An Intersex Exploration of Prefix Use in the English Language
By Jim Costich 2018
“Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.” Albert Camus
“Being disintegrated makes me very angry! Very angry indeed!” Marvin the Martian (Loony Tunes)
Meet Marvin the Martian Below in this fast clip:
a Latin prefix meaning “apart,” “asunder,” “away,” “utterly,” or having a privative, negative, or reversing force (see de-, un-2.); used freely, especially with these latter senses, as an English formative:
disability; disaffirm; disbar; disbelief; discontent; dishearten; dislike;disown.
dis-. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/dis-(accessed: March 9, 2018).
dis- in Medicine Expand
- Not: disjugate.
- Absence of; opposite of: disorientation.
- Undo; do the opposite of: dislocate.
- Deprive of; remove: dismember.
The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
It seems like everyone is talking about how language itself forms our brains. It’s not just that language in-forms our brains, or in-fluences how we feel or think. It’s much more than that. Those who think about thinking and write about thinking about thinking, those who write about how we use language to think, and those who study how our brains think are all agog about their new discoveries. It’s not just that language programs the brain to think. Language restructures the brain itself changing its very biology. Crazy geek that I am I just can’t get enough of this stuff and I have read a lot about it. I’ve bounced my way through books like “The Spark of Life: Electricity In The Human Body”, Francis Ashcroft and “The Illusion of God’s Presence”, John C Wathey. I am a great fan of Steven Pinker who writes about how to write about thinking and much more.
Our choice of words might not only influence the ways we think about ourselves but might even make our brains and bodies healthier or unhealthy. The words we choose to talk about ourselves and the words others impose upon us are things we should be paying attention to. Like smells, the sounds of words can instantly transport us through space and time even against our wills. An example from my own life is having been 15 years away from high school and hearing the words “Costich, you faggot!” causing me to reflexively duck and set my heart pumping. Words and even parts of words can hit our unconscious minds and send us scrambling before we have a chance to think about it. Being only human we need a chance to think about it and talk about thinking about it.
For many years my spouse and I lived in a high-rise apartment building in the center of downtown with the most diverse neighbors you can imagine. When teenagers, and then adults started using the prefix du jour as a word all by itself I asked a kid if it was just short for “disrespect” or if it covered other “dis” words like; disgust, dislike, disregard, disgrace…” His face lit up and he said that it covered them all. By just saying ‘dis’ you could cover a whole world of nasty negatives.
MUSIC BREAK: Arethra Franklin singing “Respect!” I’m serious, search find and play it. Now. Trust me, it’s much easier to read my junk if you make use of my music breaks. That’s what my brain does while I’m writing so it must be my sub-conscious mind co-writing. This link worked with youtube at the time of writing:
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
So, when you hear “dis” you can count on whatever follows to be made nasty just by you “dis- ing it, right? Except for the word, Distinction. But, when I think of distinction my first thought is lyrics as in: “The minute you walked in the joint, I could see you were a man of distinction – a real big spender. Good lookin’, so refined. Say wouldn’t ya like to know what’s goin’ on in my mind?….” See what I mean? Watch out for “distinction”, it could lead to your disgrace, public disdain might lead them to disparage you leading to your disfavor. I invite you to try to think of an example of how “dis” has been used to create a warm, fluffy type of term. Knock yourself out. I’m convinced that you’ll be quickly disabused of the idea that one can be found. Are you counting yet?
I chose a medical dictionary for my definition of “Dis” here because in medicine we use it a lot. I am a retired medical laboratory technologist with a specialty in histotechnology. I hung around with surgeons, pathologists, and medical residents in my profession. To earn extra bucks, I assisted in medical autopsies. I’ve disemboweled hundreds of human bodies including one woman only in her 50’s whose disfigurement really discombobulated me. Although she had a normal uterus, ovaries and bladder and no history of any type of skin disease all her genitals had been totally cut away. In their place was one big keloid scar – just scar adhered to her pubic bone. I knew what I was looking at and I was dismayed. I called over the pathologist to see what he’d say about it. He shook his head in disdain and disgust saying that surgeons knew better than to mutilate their patients no matter how much parents disparage their daughter’s sexuality it was no excuse to disregard her right to keep her organs.
