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  1. Personal Failure
    Personal Failure December 16, 2008 at 4:34 pm |

    I read a story about a girl that was intersexed. She had a vagina, and a 3″ long clitoris/possibly a penis. Her parents kindly had it cut off to make her normal. Genetically, she was XY, but now “she” had a vagina without a clitoris, so good luck with the orgasming. For years, she thought she was gay because she was attracted to women. Of course, even if you have a vagina, with an XY setup, being attracted to women would probably not be gay.

    They could have left her alone. It’s not like anyone outside of future lovers ever would have seen her genitalia. She probably would have been happier. Maybe very confused as a teenager, but with her parents support and love, she could have surpassed that.

    Can we just get over girl OR boy, gay OR straight, and just admit that whatever makes you happy is fine? If I choose to dress like a guy, drive semis and have sex with women, who am i hurting? Noone. Noone at all.

  2. Rob
    Rob December 16, 2008 at 4:36 pm |

    The feminist insights here are not connected explicitly to transgender or queer identities or politics, but are certainly informed by those ideas….

    I think that the existence of intersex people serves as an argument for allowing same-sex marriage. Basically, sex may be legally determined by any of several differeny criteria, such as chromosomes, identity, gonads, or external genitals. If someone (this includes both transgender and intersex people) met some of the criteria for one sex and some of the criteria for the opposite, or different organizations used different sex criteria, resulting the same individual legally being a different sex to different organizations, they would be stuck in a bizarre sort of legal limbo. Such a situation could easily apply to marriage. The best solution is to allow marriage regardless of the sexes of the couple, ie, to allow same-sex marriage. (source credit: my argument used information from Wikipedia.

  3. Personal Failure
    Personal Failure December 16, 2008 at 4:37 pm |

    “choose” is a bad word there, probably. sorry about that. (i was thinking of the fact that i am ocassionally very attracted to women, so i’m not 100% straight. maybe 85%)

  4. Scott
    Scott December 16, 2008 at 4:53 pm |

    Thanks for the review, the literature and emerging cultural discussion of intersex issues fascinates — it is like cleaning a window and being able to see through it again with such clarity. The window was always there, but the view was tinged with all this stuff from the outside. There will come a day, unfortunately not soon enough, when people will look back on this era of gender awakening our generations are documenting/experiencing and marvel at how blind we were. Intersex people allow us not only to see political issues like marriage differently, but our own sexuality and identity, how we relate, love, live, parent. In a society that is so often genitally-objectifying, this reminds us how narrow our differences really are. The Intersex Society of North America has great links demonstrating shared genital development – in case you missed that chapter in biology http://www.sickkids.ca/childphysiology/cpwp/Genital/genitaldevelopment.htm

  5. Christine
    Christine December 16, 2008 at 6:00 pm |

    I also recommend a book by Alice Domurat Dreger, _Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex_. I assigned this semester and the students found it really eye-opening and useful. It’s a great read by a historian with a real senses of humor and social justice.

  6. E.M. Russell
    E.M. Russell December 16, 2008 at 6:05 pm |

    There’s an odd pressure from doctors and parents that “abnormal” things like conjoined twins and intersex children must have decisions made about their condition as soon as possible. It should be left up to the child if they want any surgery performed on them later in life when their sexual identity is more likely to be formed. There are some things that I guess it’d be nice to have a gender for (bathrooms!), but in this day and age just run a test to see what gender they are at a genetic level. Then raise them as that gender? Since the majority of people born male or female are straight, not? I dunno, it seems like a no-brainer to me.

  7. am i a body fascist?
    am i a body fascist? December 16, 2008 at 8:10 pm |

    as a partner and ally of an intersex activist i have to admit i’m having very mixed feelings about this post.

    on the one hand i’m very grateful for any highlighting of the ‘invisible’ existence of intersexed people (1 in every 2000 by the way) and how our ‘western civilised’ society tries to literally extinct them as a species by probably the worst atrocities and crimes against the humanity under the guise of ‘science’ and ‘medicine’ since 1945. and i’m also especially grateful for even the slightest mention of hermaphrodites’ decadelong fight against the inhumane practice of forced genital surgery and castration in early childhood, followed by lifelong forced hormone and other non-consented (mostly not even informed informed) “treatments”, since i think it should receive a lot more solidarity and active support. so, for one, i’m very happy about this post.

    unfortunately, on the other hand, in this review, once more the ongoing struggle of the intersexed and their key demand of ending the forced surgeries immediately (which as far as i know is amply described in the book) is hardly mentioned at all.

    once more the focus is not on the intersexed, but solely on gender issues.

    once more, the very person who coined the terms ‘gender’ (as opposed to sex), ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender role’ etc. in the fifties, and who used it as the “scientific” grounds for bringing in effect the still ongoing “genocide of hermaphrodites”, and who explicitly defined himself as a feminist ally (and who dismissed critique against his inhumane practice as part of the ‘backlash’ to drive ‘women back to the spheres of domesticity’, is also omitted — despite that he’s mentioned 7 times just in the intro of karkazis’ book (from wich by the way all the quotes in the review were taken):

    http://74.220.219.62/%7Ekatrinak/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/Karkazis_Intro.pdf

    thus once more the struggle of the intersexed against the atrocities commited against them gets no coverage, but instead hermaphrodites are reduced to a mere ‘important empirical support’ for ‘transgender or queer identities or politics’.

    same in most comments.

    no offence, but every time i’m confronted with this frequent “re-use” of the intersexed, i’m suddenly feeling like i should puke for the rest of my life.

    don’t you have a heart?!

    how can you protest e.g. against female genital cutting in other cultures — and tolerate (and even “re-use”) intersex genital cutting in your very own?

    by all that is human: how about a little (also practical) help, support, solidarity, political action etc. specifically for the intersexed — instead of just gender-talk and advancing your own agenda?!!

    please!!!!!

    and whithin the parameters of feminism, gender studies and queer theory: how about perhaps some overdue critical review of the (not always so bright) sources of the concept of gender and all their implications?

    (again, no offence, but i can really hardly stand it)

  8. Schala
    Schala December 16, 2008 at 8:39 pm |

    @E.M. Russell

    That’s what they typically do, run tests to see what gender they are at a genetic level…and then coerce parents into agreeing with them that genital surgery is a medical emergency, and then, raise them as this gender. If they were wrong? (which is 25% of the time at least). Oh well, shit happens, apparently…

    What’s funny is that many of the people for medical intervention on intersex infants (against their consent, obviously) will be adamantly against the same intervention on consenting adults to legally change sex, wether they be intersex or transsexual.

    @Personal Failure

    I tend to agree with Rob, that categories either not necessarily apply at all, or put an unnecessary burden to fit into a certain category. Wether trans, intersex, or just plain “normal”, bisexuals may also be in a similar situation.

    I have a small penis (as short as the clitoris mentioned), no vagina, and XY chromosomes, yet I don’t think being attracted to men makes me gay. I identify, live, and love, as female, and no one can truly consider me “male” seriously in person.

    Or as the running joke says “I turn people gay.” Because they like what is considered a trap/gender-bender (usually fictional character) who acts and is seen as nothing else than a girl, but is legally male.

