Intersex Day of Solidarity, also known as Intersex Day of Remembrance, and now takes place on November 8th each year.
This day is in Honor and Memory of Herculine Barbin a French ‘Hermaphrodite’ from the late 1800’s.
November 8th was the birthday of Herculine Barbin, a French intersex person whose memoirs were later published by the philosopher Michel Foucault, along with contemporary texts and a later fictionalized account.
In Starry, Starry Night, the short life of Herculine Barbin, Leslie Jaye writes that what little we know of Herculine Barbin has all but obscured the person known variously as Herculine, Alexina and Abel, during their short life.
This day appears to have first been held on November 8th, 2005, as Intersex Solidarity Day. Joëlle-Circé Laramée, the then Canadian Spokeswoman for Organisation Intersex International, issued a call for all people interested in intersex human rights to commemorate the day.
My favorite quote by Hurculine Barbin that speaks to me too:
“You are to be pitied more than I, perhaps. I soar above all your innumerable miseries, partaking of the nature of the angels; for, as you have said, my place is not in your narrow sphere. You have the earth, I have boundless space. Enchained here below by the thousand bonds of your gross, material senses, your spirits cannot plunge into that limpid Ocean of the infinite, where, lost for a day upon your arid shores, my soul drinks deep.”
Herculine Barbin was twenty-one when she was forced to change her sex. Assigned female at her birth in 1838 in southwestern France, Barbin grew up identifying as such until the “ridiculous inquisition” that ended her former life (Barbin 93). After a series of medical examinations determined Barbin’s “true sex” to be male, she became, unwillingly, he (90). “So, it was all over,” Barbin recounts in her memoirs, Mes souvenirs:
According to my civil status, I was henceforth to belong to that half of the human race which is called the stronger sex. I, who had been raised … in religious houses, among shy female companions, was going to leave that whole delightful past far behind me, like Achilles, and enter the lists, armed with my weakness alone and my deep inexperience of men and things. (89)
Barbin’s sexual reassignment conscripted her to war on multiple fronts. She lived her remaining years at odds not only with her new identity, but also with the “criticism and slander” that followed her transition (90). Newspapers printed “treacherous” reports of the “event”; acquaintances told Barbin that she “had brought shame and dishonor everywhere” (90). At twenty-five, impoverished and living in Paris, she began chronicling the story of her profound alienation: “I have suffered much,” she writes, “and I have suffered alone”(3). At age thirty, in 1868, Barbin committed suicide.
A link to buy the book from Amazon: Herculine Barbin (Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth Century French Hermaphrodite) By Michel Foucault
The review on Amazon states:
With an eye for the sensual bloom of young schoolgirls, and the torrid style of the romantic novels of her day, Herculine Barbin tells the story of her life as a hermaphrodite. Herculine was designated female at birth. A pious girl in a Catholic orphanage, a bewildered adolescent enchanted by the ripening bodies of her classmates, a passionate lover of another schoolmistress, she is suddenly reclassified as a man. Alone and desolate, he commits suicide at the age of thirty in a miserable attic in Paris.
Here, in an erotic diary, is one lost voice from our sexual past. Provocative, articulate, eerily prescient as she imagines her corpse under the probing instruments of scientists, Herculine brings a disturbing perspective to our own notions of sexuality. Michel Foucault, who discovered these memoirs in the archives of the French Department of Public Hygiene, presents them with the graphic medical descriptions of Herculine’s body before and after her death. In a striking contrast, a painfully confused young person and the doctors who examine her try to sort out the nature of masculine and feminine at the dawn of the age of modern sexuality.
A slideshow of a few memes I have made since 2015 for Social Media: