My mother was a midwife, who said that surprisingly often it was difficult to tell, from a first glance between the legs, what sex a baby was. “Dress it in a kilt and call it Frances” was her Consultant’s joke. On surgery to approximate genitalia, he said, “It’s easier to make a hole than a pole”. Of course it was necessary to make one or the other, as otherwise the child would be unable to fit in to ordinary society. So easy it was to fashion a gender identity. Now, intersex people oppose infant genital mutilation, being unhappy with the results. They want the child to make the decision whether or not to have surgery, and if so what, when of an age to make an informed choice. In Australia, a passport can be marked X for indeterminate, rather than M or F. Rather than a medical condition, to be “cured” or made “better” by approximating the person to one or other sex, some see intersex as a “variation” in ways of being human. One might choose surgery to achieve a particular aim, but not simply to appear “normal”. So Intersex people have a similar history to LGBT folk of a movement from being forcibly made normal (even more intrusively than the rest of us) to being accepted as variant.
Nevertheless, pointing out that an intersex variation is visibly physical, or genetic, should be a complete answer to the most bigoted person, assuming they have the intelligence to understand the concept. LGBT is a coalition of people who face bigotry from others who find us and our choices disgusting, and think that we have chosen our way of being. We can say my behaviour is my choice, it is the expression of Love which harms no-one; and this is the way I am made. But intersex people should not face such bigotry.
Having been excluded from an “LGB” group “because they did not want men making passes at the lesbians” I do not want to exclude, but I do not want to colonise either- so I would welcome intersex people to use LGBT space, but not use the phrase LGBTI without the lead from intersex people.
The longest statement of the rainbow coalition I have heard is LGBTIQQ, which is Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Intersex Queer or Questioning. Queer is a word being reclaimed- I am happy to call myself Queer, others dislike it as a bigot’s word to condemn us. I would like to add in A for Allies.
What of transsexual people saying we are Intersex? Well, I say that myself. I am not a man. I think “man”, as well as testicles, involves the brain. If I were a man, I would be unable to bear presenting female for any length of time. Seeking to explain, I will say I am intersex as a metaphor, to win over the person who criticises me. This is who I am.
This argument cannot possibly hurt any intersex person. A bigot may not admit that my brain is female, but should admit that certain chromosomal states are not simply and clearly either male or female, and certain physical states have characteristics of both. It is not too complex. The intersex person should be safe from all but the stupidest and nastiest bigots, who would find excuses to pick on anyone.
I want this argument as part of my armoury. Really, I express myself female because it gives me pleasure and harms no-one, so no-one has a right to object. But if someone will not accept that, I have the intersex argument. And if a trans woman is frightened of transition and frightened of What Other People Think, it is an argument I can use to reassure her. A transsexual friend was fair pleased to learn she had Klinefelter‘s syndrome: she has two X chromosomes! We do not trust ourselves or our desires, we need external justification, and it hurts so much.