    Through Western eyes, those characters are considered comedic and make male characters fall into homophobic tropes. Through East-Asian eyes, however, it seems to be accepted more seriously, not that actual transsexual people (especially women) are better accepted in Japan though.

    Attempting to raise me as male revealed to be a huge fiasco, despite no encouraging of any feminine behavior, having no sisters and having XY chromosomes. My intersex condition is one of testosterone resistance (AIS of low grade), so while genitally I looked like a normal male baby. As an adult, I looked more like a preteen male than an adult male. It was actually very easy to sway the balance to be seen as teenager female, so much was I on the line of androgeny to start with.

  9. Kristin
    Kristin December 16, 2008 at 11:13 pm |

    Why is it that any post dealing with intersexuality on a mainstream feminist blog ends up with transphobia-spewing asshats all over the thread? You know? I’m just really wondering about that…

    I’m also wondering why some queer people fall all over such posts appropriating intersexuality to their own experiences? In the same sort of disgusted way that I wonder about those who proclaim that “gay is the new black.” Yeah, I’m queer too, but fucking hell… I do violence to the narratives of specific individuals when I attempt to appropriate their narratives as my own. Not really okay. It might be helpful to contain that “that reminds me of me!” instinct when you’re talking about someones who’s experience, eh, isn’t yours.

    Also, Personal Failure, you might check your use of dehumanizing language and trivialzing statements such as: “good luck with the orgasming!” I’m trying to formulate a response, but I’ve got little to offer beyond “fuck you.”

    Let’s see… What else… Dreger is loathed and largely discredited by the intersexed community for her persistently othering/dehumanizing treatment of the experiences of real people. And she has publicly defended some rather blatantly transphobic professors in her tenure.

    And, finally… Jennifer: Neither intersexed nor trans people should be treated as useful political instruments for deconstructing the gender binary. ‘Cause, ewll, they’re people. Intersexed people as the feminist “canary”? Just… Um… No. Failed analogy, right there.

  10. Kristin
    Kristin December 16, 2008 at 11:14 pm |

    Argh… typo, I meant: “well, they’re people.”

  11. chingona
    chingona December 16, 2008 at 11:31 pm |

    in this day and age just run a test to see what gender they are at a genetic level

    Even this is not really a good way of determining sex. Some percentage of XY fetuses develop as girls. I think they usually are sterile, but in every other way that we define it, they are women. They often don’t know they are XY until a genetic test if performed for some other reason.

    And I suspect most feminist parents try not to raise their kids of either sex “as” anything but a person.

    As for the post, I was profoundly influenced on this subject by Middlesex. I’m sure there are problems with the book, but before I read it, I think I would have been very influenced by a doctor telling me it was better to “just take care of it early” or some such (not that I thought much about the subject, to be honest). After reading it, if I were to have an intersex child, there is no way I would consent to surgery just to assign a gender.

  12. queen emily
    queen emily December 16, 2008 at 11:35 pm |

    Let’s get straight to the “angry trans woman” meme.

    Personal failure: I’m an XY woman attracted to woman. Not “she,” just bloody she. Fuck you.

    Re: the OP. Funny how intersexed and transgender people are continually objectified in feminist discourse as usefully deconstructing the gender binary, rhetorical tropes rather than full objects with real genders to be respected. Yeah, some intersexed people identify outside the binary, but many don’t–indeed many are binary identified and het to boot.

    I mean, gender deconstructs itself rather easily without needing to repeat the same objectifying procedure, largely from the same scopophilic position as medical science that positions feminism as something “outside” the un-normatively sexed or gender object.

  13. queen emily
    queen emily December 16, 2008 at 11:37 pm |

    uh, that should read “rhetorical tropes rather than full subjects.”

  14. Kristin
    Kristin December 16, 2008 at 11:45 pm |

    Ah, jesus, my comment is awaiting moderation, which means that my qualifying note about how it should read makes no sense. Maybe if I break it up. Part I:

    Why is it that any post dealing with intersexuality on a mainstream feminist blog ends up with transphobia-spewing asshats all over the thread? You know? I’m just really wondering about that…

    I’m also wondering why some queer people fall all over such posts appropriating intersexuality to their own experiences? In the same sort of disgusted way that I wonder about those who proclaim that “gay is the new black.” Yeah, I’m queer too, but fucking hell… I do violence to the narratives of specific individuals when I attempt to appropriate their narratives as my own. Not really okay. It might be helpful to contain that “that reminds me of me!” instinct when you’re talking about someones who’s experience, eh, isn’t yours.

  15. Kristin
    Kristin December 16, 2008 at 11:45 pm |

    Part II:

    Also, Personal Failure, you might check your use of dehumanizing language and trivialzing statements such as: “good luck with the orgasming!” I’m trying to formulate a response, but I’ve got little to offer beyond “fuck you.”

    Let’s see… What else… Dreger is loathed and largely discredited by the intersexed community for her persistently othering/dehumanizing treatment of the experiences of real people. And she has publicly defended some rather blatantly transphobic professors in her tenure.

    And, finally… Jennifer: Neither intersexed nor trans people should be treated as useful political instruments for deconstructing the gender binary. ‘Cause, ewll, they’re people. Intersexed people as the feminist “canary”? Just… Um… No. Failed analogy, right there.

  16. Kristin
    Kristin December 16, 2008 at 11:46 pm |

    Also, Personal Failure, you might check your use of dehumanizing language and trivialzing statements such as: “good luck with the orgasming!” I’m trying to formulate a response, but I’ve got little to offer beyond “fuck you.”

  17. Kristin
    Kristin December 16, 2008 at 11:46 pm |

    Let’s see… What else… Dreger is loathed and largely discredited by the intersexed community for her persistently othering/dehumanizing treatment of the experiences of real people. And she has publicly defended some rather blatantly transphobic professors in her tenure.

  18. Kristin
    Kristin December 16, 2008 at 11:47 pm |

    And, finally… Jennifer: Neither intersexed nor trans people should be treated as useful political instruments for deconstructing the gender binary. ‘Cause, ewll, they’re people. Intersexed people as the feminist “canary”? Just… Um… No. Failed analogy, right there.

    Sorry for double-posting, but, well… Seems timely to get this out right away.

  19. Zoe Brain
    Zoe Brain December 17, 2008 at 12:09 am |

    The ones who really bollix up the system are those with 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency (5alpha-RD-2) or 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency (17beta-HSD-3).

    All babies with either of these syndromes look (somewhat, mostly or completely) female at birth. They’re usually brought up as girls. But by the time they’re in their mid-20’s, they look (somewhat, mostly or completely) male, without medical intervention. To over-simplify, they get a “natural sex change” from female to male.

    Male to female natural changes happen too, but are much rarer, less than 1% of all natural changes, and the causes are not well understood.

    Rob wrote

    If someone (this includes both transgender and intersex people) met some of the criteria for one sex and some of the criteria for the opposite, or different organizations used different sex criteria, resulting the same individual legally being a different sex to different organizations, they would be stuck in a bizarre sort of legal limbo. Such a situation could easily apply to marriage.

    Not only can it happen, it does happen.

    I’m intersexed. I live in Australia and was born in the UK. Both countries have vehement opposition to same-sex marriage, and Australia doesn’t even allow civil unions.