These kinds of practices were archaic leftovers from the age of eugenics in his opinion. I had conversations with the doctors I worked with over the years and they were not dissimilar in their distaste for surgeries that disarrange, disorganize, disconnect, dislodge and ultimately discard sex organs. They added that they thought circumcision should be disallowed too. I asked Ob/Gyn residents if they thought that clitoral reduction surgery could be done without disengaging the ability to orgasm. Most of them hadn’t heard of the surgery but when I described it their answer was no. About of kidney stones for me along with my partner’s failing kidneys put us into the care of several urologists. Never to miss an opportunity to ask questions about intersex surgeries I asked them what they thought of hypospadias surgery and that I’d been told as a teen that if I didn’t submit to it I couldn’t survive adult manhood. They disliked it, wouldn’t do it or refer anyone for it because patients were invariably displeased with the results which they said leaked, clogged up with scar tissue, required more and more surgeries, often caused incontinence, impotence, and inability to orgasm.
It did my heart good to hear this from people I worked with, people who treated me as a patient. I’d been damned near “Dis”ed to death by the supposed experts in intersex I was taken to as a teen and I was still in mental disarray. I did it though, I disabused myself of their ideology, dislodged and discarded their crazy dogmas about men and women and I disobeyed their demands that my life had to begin or end with whether I stood to pee. Some people with Intersex bodies weren’t so lucky. Surgeons cut people’s clitorises and penises off sometimes digging them out by the root and calling objecting adult survivors “hysterics”. Here’s your next music break. I promise this is as far down the rabbit hole as I’ll take you – it’s all back up from here. All good requiems end in paradise, this one will too – promise! Before we get to paradise we go here because this is the place we and our parents were so often thrown into in order to get our capitulation to let them harm our bodies and identities.
MUSIC BREAK; Rihanna, “Disturbia”
Wow. It was rough being a survivor in those early days because I had survivors’ guilt. No one cut off my genitals and aside from a few months in the “care” of sex police in the early 70’s I was taken to a sensible endocrinologist who fixed my hormone problems and I grew up just fine, ambiguous genitals and organs and all. I’ve met many other people like me, and many who suffered medical abuse. A lot more is removed from a person along with their genitals. A lot of damage is done to people who don’t conform to the arbitrary and unreasonable gender expectations of the “norm”.
I used to think I was an inadequate man. A man minus something, and not quite developed. I had a “birth defect”. I had heard the word “pseudo-hermaphrodite” whispered, along with the argument between doctors over whether I was more male or female. It ended with my parents and me being told there is only male OR female and I was nothing. I was 14yrs. old and still looked like I was about 10yrs. old. That seriously screwed with my head and it took years with a sex therapist to recover. One of the things that helped immeasurably was an umbrella term for us used by doctors, authors, and quickly embraced by intersex people. That term is Intersex. I could say, I am a gay, intersex man. I didn’t have to call myself a pseudo-hermaphrodite. I didn’t have to use what was then my diagnosis, which has changed several times over the years and only means something to my doctors. If I use it as a describer of myself, I must explain it to everyone no matter how disinterested. I need to BE something, and Intersex is perfect. It’s neutral, self-explanatory and has an aura of respect. It is sexy to say; “There are males, females, and people in the middle-called intersex!”
Then at the beginning of the ‘10’s a group of “medical experts” dropped a bomb on us in the form of a “DIS” word. Using the worst logical fallacy, I think I’ve ever heard, a handful of “medical” people still hoping to continue to define us to ourselves told us we should drop intersex and call ourselves Disorder of Sexual Development. That’s not something you can be. It’s something you can only have, putting us right back to having a birth defect and only borrowing legal legitimacy from men and women by being honorary males or females. Some authority would determine which, and we would have little if any say in it. The disordered would be ordered by an authoritarian group of experts for a price. The use of the word “sexual” in the term would be used to confuse people about whether we’re talking about an anatomy or a sexuality that didn’t develop “right”. Intersex people, especially the young, objected vociferously so the sex police said they’d amend it to “Differences” which is the kind of euphemism George Carlin was talking about when he said that, “Shoot is just shit with 2 ‘O’s.” There are still 4 “dis” words on my list that I haven’t used yet; disoriented, discord, discrimination and dishonest. I think those fit with “disorder” just perfectly don’t you?
I promised that every requiem ends in paradise. This song became the singer’s anthem. You can sing it too, of course. It’s for everyone.
MUSIC BREAK – FINALE:
John Barrowman, “I am what I am”
“DIS” words used:
disordered, diseased, discombobulated, disembodied, disengaged, displeased, disintegrated, disarray, disarrange, disorganized, disregard, disfavor, disinterest, disdain, disrespect, disparage, dislike, disemboweled, disobedient, distaste, disgust, disorientation, dissimilar, disgrace, discord, discrimination, dismay, disfigure, discard, disallow, dishonest, disconnect, disabuse, dislodge, disability, disaffirm, disbar, disbelief, discontent, dishearten, dislike, disown.