I am struggling with language right now. Some are saying they “identify as intersex.” I assume they are the variations of intersex that are rarely called “intersex.” Such as CAH, Hypospadias, Klinfelters and or XXY people. In this regard, I understand the usage of the phrase “identify as intersex” because many of these variations of intersex can be denied as intersex by the very organizations that support people with these types of bodies.
However here is my problem, and I think it is coming from my transgender intersectionality having a conflict with language that is being used by both marginalized groups of people, intersex and transgender. Many in the trans community say I identify as a man, woman, nonbinary, etc., too, as in their Gender identity. As we all know, intersex is about physiology and that an intersex person can have any gender identity, boy/man, girl/woman, both or neither, and all the ways people have discovered they can describe their gender identity. So here is my conflict with saying that I “identify as intersex.” It is conflating SEX TRAITS with GENDER IDENTITY with me.
Here is why: my corrected intersex birth certificate changed female, which I was not truly, into intersex after medical evaluation proving it for the court. This means on my birth certificate it says SEX: INTERSEX and not male or female. Which makes me feel very good since I am whole and have not been surgically violated. I recover from psychiatric violation due to homophobia and transphobia instead of going against my birth certificate as a child and teen. By 2014 the country changed enough that I could finally say MY GENDER is MAN, thanks to amazing trans men and women fighting for their human rights to exist. Please note my birth certificate defines my SEX not my gender.
So with this said, as far as the trans community goes: I identify as a MAN. My Sex and physiology are intersex, and my gender identity is a man, and I don’t want to surgically change my sex traits to male (as in sex traits changing). I can’t simply say I “identify as intersex” because it denies my gender identity as MAN. Even if I am a nonconforming intersex man, I am still living full-time as a man. If people don’t know better, they assume a “male/man.” Naked I am an “intersex/man.”
I hope this shows that language can be problematic when it conflates our sex traits with our gender identity and doesn’t work for all of us. I want to respect everyone if they want to say I “identify as intersex.” I truly want to for self-determination. However, if your gender identity matches your intersex physiology, it might be suggested that you say I identify intersex and intergender.
As a solution, maybe we could simply drop “identify as ____”, for both trans and intersex people. In the case of us intersex people, and possibly even endosex people, maybe we can simply say my physiology is intersex or endosex, and my gender identity is _____. What do you think?
I truly think if we can stop conflating sex traits with gender identity we will be helping both the babies born with intersex traits and transgender kids emerge into a better world. A world that gives more than two choices and not a pathology that needs to be fixed or corrected. I understand that some consenting adults will find genital surgeries necessary to match binary notions, however some of us will not.
We are all valid.
I want all of us to feel seen and respected.
I have added comentary below with permission from responses on social media. If you would like to have me add your thoughts please inbox me. Thank you.
I’m constantly reminded that males and females are the only sexes and that they are the same thing as man and woman. I am constantly shown binarism and cisnormativity everywhere I go. I am always reminded of these constructs. It’s always shoved down my throat. It erases my very existence from the public eye and represses my culture and history. I hate to break it to you, but male and female are not the only sexes and they are not the same thing as man and woman. Sex is a spectrum. I am part of that spectrum. I am intersex and my variation is XXY. I am not XX (female) or XY (male). I have my own variation in sex. Gender is a spectrum, too. I am part of that spectrum also. I am nonbinary. My very existence breaks the fragile human constructs that this world clings too tightly to. People need to wake up and embrace reality instead of living under a spell of deceit.
This subject of identifying is very important to all intersex and transgender people, because it helps let others know not so much about our sex, but about how we connect with the world we live in. Gender has always played a role in how we interact with the world and at times it has been a problem. Also as years ago they only had two genders, and that wasn’t good enough for our complex minds and how we move and flow within our communities, so we started to look at the spectrum of gender also which came with the education also that sex is not just male and female and the old belief system of a binary had to he addressed and up dated.
Today we are more open than ever about sex and gender and how we are now knowing the two are separate and integral to the healthy mind set of people these days. This has even helped a lot of people who live on the autistic spectrum in letting them have more control of how they feel. Diversity these days is still growing and it is being accepted as the spice of life of human diversity and expressionism.
The future is diverse and worth fighting for always as it is a part of our human rights do do so and feel safe, loved and valued for who and what we wish to identify as without harmful ignorant ideology and bigotry.
Thoughts from a nonbinary person, Tobias B Rasmussen:
Im sorry for probably making things even more confusing but ive stopped saying that i identify as nonbinary because i feel that it supports the myth that its a choice. I would also not say about a trans man that he identifies as a man, id say that he is a man. Of course, if trans people and other nonbinaries want to use “identify” thats entirely up to them.
My two cents is, use the words that make you feel the most comfortable and affirme
My reply: I GREATLY appreciate your input, it is important. Thank you.
Thoughts from and intersex person, Laurie M. Atkinson:
In all honestly, I’ve been guilty of this. For me, the issue is that so many of those folks who have bodies that could be described as intersex actually reject that term. So while I would still argue that it’s wrong for someone born without intersex traits to choose to “identify” as intersex, for those people who *do* have variations in sex characteristics, I feel like there is an option there to choose to identify as intersex or not. It’s about people’s understanding of themselves and the words they choose to articulate that. While I’m very comfortable personally with the label intersex. I feel like it works for me in terms of helping to tell my story; I get that it’s not right for everyone, particularly those who have a very strong felt sense that their assigned sex/gender is where they belong.