    My UK passport says “F”, my UK birth certificate says “boy”. So in the UK, I could only marry another woman. In Australia, my passport and immigration records both say “F” so I can only marry a man. If I went to California, goodness knows who I’d be allowed to marry. For what it’s worth, I identify as female, just one with an interesting medical history – one of those really rare natural male to female natural changes.

    Here’s another quote, about the Christie Lee Littleton case:

    “Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Texas, is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Texas, and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”

    As I said, it’s already happening. Now that the USA has access to all personal data about UK citizens travelling there, every time I enter the US it’s a bit of an adventure. Do the immigration people see the mismatch of passport with birth certificate and deny me entry? Would I end up in a male or a female immigration holding facility? If the former, what are the odds I’d survive without getting raped and probably infected with HiV? It adds a certain frisson of unwanted terror every time I attend an academic conference or seminar.

  20. Kristin
    Kristin December 17, 2008 at 12:16 am |

    Ah, since my comments are in the mod queue, I’ll just leave it at… Well, what Queen Emily said. This is a hugely instrumentalizing move, the use of people to further the feminist deconstruction of gender rather than concern about intersexed or trans people at a level approaching anything like intersectionality. Why is it that these analyses stop at: “Look, these people prove my theory!” What about fucking political solidarity? What about listening to material concerns? When euphoria about deconstructing the gender binary displaces the specific oppressions that materially situated (read: real) people face, I think we have really fucked up.

  21. Claire
    Claire December 17, 2008 at 4:58 am |

    I didn’t read Personal Failure’s “good luck with the orgasming!” comment as dehumanizing in any way… I read it as a bitter criticism of the parents who would carelessly rob their child of such a useful bit of tissue. And you know, maybe the person will be able to grow up and have orgasms… but it’d be a lot more likely if the clitoris/penis tissue hadn’t been excised for no reason other than the parent’s comfort.

    Female genital mutiltation = immediate negative reaction from western observers

    enforcing binary sex on the genitals of intersexed infants = big fucking pile of controversy.

    But the net result, a set of genitals that would have (presumably) otherwise worked fantastically winds up (at least partially) numb and scarred, is roughly the same… and so little care is given to tissue-preservation (unlike with most genital reconstruction performed on adult patients) that the argument that it’s better to do it sooner than later is just dangerously wrongheaded. A trip to see Dr. Toby Meltzer at 20 for vaginoplasty at age 20 (if that’s what the person eventually decides) will have much better results than an encounter with Dr. Random Asshole’s surgical scissors at age 0.

  22. Claire
    Claire December 17, 2008 at 5:10 am |

    As for the use of intersex births by feminists in service of deconstructing binary gender/sex… so? It’s a project that benefits the intersexed, who, along with genderqueer folks, are hurt by binary gender more than anyone else. Even as a male to female transsexual, at least my desired endpoint doesn’t threaten binary gender, so people can deal with me without discarding or setting aside those assumptions. Lucky me. If I were born apparently-intersexed, or if I identified as genderqueer, I wouldn’t be so lucky. I would never fit in either of the two boxes… As it is, I just moved from one to the other.

    But when a feminist theorist suggests getting rid of the boxes, we get complaints from some intersexed people about using them in service of our project? I’m not trying to stand on a soapbox and denounce you as ingrates. I just don’t understand the complaint at all. Yes, you’re being used as an example to facilitate deconstruction. I ask the following questions in all seriousness: 1) How does it hurt you? 2) How can it be done differently to avoid hurting you? 3) Even if it does and must hurt you, do you think it might be worth it if it furthers the project of doing away with binary gender, why or why not?

  23. queen emily
    queen emily December 17, 2008 at 7:03 am |

    Hi Claire.

    Just to be clear, I’m trans, not intersexed. The last of your questions, that’s just rubbish, privileged theorists don’t get to elect already-marginalised groups as the vanguard of *their* gender revolution. How bout no.

    Wrt to the bulk of your point–deconstructing the gender binary, ok, that all sounds well and good, but what the hell does that actually mean?

    Mostly in practice in post-structuralist feminist discourse, it seems to translate to “talk a lot about the cultural semiotics of how gender non-normative people demonstrate the falseness of *all* gender*.” Well that’s not actually very meaningful, though is it? “Deconstructing gender” amounts to going, “well it’s all artificial innit.” Yes, and? That’s it, that’s the grand plan for ending gender oppression?

    My advice: pay attention to context. Think about the ways in which medicine, psychiatry interact with law to produce bio-political subjects. How is law constituting that person? How do, for instance, laws draw selectively on medicine to decide what constitutes a legal person, why are genitals usually privileged as the deciding factor of legal sex? What does that mean, what does that *do* to the effected people?

    Frankly, I see bugger all concern about the actual specifics of how intersexed people are actually oppressed, beyond some awareness of IGM. Ok, but what does that set in motion? Zoe’s comment shows how incomplete most feminist writings are on that score…

  24. Claire
    Claire December 17, 2008 at 7:31 am |

    “privileged theorists don’t get to elect already-marginalised groups as the vanguard of *their* gender revolution. How bout no.”

    I’m not impressed by this point at all, because it relies 100% on the identity of the theorist. If a man had written Toward a Feminist Theory of State*, the mere fact that it was written by a man would be no criticism at all of the arguments therein. Of course, one could argue that it would have been impossible for a man to produce that particular work, which might actually be true… but even if it were, and in some alternate universe wherein Carl MacKinnon wrote a lesser version of Toward a Feminist Theory of State, it would absolutely not be the case that the identity of the author were sufficient for its refutation… Critics would have a responsibility to address the content of the work, and not merely pulpit-pound that the author is inappropriate-identified to contribute to our understanding of the issues under consideration.

    Deconstruction of gender, if limited to a mere observation, made within an ivory tower and kept there, of the fact that gender is a social category not given by biology, is quite useless, you’re absolutely right. But if we can erode the cultural assumptions of essentialized binary gender, it’s going to wind up helping everyone, from the little boy who doesn’t give two shits about kicking a football to the intersexed person who likes to wear skirts and sport a mustache.

    As for the charge that feminist theorists are electing an already marginalized group (the intersexed) as the vanguard of “their” gender revolution, I have two more points in response. One, feminist theorists absolutely have a right to make use of the biological fact that some people are born intersexed in their theory. It’s a fact of human biology that some people are born this way, and so it ought to be adequately accounted for in any adequate reckoning of gender and sex. To demand that those who fit the binary not account for intersex in their theory is to demand that they do shitty theory.

    Two, it is not “their” gender revolution. If the aim were somehow to invert gender, and make the feminine the privileged class, I could definitely see it. But, since the aim is to de-essentialize sex/gender and unclass the categories, it is one that seems very much a revolution for the intersexed and genderqueer (or even more generally gender-variant.)

  25. Claire
    Claire December 17, 2008 at 7:50 am |

    Oh, and before I get my shit jumped for it, I don’t believe and didn’t intend to promote the idea that all intersexed persons are genderqueer. (i.e. the skirt and mustache remark) I only refer to these two groups because they are the ones more thoroughly steamrolled by binary gender… as I suggested before, even transsexuals like myself don’t necessarily threaten the gender binary. People tend to conceive of me as “Claire was a boy, and now is a girl/is becoming a girl.” (I am still presenting male at work) Because it’s easier, I usually don’t even bother to engage them on the matter. I have that privilege. Intersexed infants* don’t. Genderqueer people** don’t. They have a much greater stake in the de-essentializing of binary gender than I have.

