Language is very important, and language can do harm. Here is one example to why:
The biggest priority most intersex activists/advocates/educators have, like me, is ending genital mutilation in babies born with intersex traits and decreasing our bodies being aborted when detected before birth.
This means “Born in the wrong body” transgender theories, can do us harm. This is one example of why I educate.
I support the message is: “No body is shameful” and “born perfect”. Instead of saying disorder, condition, syndrome, or birth defect. The United Nations wants us to say: NATURAL BODILY VARIATIONS. I like to say we are born a “variety of human”. I urge anyone who is wanting to speak up for intersex rights to please read and memorize these two pages given by the UNTIED NATIONS: INTERSEX FACT SHEET
Also, Although some intersex-born people may accept the word “hermaphrodite”, that word too can bring stigma, and shame, due to it being connected to a medical history of misinformed doctors who justified fixing our bodies due to some of us being labeled “pseudo hermaphrodite”. Always ask before using this word in public. It is always safest to say: “Intersex Person”. I happen to not mind being called a hermaphrodite.
The words we use to stop genital mutilation and abortions from happening are vastly different from how most transgender people are being taught or may feel about themselves and their, bodies and their genitals. Most psychiatrists, counselors, and doctors are teaching “born in the wrong body” theories and that transgender people need to “transition” through hormone manipulations and surgery to correct their “body dysphoria”. Although some transgender people truly have body dysphoria and benefit from treatment, some do not. The same truth holds true for intersex people. Everyone’s experience is unique to their own and generalizations are never a good idea.
Here lies the problem, the medical and psychiatric communities are teaching these theories even to the parents of intersex babies, and children. Even as adults, who discover later in life that we were born intersex are being taught these theories. The harm is horrendous. The setback in our movement is great.
Here lies the biggest difference between transgender and intersex. It is a mountain of misinformation, we are up against when it comes to saving bodies, and lives, so that we can simply be born with “NATURAL BODILY VARIATIONS” and co-exists our true gender in this world with the genitals and bodies we were born with.
An intersex person can have any gender identity, and according to the social construct of gender, it is not always going to “agree” with our genitals. So this means the self-determination of our gender has to be our choice. This choice needs to be a fully informed choice and should be given to any child born intersex. An intersex person can have any gender identity: man/boy, woman/girl, both or neither. We will not always have a binary gender identity. Here are some examples of the different gender identities an intersex person can have: Gender Identity.
To learn more, here is an excellent link regarding the “Basic Differences between Transgender and Intersex“, shared from Oii Australia.
An added note: Some, but not all transgender people elect to have Sex Reassignment Surgeries (SRS) or Gender Confirmation Surgeries. This can involve just doing “top surgery”, which involves masculinizing or feminizing one’s chest; or the more involved “bottom surgeries”, that help the person to align with their genitals to the expectations of the male/female binary. Also, some intersex people, but not all, can also identify as transgender and intersex both. It is up to the person how they describe themselves, and not up to others to label them or diagnose them. Some of us will elect to do hormones and/or surgeries, some of us will not. We are all valid in our authentic gender identity rather we had surgery or not.
Sad to say, these types of surgeries are also performed on infants and children, born intersex, and is often called “corrective surgery”. As you now understand, self-determination is a human right, to what surgery a person may or may not want. The United Nations says that cosmetic genital surgeries, and corrective surgeries, need to stop in non-consensual infants and children.
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