thought was a potential lover or sex partner, and the controversy will be “but did Tina warn him about being trans/warn him ENOUGH/was it appropriate for Tina to be flirting/blahblahblahblah.” And then there’s the persistent stereotype that all trans women are sex workers, which reinforces itself because if people think you’re only good at one thing then they won’t hire you for anything else, and this stereotype is _still_ a staple of late-night comedy.

The “controversy” is always about me and whether or not I have a right to exist, and while I suppose it’s better than the days when there was total agreement that I deserve to be discriminated against and have the shit beaten out of me, it’s still a painful mis-framing. I have a right to exist, the moral outrage and soul-searching questions need to be directed at the people who are expressing hate and violence towards me.

Diane J Standiford said...

I'm starting to write a book about my life as a T. It is so misunderstood by so many...and so many of my gay/lesbian friends. They turn away from me. I am no longer one of them. I, having no other info, decided I was gay when there was only G. I dread a world without you too. I've always felt that YOU understand me. Thanks for the post.

Neil said...

Poor innocent me: I have to admit that I didn't notice any references to Intersex in "Echo." But then, I did go through them pretty quickly.

Beth, you're bringing to light a topic that I'm unfamiliar with. Thank you for continuing to expand my knowledge.

Love and zen hugs,

Kate J said...

I recall a big row at a Womens Centre I was involved with a few years back, when a 'trans' woman friend of mine (that's how she describes herself) wanted to take part in an event and to use the Centre, but other some other women there, including a Lesbian group, insisted she was a man and shouldn't be allowed. Sad that when we should all be on the same 'side' (i.e. for equality) that we can end up so divided. On the other hand, some of those women were survivors of domestic abuse and I can understand in a way how they didn't want someone they saw as a 'man'...

My friend later lived as a man again for a while, she said it was too hard to deal with being a woman and all the abuse she got, but I've heard she is now living as a woman again. She is one of the bravest people I know, and one of the funniest too.

Thanks for helping clarify some difficult and confusing issues, as always, and show me a different angle on things. Lots to think about.

Love & peace

Elizabeth McClung said...

Kate J: Some women, even if they have transitioned, or had surgery still prefer to self identify as Trans. When I asked why, I was told that as a person who has lived in 'both gender worlds' they found trans to be perfered self identification. however, statistically, females who transition, 90%+ go 'stealth' after corrective surgery and are in jobs, relationships, stepmothers, etc. However, if they stay in the same town, having that chance is often taken away through harrassment, which is why in the US unemployment and underemployment of T individuals over 50%. In the UK, the gender recognition act makes it an offence and up to a 10,000 pound fine to disclose someone's medical, and previous percieved gender identity. I left as this was coming into law so I don't know if it has had the effect that Press for Change wanted it to have.

However, the pressure for transitioning individuals, in the period where they have no legal protection, but must, in order to fulfill protocol: have a job, live full time, etc, is huge. Most family and friends, even after knowing who the real person is inside, would rather go back to the lie. I don't quite understand it, as it is sort of unringing a bell. For those transitioning, however, it may end being either survival sex, street work, or survival as a requirement by parents to move back after they have been illegal fired for simplying existing, coming out, legal name change.

Regarding Safe Spaces, it is a problem here, as Vancouver Wymyn's center sued, to enure that even years after transition someone with a medical history of transsexual cannot enter (even though it goes against 90 years of research, protocol and papers). In the same way whites sued or protested to avoid using bathrooms where black or natives had used the same toilets, or in the 80's sued to ensure that children did not share public restrooms with gays (on basis that the could get AIDS off a toilet seat), a person doesn't have to be right to be full of zeal.

T women are six times more likely to be raped than other women, but are rejected for anywhere to turn for counselling. They are as likely to experience violence at the hands of parents or siblings as most are at the hands of partners. The Gender Recognition Act was passed to eliminate such problems. But often this is about prejudice and entrenched preception not the law.

Cases are made that the person may not have fully transitioned, much like some are trying to say trans girls shouldn't join girl guides or scouts as they will rape girls and get them pregnant. Fear makes assumptions unfounded.

In the end, if a woman feels unsafe around another woman who she sees as a man, that likely can't be changed right away. But education will help until all understand. Because, if a person was hurt by those of a certain ethnicity, they cannot require that all women of that ethnicity not use a women's center in order to make them feel better. This is the same.

What you describe has been a common experience that most campus' have had to deal with. It is a shame that instead of celebrating the women who have stepped forward, knowing that they face rape, violence, and potential death for doing so, often the groups that shun them are other women.

I know that the two largest groups in the UK for meet and greets for lesbians had 'no transsexuals allowed' in bold letters on every ad, and newsletter. That changed after the law. But the lesbian group in wales held a vote to ask women if they wanted to join in support of trans rights. It was unanimous against. Which is why Press for change tends to advocate alone.

Hopefully things have changed so such a row would not occur today.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Neil: having two sets of chromosomes, the basis of the 'science fiction' in Echo, is actually an intersex condition. However, it does not make the individual, like the woman in Echo, a potential nuclear bomb, nor does it make her masculine (or lesbian or bisexual). Often things will be presented as 'Fantastical' or used as plots as 'Science Fiction' when those are actual condition of actual people.

Thanks, I will continue to write as long as there is a need to do so, and strength to type.

Neil said...

Right; two sets of chromosomes. I remember that, thanks. I just never thought of putting it together with current real life(TM).

Heinlein's "I Will Fear No Evil" would be a better example than "Echo," I think. Heinlein caused JSB Smith's male brain to be transplanted into a younger body that happened to be female, and the previous owner of the body carried on a dialogue with the new tenant. I know some people hate the book, or consider it pornography; but it is an interesting concept.

You just carry on teaching us as you will, dear Beth, and I pray you have the strength to do so for as long as you wish.

Love and zen hugs,

Anonymous said...

Hello! Just want to say thank you for this interesting article! =) Peace, Joy.

Christianne said...

Excellent post, Elizabeth--I couldn't agree more with you. I've been writing a lot lately on the relationship between the GLBs and the Ts (insofar as they're discrete groups) and your post just highlights how oppressed groups have a disturbing tendency to try to subordinate "others" (you know, the Ts get disenfranchised by the GLBs, the Is get disenfranchised by the Ts, ad nauseum).
Also, I agree COMPLETELY that Michael Bailey is a d-bag...with a capital D! Discovered his work doing dissertation research...and wish I could forget it!