    Also, someone mentioned a 1 in 2000 figure for intersexed births higher up… I hope it was a typo, because I know Fausto-Sterling’s estimate is more like 1 in 200. Good statistical data on this is so difficult to come by, though. I mean, heck, people are still running around thinking transsexualism is a 1 in 30,000 phenomenon, when that number can’t even account for the number of genital reconstructions performed.

    * Intersexed infants can’t pass as fitting binary gender, or do anything at all: they’re infants… utterly at the mercy of their parents’ and doctors’ conception of gender. I only know a couple of intersexed adults, and they both present as unambiguously male, and are happy doing so… imagine how disappointed they’d be if their parents had decided to surgically “correct” them to be female?

    ** Genderqueer people presumably aren’t happy “passing” as fitting the binary, so while many can and do pass as men or as women, it’d be better if they didn’t have to. But, cis privilege is delicious…

  26. Kristin
    Kristin December 17, 2008 at 9:00 am |

    Claire: I read “good luck with orgasming!” as the musings of a person who feels entitled to trivialize the hell out of people’s real experiences on the basis of having the right political stance.

    We are going to have to agree to disagree about theory. As a theorist, I firmly believe that theory in these times almost totally serves only the interests of the theorists who advance their gender revolutions as a means of attaining tenure and promotion. Call me cynical, but well, I’ve yet to see the most radical of radical theories bring about the sort of emancipatory change that you envision. Or, well… I don’t believe that theory is the place where the revolution is going to take place, and if that’s the plan, I think it will be wildly ineffective.

    In any case, could you provide some concrete examples as to how you think that deconstructing the gender binary (which does, in practice, amount to what Queen Emily describes) serves the interests of intersexed people? Beyond some minor mention of “corrective” surgery, QE is in fact right to suggest that this literature is not particularly interested in advancing the concerns of intersexed people qua people. It is problematic because it is deployed as rhetorical trope, with very little interest or concern with material reality or political protection. Or, in other words, intersexed people are not objects meant for the appropriation of feminists seeking to advance an agenda. I saw some asshat wearing a t-shirt once that said, “We are all Palestinians,” and it strikes me that this kind of theorizing is not terribly far off from something along the lines of, “We are all intersexed.” Nope. The experiences of people are not there for the appropriating.

    In any case… This whole, “look the trans/intersexed/genderqueer/gender variant people prove my theory!” thing has been done by feminists a thousand times. Each time, the author seems to think sie’s doing something new and transgressive, and, well… Not so much? Been there, done that, congrats on tenure. Next?

  27. pcwhite
    pcwhite December 17, 2008 at 9:30 am |

    i agree with am i a body fascist?, that we dehumanize intersex people and treat them like tools for our own agenda when we only mention them in the context of deconstructing gender. intersex people are certainly worthy of discussion, because they do show us how even a sexual binary is a flawed concept, but for the love of God don’t just whip them out like a playing card and then move on to the next issue. i personally think that smacks of detachment. if you’re really committed to social justice, i think you should bother to address intersex people’s very real struggles and issues that are much more immediate than academic gender criticism, like the forced genital surgeries that STILL happen with apalling frequency.

    and also…it would be nice to see more articles dealing with intersex issues in a more inclusive context. as in…not just offering a surface “intersex 101″ type of article, but actually offering some thoughts on the issues from an activist context.

  28. Quercki M. Singer
    Quercki M. Singer December 17, 2008 at 10:41 am |

    Inspired by the story Baby X by Lois Gould, I refused to tell people which sex my first child was. It seemed reasonable to me that it shouldn’t matter which box is checked. The panicked reactions astounded me. This was 20 years ago, but no one I knew even considered that there are other possibilities than boy or girl.

    Now I’ve met people for whom the two boxes are a really bad fit, and I have a small inkling of the difficulties they endure.

  29. Schala
    Schala December 17, 2008 at 11:04 am |

    “A trip to see Dr. Toby Meltzer at 20 for vaginoplasty at age 20 (if that’s what the person eventually decides) will have much better results than an encounter with Dr. Random Asshole’s surgical scissors at age 0.”

    Even if Dr Meltzer or “the best surgeon in the world” were to perform vaginoplasty on an infant of 0~2 years old, the result would be bad because:

    1) The tissue that is there is small, yet undeveloped and requires precision of a magnitude higher than would on an adult.

    2) Anesthetics can cause issues on infants because they are too powerful drugs.

    3) The result would not “improve itself”, and would need to be touched up as said infant grew, resulting in more “patched up work” than a one-time procedure as an adult does (for example, vaginal depht).

    “Inspired by the story Baby X by Lois Gould, I refused to tell people which sex my first child was. It seemed reasonable to me that it shouldn’t matter which box is checked. The panicked reactions astounded me.”

    People in general, which includes most people who want to see gender inequalities go away genuinely, cling to gender as categorization. Why is infant clothing so extremely gendered? So many ultra-pink outfits for baby girls it makes me dizzy. No wonder many girls get sick of pink growing up, they’re almost bathed in it as children…

    And all this for the comfort of parents, relatives and even complete strangers, who want to never be wrong in regards to the sex of an infant, lest they make a remark such as “She’s so pretty”, and then recant to “He’s so handsome” when they learn said infant is male – and sometimes said recanting is done on an angry tone, blaming the parents for “confusing” them.

    I don’t think it’s possible to do away with categories of gender, but maybe it is possible to do away with their meanings and the enforcement of certain behaviors, roles and such on both genders.

    I think that, regardless of gendered categories, people would still cling to them, but maybe they’d learn that imposing normalizing socialization based on artificiality on *others* is not all that good.

    For an example: Regardless of feminity not existing proper, and/or not being considered the province of females, I would still be feminine, because it’s part of my personality. It doesn’t make me superior, but it makes me unique. Maybe it would be called something else, but being a strong identity for many, it won’t just vanish.

  30. Kristin
    Kristin December 17, 2008 at 12:03 pm |

    Quercki M Singer:

    “Inspired by the story Baby X by Lois Gould, I refused to tell people which sex my first child was. It seemed reasonable to me that it shouldn’t matter which box is checked.”

    Right, then. Did you want some kind of a medal? Also, glad that someone else’s experiences could serve as an instrument of your inspiration. Is *no one* hearing what people are saying about the instrumentalizing of PEOPLE here? They’re NOT objects for your growth and betterment as a person, or tropes through which you can “learn to do the right thing.” No, no, no. Could someone just fucking hear what has been said here already??

    It’s great that people learn things when they become educated about intersecting oppressions, but “this intersexed person inspired me to do the right thing and not gender my kid.” Um, seriously… Fuck off.

  31. Claire
    Claire December 17, 2008 at 12:52 pm |

    “could you provide some concrete examples as to how you think that deconstructing the gender binary (which does, in practice, amount to what Queen Emily describes) serves the interests of intersexed people? Beyond some minor mention of “corrective” surgery, QE is in fact right to suggest that this literature is not particularly interested in advancing the concerns of intersexed people qua people.”