I’m also mindful that the English language is very poor regarding words for describing sex/gender. Colonialist racism and the development of the binary as a tool of oppression have left us linguistically hobbled. On top of that, centuries of cultural violence have created a great deal of shame around non-heteronormative sex/gender identity. Both of these things have a huge adverse impact on people’s ability to define themselves congruently. This suggests to me a need to tread gently and have open conversations about these things, where there is space for folks to define themselves in ways that don’t necessarily make sense for me.
My reply: I am not angry. This is good. I want us all to respect each other equally. I definitely see my intersectionality with trans being the cause of my SexTraits/Gender Identity dilemma.
Thoughts from an Intersex Activist, and and intersex survivor of psychic mutilation: Maria Marsden:
For me, the language “l identify as…” is super complicated for intersex, endosex and trans people. Those who have a strong coherent sense of their identity don’t need to say “l identify as…” lnstead, they say “l am..” (which is far more powerful).
Here’s how l see it…. Identity, and identifying do not refer to the same experience. Identity refers to a coherent sense of self (even if this is only one aspect of self such as gender, neuro diversity, sexuality or biological sex. “identifying” on the other hand, relates to one’s experience. I can understand how people who understand themselves to be intersex and/or experience themselves as having a different gender to the one imposed on them at birth and in childhood, might use “identify as…” to mean that their own sense of themselves is constantly invalidated by others to the extent that this erodes and fragments their own sense of self.
So, l understand that language like “identify as” comes from a place of trauma that most of us here can relate to. Furthermore, this complex trauma is not merely something in the past but something that we are constantly still subjected to on a daily basis. Intersex is not a gender identity. However being born with a variation in one’s sex characteristics does frequently have a complicated effect on one’s experience of gender.
In my case intersex psychological mutilation (lPM) by medics and psychologists/psychologists did result in a fragmented sense of my gender identity. I don’t have a coherent sense of gender identity. I have experiences of gender, some positive, some traumatic. When l say “l am intersex” or “l was born with an intersex variation called MRKH” l am reclaiming a fragmented sense of my identity related to biological sex. I am saying l am not a invalid, underdeveloped, failed or “pseudo” female, l am a valid and coherent intersex person.
It took me over 30yrs since diagnosis to get to that point in my life. So yes intersex is an identity for me but not a gender identity as such. I am not straight or cis either but in terms of the numerous LGBTQIA+ labels, intersex is the only coherent sense of self and identity that l have. The other aspects of my sense of self are fragmented by my intersex experiences and trauma. For me it’s better to try to understand why others might use certain language as opposed to suggesting what is or is not appropriate or accurate.
Thoughts from a Gender Queer Intersex Person, Sam Sharpe:
I don’t personally like “identifies as” language for talking about gender because it strikes me as inherently invalidating, but being able to say “I am intersex” has felt very complicated. I spent several years having conversations and doing research in an attempt to figure out if it was appropriate for me to be able to describe my experience of difference with this language.
To a certain extent, sex categories are socially constructed, and whether my body was distinctly different enough from what is considered typical biological female to make more sense described as intersex was a genuine question. This was not a question that doctors were interested in answering, because their interest in those differences was always focused towards erasing them.
Calling myself intersex meant rejecting the narrative that I am a failed female and identifying, rather than disidentifying, with the aspects of my body that have caused me to experience a lifetime of bullying, shame, and rejection. In many ways, it would be easier to put my energy towards suppressing these traits rather than defending them, and the fact that I have this choice was part of why I questioned whether I should or could say that I am intersex.
I know a lot of people with the same diagnosis that I have, most of whom would not describe themselves as intersex, and I wonder what me saying “I am intersex” rather than “I identify as intersex” means for them. I did not know until last year when I joined InterConnect that people with many other variations face substantial community or parent efforts to not be considered intersex.
I’m curious to know how other people who have these variations feel about saying “I am vs I identify as intersex” when some or most people with the same diagnosis do not use that language. I understand that different people with the same physical traits can understand themselves differently and that is fine, but it seems like endosex people often do not have a nuanced understanding of this, and I feel that I need to be very careful about how I describe myself so that I won’t inadvertently invalidate others who use different language for themselves than I do.
Thoughts from intersex born, M Kyriakos Falcon:
As a part of both the intersex community and the linguistic anthropology academic community, I couldn’t have worded this any better. Language serves a purpose to communicate—this in linguistics is a form of “word” recirculation which means that the “original” meanings have been “changed” over time. In this case over lack of “communication” there is a “disjuncture” and what this “word” means is affected over time and as a result the word shifts its context. It’s a process that ‘requires’ us, the people, to “agree” to an ever evolving “word significance”. This is just my humble opinion; it’s so much more complex than just “words” and even worse because our community has been neglected. Terms that “identify” the intersex community are out of date or even archaic, which results in poor linguistic competency for everyone “affected” by it.
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