The Rift Between Us — Intersex and Trans Discourse
In the past year I have noticed a mounding frustration among intersex groups towards dyadic trans people (dyadic means non-intersex). On the blog actuallyintersex, which is moderated entirely by trans identified intersex people (myself included, being a trans woman), we have previously called out dyadic trans folks for disregarding our humanity. One of the main issues we have is that dyadic trans folks constantly use intersex people as leverage for their defenses on gender identity. This would happen so often that we now rarely make posts discussing it, just because we are so exhausted by this conversation.
Occasionally on social media, I’ll still find myself lurking through shouting matches between intersex and dyadic trans folks, and I, too, have participated in these scraps to no productive end. It has gotten to the point where I don’t feel comfortable in most trans spaces anymore, just because of the lack of intersex awareness gives me gray hairs.
The kind of rhetoric I’m talking about looks like this: a dyadic trans person will be arguing against transphobia, and somewhere in their defense, they say, “Gender can be a spectrum because sex is too, look at intersex people, they exist.” Or, “Because there are more than just male and female, there can obviously be more than two genders.” Often these will be attached with statistics about various “conditions”, fun factoids about how our genitals are arranged, how interesting our hormones are, or how often people like us occur in the general population. These comments contribute to the feeling of being on display at the freak show; the ongoing story of my life.
I understand wanting to feel solidified within your identity and grasping at any tangibility to ease your worries, trust me. It is also tempting to make connections to the romantic ideas of what “biological sex” means when talking about gender as a way to crumble the ideologies of radical feminists. However, the truth of the matter is: intersex people should not be used as a tool to dismantle transphobia. You shouldn’t validate yourself by using the lives of groups you don’t belong to as evidence of why your identity is legitimate. Trans people deserve to be respected, protected and accepted as-is and we validate their own existence by, you know, existing. If you are arguing against someone who believes that trans identity is a mental illness, perversion, strive for attention, or anything less than a perfectly acceptable, identity then chances are they are an ignorant shit and you are wasting your time. Bake some bread, pet your cat, fart under the covers while binge watching The X-Files for the 4th time, do anything to spare your energy from feeding hungry trolls who get off on internet screaming matches.
You may be yelling at your computer or mobile device: “Cat, aren’t you being harsh on trans people? Shouldn’t you be discussing the ways that radical feminists and other conservative groups treat intersex people instead of going after the people who are targeted by the transphobia?” Well, my general rule is that I don’t waste my time humouring ignorant folks who never plan on improving themselves and changing their ways. I just simply don’t have the time or energy and as I said before; I would gain much more from farting and watching netflix. I believe that The Trans Community™ does a decent job at self improvement in the grand context of things and generally wants to progress in a direction that is beneficial for LGBT people and beyond.
The dyadic trans people who participate in throwing intersex people in the line of fire may think they are doing us a favor by just mentioning a statistic, but they fail to shine any humanity upon us. I want to believe that dyadic trans folks do, for the most part, want to be good allies to intersex people and mostly just don’t understand what they are doing wrong. However, it’s almost 2016 and there is no excuse for otherwise well informed and socially conscious dyadic trans people to disrespect us. Intersex people are ignored, invalidated and used as bullet points in queer spaces so regularly that most of the time people forget we are actual, real, living people (that could be in the room rolling their eyes).
At the Queer Student Union I co-ran at my college, almost none of the politically engaged, socially aware, “radical queers” in the room could give me a basic intersex 101, even after holding a discussion on the subject multiple times. It was defeating to say the least. Are intersex issues just not riding the queer aesthetic wave? What filter do we need to use to get some recognition? A witty hashtag maybe?
When the only time dyadic trans people talk about intersex issues and use intersex bodies as talking points to dismantle transphobia or to validate their own gender, it’s comparable to the harm that cis people do to trans folks when talking about trans bodies. Reducing our complexities, our powerful lives, our tremendous pains, our corrective-procedure adolescents, what’s-wrong-with-my-body thoughts, no-one-will-ever-want-to-be-with-me nights, finding-love-for-myself journeys, I-am-beautiful-and-unique overcomings… down to our genital and hormonal configurations is pretty unflattering. I’d like to think I am more valuable than a statistic or a stigmatizing pathology. Dyadic trans people, along with pretty much everyone else, need to bulk up on their knowledge of who we are and what we are fighting for.