    Sadly, the only real example I have is the one you pre-emptively pooh-pooh: corrective surgery on infants. Even if employers, teachers, schoolmates, etc never, ever lose the bullshit idea of binary sex/gender, at least medical ethics boards will be forced to confront biological fact, and reasoned academic theory, and surgical intervention for the enforcement of binary sex will be ruled out.

    That’s all I’ve got, mostly because I’m a pessimist, and doubtful ANYTHING be it theory, social action, or a billion tears shed, can seriously topple binary sex/gender, which might just be our deepest cultural assumption.

  32. Kristin
    Kristin December 17, 2008 at 1:01 pm |

    Claire: And, well, I mean… The thing is, the medical establishment doesn’t give much of a shit about poststructuralist feminist theory in the first place.

  33. Gordon
    Gordon December 17, 2008 at 1:06 pm |

    Anyone interested in intersex people should rent/buy and watch the Argentine movie XXY. The protagonist, Alex, apparently has both a penis and a vagina, and XXY is a thoroughly inspiring story of her insistence on taking her place in the world as what she is, not what someone else thinks she should be. As fine a piece of filmmaking as I’ve seen in a long time. I bought the DVD, and I buy about one DVD a year.

    Also, following up on Chingona’s comment, if you have not read Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel Middlesex, by all means do so. I recommended it to a recently retired pediatric surgeon, and she said she hoped it would someday be required reading in every medical school.

    On a considerably less uplifting note, the Bible says, “Male and female created He them.” For a truly astonishing number of people, scripture is far more real than observable reality, so we will probably always have to contend with those who insist that intersex people can’t be real because they don’t fit the mold. I wish I had a more constructive suggestion for dealing with such militant ignorance than just ignoring it, but I don’t.

  34. tiggrrl
    tiggrrl December 17, 2008 at 2:09 pm |

    Gee, I was planning to post about being pregnant and having chosen male, female and intersex names for our baby, and people’s reactions when they asked what names we had chosen and I listed three, but apparently that is just going to be setting myself up for a smackdown from someone like Kristin who sees it as trivializing or “using” or displaying privilege, or Christ, I can’t even figure out why she got so pissed off at Quercki.

    I get that intersex and trans people deal with this shit every day of their lives, and I get that as a relatively cis person there are levels on which I will never understand it, and I don’t want a fucking medal or praise or anything, but it sure would be helpful if non-intersex and non-trans folks who are also attempting to take steps to fight the gender binary didn’t get yelled at for it.

    Because I’m going to keep doing the right thing just because it’s the right fucking thing, but plenty of people are going to take one look at that and either think, “Well then fuck you, asshole,” or, “I guess it doesn’t matter so I won’t bother,” and the tiny baby steps that people take are important, and they do make a difference.

    People pretty much uniformly fuck up along the way to understanding someone else’s oppression. Whether that’s men trying to “get” sexism, or whites trying to “get” racism, or able-bodied trying to “get” disability issues, or the cis-gendered trying to “get” trans and intersex issues. Could there maybe be a little understanding of that, and an attempt to say, “That’s great and all, good start, but here’s where you’re fucking up,” rather than just, “Fuck you”?

  35. annalouise
    annalouise December 17, 2008 at 2:22 pm |

    umm…I don’t think I”m comfortable with the mutliple mentions of a “story about” or a “movie about” an intersexed person followed by an explicit description of that person’s genitalia. I mean, intersex people have organizations that advocate, intersex people have written essays and maybe even been in documentaries. Surely, we should rely on anecdata or fictionalized accounts that are kind of creepy and exotifying.

  36. Schala
    Schala December 17, 2008 at 2:24 pm |

    As I said above, gender isn’t about to go away, you’d have to brainwash people into forgetting what is perhaps the most important part of themselves in their eyes.

    What can be done is to stop gendering people so strongly. To “box” people into either male, or female, and then close the box and say “Well, that’s that, now enjoy life.” Heck, the medical and psychiatric establishment have been quick to make anything that isn’t sticking to existing gender norms for one’s sex is a pathology.

    “Love of oneself as a woman” is pathological, for one born male, but it’s a staple of female erotica, so go figure…

  37. Schala
    Schala December 17, 2008 at 2:54 pm |

    or what Alfred Kinsey said, strangely relevant to what I said above:

    “The world is not divided into sheeps and goats. Not all things are black nor all things white. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning sexual behavior the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.”

    Because, there certainly are people more inclined towards feminity, or masculinity, even if they had no actual social pressure to do so (or repress it). The problem lies in the rigid categorizing.

    Anormalizing everything that doesn’t fit a certain mold, and making sure that everyone in a given category fits the mold, or is significantly pushed towards it.

    Pressure on girls and women to wear make-up.
    Pressure on boys and men to see violence as THE solution.
    Pressure on men to be bread-winners, wether they want to or not.
    Pressure on women to be caretakers, wether they want to or not.
    Pressure on men to refuse jobs such as dishwashing, in the home, or cleaning (amazingly I think they make up a significant portion of those in restaurants though).
    Pressure on women to refuse jobs that require physical strength, wether they be strong enough to do it or not. Same for work that is bound to make one dirty.
    Consequently, pressure on men to do those physical and dirty jobs.
    And consequently, pressure on women to do those dishwashing and cleaning jobs.

    This all despite what the person itself might be interested in. Despite their values, despite their personality. We shoehorn people into categories, into interests they might not like at all, into wearing certain types of clothes, into behaving in certain ways, and even thinking in certain ways.

    It may work for some, but certainly not for all. Though, to get rid of this tendency to categorize and force people to do certain things, we’d need to get rid of values placed on behavior/dress/actions and instead consider each one as good as the next (as long as it doesn’t violate laws, because we do have to draw the line, I won’t accept murdering as normal behavior).

  38. Schala
    Schala December 17, 2008 at 2:59 pm |

    As such, we would need to value maleness and femaleness equally. To value breasts and absence thereof equally (not to mention discrepancies in size, or men who have breasts that are not a fat-surplus). To value small and big feet the same. To value muscle or absence thereof, fat or absence thereof, similarly, without saying “skinny is better for women, and its awful for men”.

    I can’t count the times I was told “I should eat more” when I was presenting as male, significantly underweight as I was. Yet, now, I might be told “Wow, you’re so skinny/small”, but no negative judgment. This illustrates by example what I said above, about skinnyness.

    For the record, my metabolism is pretty fucked up, so I can’t gain weight, it isn’t my desire to have a 16.1 BMI.

  39. debbie
    debbie December 17, 2008 at 5:15 pm |

    tiggirl, what are intersex names? How and why are they different from other names?

  40. Rachel_in_WY
    Rachel_in_WY December 17, 2008 at 5:57 pm |

    Anne Fausto-Sterling does a great job of addressing this issue in Sexing the Body

  41. Kristin
    Kristin December 17, 2008 at 6:49 pm |

    tiggrrl: Oh, for fuck’s sake, are you worried about not saying the right thing, or are you worried about various oppressions that people face? I’m sorry, but the navel gazing all over this thread is ridiculous.

