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LGBTI? Intersex and Transgender

There are commonalities between transgender and intersex experience.  However, most people with intersex conditions do not identify as transgender--or even as intersexual. 

The vast majority of people with intersex conditions identify as men or as women with unusual medical conditions. While these people may have an intersex condition, they do not describe themselves as "intersex" or "transgender."  However, they still face the stigma associated with these various conditions, including ridicule, medical objectification, and non-consensual surgeries.

A significant minority of people with intersex conditions identify as intersex--and some identify as transgender. People with intersex conditions who are unhappy with the gender they were assigned at birth are a significant minority. However, many adults (identifying as men, women, intersex, and/or transgender) with intersex conditions are unhappy with the medical care that they have received.

Generally speaking, intersex is not an identity category. While some intersex people do reclaim "intersex" as part of their identity, most regard it as a medical condition, or just a unique physical state. Most intersex people identify and live as ordinary men and women... (Intersex Initiative)

Listening to Intersex Activists

Raven

Raven Kaldera is a transgender intersex activist with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH).

...you might want to think hard about why you want to be classed intersex. If it's for "legitimization", that's colonization of someone else's identity without their permission, in order to please people who probably don't deserve to be pandered to. If you think you'll find it easier to get a sex change, you're wrong - intersexuals who desire sex reassignment (and there are a few of us) often find it harder than "normal" transsexuals to find endocrinologists who will work with us.

...I do believe that the TG and IS communities should be allies, if only for the sake of those of us who fall into both communities. Putting some slack into the gender system will be good for all of us, and we can come together against certain political struggles.

...Claiming the medically defined identity of intersex when you have none of the problems involved has been compared to claiming a nonexistent disability to get better parking spaces, or claiming a minority identity that you don't have in order to get a better job in an area with affirmative action laws. We are all minorities, and we don't need to prey on each other....

Emi

Emi Koyama has written extensively about the intersections between intersex and queer politics. Some excerpts are offered here:

[Intersex] [a]ctivists oppose non-consensual genital "normalizing" surgeries on intersex children primarily because they are harmful physically, emotionally and sexually, and not necessarily because they might get the gender of the child "wrong." ~ Emi 

To list "intersex" along with "male" and "female" gives the false impression that one cannot be male or female if she or he has an intersex condition. This hurts people with intersex conditions who identify as male or female, and mis-educates the general public. ~ Emi

...there is already a lot of conflation between LGBT and intersex in the society, and constantly being combined with LGBT might prevent intersex from getting its own visibility, or make it hard for intersex people to find intersex-specific resources.  ~ Emi 

Adding "intersex" to an LGBT group must mean a commitment to take concrete actions to address the specific needs of intersex people; anything less is tokenism, or a mere fashion statement, which will not benefit the intersex movement.  ~ Emi 

Aidan

Aidan Dunn is an intersex and transgender activist. In this video (now unavailable), he discusses the way intersex conditions are romanticized and appropriated by transgender people.

Why is the idea of having an intersex condition so appealing to trans folks? Intersex is not glamorous. People with intersex conditions often face many horrific medical interventions. An intersex diagnosis would not make gender transition any easier. ~ Aidan

Eli

Eli speaks about the challenges of moving through the world as a person with an intersex identity.

I don't want to be tagged on to the end of the queer acronym.
~ Eli

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Claudia

Claudia has written several pieces about intersex on AutoStraddle:

 It is difficult to be a thing that is rarely discussed, and people don’t really know about, and when it is mentioned, you realize they’re not actually talking about you and others like you – they’re talking about something else that has nothing to do with you and who you are. And that’s disheartening, and rage-inducing. It’s reasonable to want to be understood and accurately represented, and to feel not-good about situations where that’s not happening. ~ Claudia

Claiming intersex when you’re aren’t is absolutely not okay, but intersex people have also failed to empathize with the roadblocks trans* individuals face, and understand why claiming intersex in such circumstances seemed like an attractive option. ~ Claudia

There are a lot of goals that intersex activists have that are specific to intersex people, and not to LGBT people broadly: raising awareness that intersex exists, accurately defining intersex, explaining that intersex bodies aren’t abnormal, that biological sex doesn’t come in just one of two flavors and advocating for intersex people to choose what is done to their bodies by ending non-consensual cosmetic procedures. ~ Claudia

Broadly, I think that LGBT activism — despite our various bodies, sex and gender identities and orientations — accepts that we have the right to live our own lives as we want to and make our own choices. It recognizes that we are just people that deserve the same freedoms as everyone else and not labeled as “different” for arbitrary, illogical reasons. And I think that intersex activism very clearly falls in line with those aims. ~ Claudia

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Trans Basics
Gender
Gender vs. Sexuality
Transgender
Beyond the Binary
Intersex
Myths and Realities
Types of Intersex
Terminology
Intersex and Trans
Intersex Voices
Labels and Vocabulary
Myths and Sterotypes
Children and Youth
Is it an Illness?