  42. QoT
    QoT December 17, 2008 at 7:40 pm |

    @debbie: I assume tiggirl means “names which aren’t explicitly gendered”, like (to use Australasian examples) Lindsay, Shannon or Hayden.

  43. Kristin
    Kristin December 17, 2008 at 7:58 pm |

    debbie: Good questions.

  44. Nicky
    Nicky December 17, 2008 at 9:46 pm |

    The problem here is that you have a bunch of genderqueer and transsexuals who have a nasty habit of mislabeling, misidentifying and misappropriating the intersex community and intersex people. What I have been seeing, is that their are transsexuals and genderqueers who misuse the intersex label and come out claiming that they are intersex, when they aren’t intersex in the first place. I have even seen more outlandish claims by transsexuals and genderqueers that they claim that intersex is part of them. Which to the effect, they are claiming to be intersex and claiming to be part of the intersex when they are not intersex to begin with. What you are seeing is that their are transsexuals and genderqueer people who are or have been misusing, mislabeling and misappropriating the intersex people at their expense for their own gain.

    Also, when you have transsexuals and genderqueers talking about the intersex people and the intersex community. What they are really doing, is talking about the intersex people in the context and through the eyes of a transsexual. What that dose, it erases and co-opts the intersex people through the eyes of a transsexual or a genderqueer.

    The other thing that I am seeing is that, you have transsexuals and genderqueer people who are erasing and silencing the life experiences and upbringing of an intersex person. What happens their is that you have transsexuals and genderqueer people who misappropriating an intersex person’s life experience and upbringing and upbrining. What you see is that, when transsexuals and gendequeer talk about the intersex, they tend to talk like the know what it’s like to be intersex, when in reality, they don’t know what it means to be intersex and what it means to be born intersex.

  45. Kristin
    Kristin December 18, 2008 at 12:36 am |

    Nicky:

    Ah, well, so the virulently transphobic discourse returns. It might be helpful if you were to talk *specifically* about the people you’re attempting to argue against. I have no idea whom you are addressing.

    “What they are really doing, is talking about the intersex people in the context and through the eyes of a transsexual.”

    What, trans folk have special eyes? There’s some kind of essential way of seeing “through the eyes of a transsexual”? Ayeeee…

    The problems that a number of people are pointing out with both the OP and some of the comments are not, I think, specific to “the eyes of the transsexual.” The instrumentalizing of marginalized groups for a political purpose–and a tendency to forget these groups once the purpose has been achieved (Woo! Successful deconstruction of the gender binary!)–is not specific to intersexed experience, and one need not be intersexed to object to it.

    The people who seem to be appropriating others’ experiences for their own gain, in my view, are *not* “the transsexuals and genderqueer.” Rather, this is what the author of the book in question does, no question. As do the people who are all over this thread going, “Wait, that’s JUST like gay marriage! OMG, I can totally relate on the basis of my queer identity…”

    I have not self-identified as anything here. To be clear, I am neither trans nor intersexed. I do not pretend to understand the experiences of anyone who isn’t me in anything approaching a totalizing way. Simply, I object to casting humans as objects, as mere rhetorical tropes with no agency of their own, as means to some desired end. As a physically disabled person, I am indeed acquainted with the of objectifying move of well-meaning liberals who look to me for “inspiration” and proof of their theories. I would not wish that kind of dehumanizing treatment on anyone. And I find the frequent co-optation of both trans and intersexed experiences as a move toward deconstruction to be reprehensible.

  46. Schala
    Schala December 18, 2008 at 12:44 am |

    Oh great, Nicky comes to pollute a thread that wasn’t so bad >_>

    Nick is known for trolling on Topix and getting the ire out of Dyssonance over there (who has over 17,000 posts there, is intersex and transsexual). Nick has not even daigned to register over there. He’s been banned from several intersex forums for being unnecessarily inflammatory, not to mention, repetitive and irrelevant.

  47. Schala
    Schala December 18, 2008 at 12:46 am |

    Helps that he has, on his blog, pictures of underaged girls in semi-porn poses topless and in underwear? (He has more than one blog, but he links to all of them).

  48. Kristin
    Kristin December 18, 2008 at 12:48 am |

    Schala: Thanks for clearing this up. I’ll stop engaging.

  49. Kristin
    Kristin December 18, 2008 at 12:50 am |

    On the repetitive part, heh… So, Nicky’s response here is more or less a direct copy/paste job from the most recent post, which… Well, there’s not a lot of differentiation between the posts. The same post more or less repeated over and over again. So, I see that the above was not in fact a response to anyone here, but a script. Good to know.

  50. Schala
    Schala December 18, 2008 at 1:13 am |

    Well, it’s not so much a copy/paste as it is taking 5 sentences (if not more) to say the meaning of a simple one.

    He’s angry at transsexual people (especially women) for “appropriating” intersex, because a few have done so in the past to garner support in largely homophobic and transphobic environments (mainly support from parents and such, as opposed to being disowned). He overblows the argument saying it happens daily and everywhere.

    Then he’s angry at transsexual people (again, mostly women) for making people think he’s one of them because he likes to cross-dress some of the time. As he’s a strictler on the notion that, being intersex (although fully identified as male and taking testosterone), he can never cross-dress, and so he should never be stigmatized for the action of “those other perverts over there”.

    He’s in favor of non-inclusive ENDA and calls transsexual people as “in your face” when asking about the right not to be beaten, murdered, or to use the right bathroom. He jumped in the bandwagon with MWMF radfems in supporting WBW *ONLY* because its inherently against transsexual women, he no doubt hasn’t read more than that on the topic (while I’ve been on MWMF forums for about a year myself).

    Lastly he also calls any findings on biological reasons for GID to be figments of the imagination, and that the desire to transition is wholly socially-engineered and nothing more. Basically, he adheres to the outdated notion that it’s all nurture, or the Blanchard side of the “debate” (if Blanchard didn’t have weight in the DSM, it wouldn’t even be a debate).

  51. queen emily
    queen emily December 18, 2008 at 1:16 am |

    So Nick, presumably this is totally different from when you explained recently on Questioning Transphobia what being trans is like to a whole thread of trans people…

    I agree that people appropriating intersexed experiences is profoundly wrong, that was my bloody point. Look at what occurs to intersexed people in medical and legal settings, and how that’s culturally justified, without subordinating the experiences and needs of intersexed people to some broader idea of gender deconstruction. And that *of course* includes trans politics, though there will be some intersections, as Zoe’s point about US immigration shows–she gets the same mismatch between gender presentation and sexed records that a non intersexed pre-op trans woman has. And so there’s some commonality there were we fight for the same things.

    But hey, maybe my transsexual eyes are messed up from all that transphobic bile you spat recently.

  52. Kristin
    Kristin December 18, 2008 at 1:28 am |

    Schala: That explains a lot, thanks.

  53. Kristin
    Kristin December 18, 2008 at 1:41 am |

    Hey, Queen Emily, can transsexual eyes practice the Clear-Eyed Gaze?? Inquiring minds ‘n’ all.

  54. Schala
    Schala December 18, 2008 at 2:01 am |

    Haha at Kristin’s #53

    Now let’s not evoke Heart >_>

    One cissexist is enough? Especially a brickwall like Nick (try discussing with him for 2 hours, to get to the conclusion that he hasn’t even listened to you).

  55. A.W.
    A.W. December 18, 2008 at 2:26 am |

    Kristen,

    “Hey, Queen Emily, can transsexual eyes practice the Clear-Eyed Gaze?? Inquiring minds ‘n’ all”

    Ooooh, the fielding of questions not asked of me in particular! Haven’t found a Clear Eyed Gaze m’self, but I have found an eye that likes to go out. Goes grey, so we can pretend I’m using it to see a mysterious, hazy underworld for Purposes of Evil. Not that he needs any ‘justification’ weaved from snark.

  56. Jill
    Jill December 18, 2008 at 7:55 am | *

    Apologies for my not monitoring this thread more closely. Nick has been put on moderation. The only reason I’m not deleting his comment is because there have been a bunch of responses to it and I don’t want them to lose their context.

    Nick, one more transphobic comment and you’re permanently bannd.

  57. debbie
    debbie December 18, 2008 at 12:21 pm |

    QoT: that’s what I assumed – but why not just say that you are considering gender neutral names? I’m all for gender neutral names. I hate my name. Not because it’s a feminine name, but because it conjures up particular kinds of femininity. I would much prefer (and have at times used) a gender-neutral version of my middle name.

    My read of that particular comment was a non-intersex woman who was just outraged that all the big meanies weren’t going to give her a cookie for considering that her baby might be intersexed. I’m guessing the logic is that if the baby is intersexed and there are no surgical interventions, a gender neutral name could make it easier later on. But what if the kid is not intersexed, but trans or genderqueer? What if they don’t feel comfortable with a name that evokes a particular kind of masculinity or femininity (like me!)?

    It seems that the issue should be giving your child a bit more space for gender self-determination, not picking out special names for a potentially intersexed infant. The whole thing just smacks of fishing for ally points without actually listening to what intersexed people say. Emi Koyama of eminism has often pointed out that the majority of intersexed people live within the gender binary. This is often complicated by their medical conditions, but their goal is still to live within that binary. That’s why it’s so fucked up to see intersexed people get used as a political tool by feminists and others, and I’m really disappointed to see this happening on feministe, and with no response from the author of this post.

  58. tiggrrl
    tiggrrl December 18, 2008 at 1:08 pm |

    Yes, QoT, a gender-neutral name, but since people tend to ask about baby names in the gender binary (i.e. “What name for a girl, and what name if it’s a boy?”), we also chose to say, “And name X if the child is born intersex.” Actually, the “boy” and “girl” names were also chosen to be easily tweakable, not just because of gender stuff, but because too many people grow up hating their names.

    And no, Kristin, I’m not looking for a cookie, I was actually really explicit about that. All I’m saying is that coming down on someone for taking a half-step towards non-exclusion and understanding because they didn’t come to the table with everything already perfectly figured out is a pretty messed up move if you’re actually looking to increase societal understanding and acceptance.

  59. jayinchicago
    jayinchicago December 18, 2008 at 1:46 pm |

    I’m a little surprised with the conflation of sex and gender all over the place here.

  60. Kristin with an "i"
    Kristin with an "i" December 18, 2008 at 2:01 pm |

    debbie:

    “My read of that particular comment was a non-intersex woman who was just outraged that all the big meanies weren’t going to give her a cookie for considering that her baby might be intersexed.”

    EXACTLY. Well said.

  61. Kristin with an "i"
    Kristin with an "i" December 18, 2008 at 2:03 pm |

    Actually, Debbie, yes on everything you said.

  62. Kristin with an "i"
    Kristin with an "i" December 18, 2008 at 2:11 pm |

    “All I’m saying is that coming down on someone for taking a half-step towards non-exclusion and understanding because they didn’t come to the table with everything already perfectly figured out is a pretty messed up move if you’re actually looking to increase societal understanding and acceptance.”

    I’m the same person as “Kristin.” Switched to this because everyone was confusing me with the other Kristen.

    Anway… I didn’t come down on her for the taking of of the half-step move. Yay, gender neutral names! w00t. Half an ally point added to your score. Do you keep it up on a dry erase board and have parties when another point gets added? Not condemning you for that. At all. I don’t care how people choose to name their kids. Don’t think it’s all that important.

    No. I came down on its use as a preemptive move that tacitly suggested that you were Very Enlightened and Progressive. It was a veritable, “Let me show you my intersexed ally creds…” That’s bullshit. Sorry.

    I also came down on your positive take on the book being reviewed here, and the sense that you moved from self-satisfaction for choosing gender neutral (Note: There are no special intersexed names. Just like trans people don’t have special eyes.) names for your kid to… Well, something like this: “Woo! Good on us for successfully deconstructing gender!” And, well, no, it doesn’t work that way. Real people are not objects meant to be appropriated for your inspiration or growth as a person.

  63. Kristin with an "i"
    Kristin with an "i" December 18, 2008 at 2:12 pm |

    Longer comment went to spam queue. Hope someone will fish it out.

  64. tiggrrl
    tiggrrl December 18, 2008 at 2:31 pm |

    Um, I’m actually not the person who made that first comment, that was Quercki, and I didn’t say anything about supporting the book, so take another look at the comments before you give me a smackdown for something someone else wrote.

  65. tiggrrl
    tiggrrl December 18, 2008 at 2:38 pm |

    Also, you seem pretty insistent on taking people’s metaphorical language and use of imagery, reading it literally and then ridiculing it, which is kind of an asshole move.

    Would you have been less offended if someone had said, “from a trans perspective,” rather than, “through trans eyes”?

  66. Kristin with an "i"
    Kristin with an "i" December 18, 2008 at 3:42 pm |

    tiggrrl: I know. You’re the one who *wanted* to post about how you wanted to gender neutralize your kids, only you were *scared* ’cause I am MEAN.

    I read you as supporting this kind of analysis (not necessarily this specific book, bugt this specific type of objectification), and, well… No mistakes, in fact.

  67. Kristin with an "i"
    Kristin with an "i" December 18, 2008 at 3:51 pm |

    Oh, yes, indeed. Sorry, Feministe bloggers, but this is too good:

    ” Also, you seem pretty insistent on taking people’s metaphorical language and use of imagery, reading it literally and then ridiculing it, which is kind of an asshole move.”

    No, no, no. I only do it when people use STUPID, ESSENTIALIZING imagery as a way of discrediting a marginalized group. (See what Nick said. He is well known for spewing this kind of transphobic bullshit throughout the feminist blogosphere.) And when they do it, moreover, to make generalizing, false claims about a community. What you call “imagery” here: What Nick was saying was so hateful that his facile, bullshit imagery was, in fact, the only thing I was able to laugh about in the situation. Also, I have no moral qualms with repaying assholery with assholery. At all. I do it on a regular basis, in fact. Mocking is not always called for, but, well… Dumb fucking imagery kinda opens the door.

    “Would you have been less offended if someone had said, “from a trans perspective,” rather than, “through trans eyes”?”

    I wasn’t particularly offended by Nick’s word choice, but by his overall bigotry. It was just a way of highlighting the essentialisms being deployed. And I *still* think the Clear-Eyed Gaze thing is funny.

  68. Kristin with an "i"
    Kristin with an "i" December 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm |

    As for this:

    “Um, I’m actually not the person who made that first comment, that was Quercki, and I didn’t say anything about supporting the book, so take another look at the comments before you give me a smackdown for something someone else wrote.”

    Yes, I know. I remember exactly which commenter you are. You’re the one who *really wanted* to write all about your gender-neutral parenting skills, but were scared because I am TOO MEAN. And then you proceeded to write all about them despite your fear of, um, me. Whether or not you expressed explicit sympathy for the book, I do read you as engaging in the same facile, superficial sort of gender deconstrution that several intersexed and trans people have already said that they find objectionable.

  69. A.W.
    A.W. December 18, 2008 at 6:15 pm |

    “Would you have been less offended if someone had said, “from a trans perspective,” rather than, “through trans eyes”?”

    Well, – I – wouldn’t have been less offended. A perspective is a perspective, adding a qualifier to it doesn’t mean all people with those quaifers have the same view. His post was offensive as hell – How – dare – he tell me what my perspective is. You want an example of asshole behavior, there you go.

  70. Kristin with an "i"
    Kristin with an "i" December 18, 2008 at 6:29 pm |

    A.W.:

    “His post was offensive as hell – How – dare – he tell me what my perspective is.”

    Yep, pretty much.

  71. Kristin with an "i"
    Kristin with an "i" December 18, 2008 at 6:31 pm |

    P.S. Sorry for the double-posting. I had some stuff go to the spam folder, so I rewrote it, and then it got retrieved and put through…

  72. Nic
    Nic December 18, 2008 at 7:06 pm |

    The problem here is that their are intersex people like myself who are sick and tired of being used, abused and used as a political tool so you can advance your own agenda at the expense of the intersex community and intersex . The sad fact is and no one wants to admit it, is that their are people who have a nasty habit of mislabeling, misidentifying and misappropriating the intersex people at their expense for their own gain. You see people all the time who are mislabeling, misidentifying and misappropriating themselves as an intersex and no one ever calls them out or calls them a bigot, but when someone in the intersex community calls on them for what their doing is wrong. They are then labeled a bigot. I think that’s totally wrong, totally bull and a total double standard here. What’s so sad is that you people seem to want to play the intersex card, just like people who play and pull the race, sex , gender and every card in between. What’s even sad is that you people seem to have a nasty habit of misappropriating the intersex person’s life experience and upbringing. It’s sad that I’m seeing people usurp the intersex person’s life experience for yours and claiming that an intersex person’s life experience is like yours. I think it’s wrong for people who are mislabeling, misidentifying and misappropriating other people for their own gain and those who are doing it and are not being told to STOP are just as guilty as the next person who’s aiding them and letting them do it. What I see people doing to the intersex people and the intersex community by mislabeling, misidentifying, silencing and erasing other people and misappropriating them is totally wrong and a major human rights violation. The true bigots are the ones who like to shout down others, while speaking up for themselves. They are the ones who like to condemn others, but won’t condemn themselves for their own actions. The real bigots are the ones who are so blinded to the truth, that you can’t see past your pride and your ego.

  73. tiggrrl
    tiggrrl December 19, 2008 at 12:43 am |

    You know, my point was, and is, very simple: telling someone who is taking baby steps towards a more egalitarian point of view (regardless of the specific -ism they’re working against) that they are fucking up and might as well not have bothered is incredibly counter-productive.

    Moreover, it’s engaging in the very “enlightenment one-up-man-ship” that you seem to be railing against. Neither Quercki nor I said anything about wanting praise, you brought that subtext to the table, and then proceeded to explain how much more enlightened you are because you would never do that.

    Instead of saying, “Here’s your cookie” or, “You don’t deserve a cookie,” why not actually discuss the issues people are bringing up? Is there no room here for someone to say, “I had my eyes opened, so I did this thing, this baby step, and here is the reaction I got to it, and it really made me think”? Is it now off-limits for anyone who isn’t trans/intersex/LGBTIQ to talk about or work on trans/intersex/LGBTIQ issues? Or is it just that anyone talking about any issue is supposed to come to the table already fully aware, with no room or need for new knowledge and new understanding to grow?

    This is rapidly degenerating into “someone on the internet is wrong!” and I’m really not interested in that. I was hoping to read an actual discussion of some of these issues, and instead all I’m seeing is petty snarking.

  74. kim
    kim December 19, 2008 at 12:58 am |

    Just a bit of information – there’s some really interesting work by Eric Vilain and colleagues at UCLA. Apparently, there are dozens of genes that are activated differently in the brains of fetuses depending on whether that fetus will become male or female. And these differences appear before the genes that determine the genital sex are activated. In short, it seems that the brain has a sex before the body does.

    And no, this is not an argument in support of some sort of biological essentialism. It argues more strongly that individuals should be treated as individuals, and we should wait for them to tell us who they are.

    [footnote: the work by Vilain et al. was on, i think, mice. I only mention this in case someone "discovers" it, and thinks it invalidates the possibility that similar processes are operating in humans. There's a lot of homology of genes in different species, and, in a group such as mammals, it's fairly easy to find homologous genes in different species. For that matter, there's a gene that regulates the development of the eyes of fruit flies, and it's fundamentally the same as a gene that regulates development in human eyes.]

  75. Kristin with an "i"
    Kristin with an "i" December 19, 2008 at 10:22 am |

    “Is it now off-limits for anyone who isn’t trans/intersex/LGBTIQ to talk about or work on trans/intersex/LGBTIQ issues? Or is it just that anyone talking about any issue is supposed to come to the table already fully aware, with no room or need for new knowledge and new understanding to grow?”

    Obviously, I don’t pretend to speak for any intersexed and/or trans people. What I was saying (and stated more than once) is that I believe it is wrong to posit *any* people–including trans and intersexed people–as instruments of your own personal growth and enlightenment. To me, statement about how much one has “learned” from trans and intersexed people wedded to statements about how “this example” inspired one to do better are problematic in this way–or, at least, they tread *very closely* to this territory.

    Disabled people are subjected to this kind of treatment all the time. Stories about those of us who “overcame adversity” in order to achieve something according to normalized standards “inspire” others to be better people. I am not an object who is available for anyone’s inspiration, not a tool to further anyone’s growth as a person. Neither is anyone else I know, and that includes my trans and intersexed friends.

    No, you did not directly make a claim about wanting praise, but I was not the first to draw this conclusion. See Debbie’s comments above. If that was not your aim, then I can think of no reason for bringing it up in the first place beyond, “Oh, this book about intersexed people reminds me of *me.*” Which is just as indefensible. No Enlightenment one-upsmanship here. I’m a poststructuralist (To that end, gender deconstruction actually makes intuitive sense to me when it isn’t deployed in such self-serving ways.), and that means I don’t buy into Enlightenment promises.

  76. kim
    kim December 19, 2008 at 11:55 am |

    i don’t read these pages regularly. It seems to me that most people who read and post here are more or less on the same side. But lack of face-to-face contact makes it easy to get snagged on nuances and small differences in perspective. There’s enough real jerks out there, the James Dobsons, Fred Phelpses, and Dr Lauras, etc., and I hate to see us burning energy on whether it’s pronounced potato or potahto.

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