1/ Intersex biology
2a&b/ gay, trans movements
3/ Resistance to trans: Intersex push back
4/ Intersex stories, un-PC trans tales
5/ Cut to the quick
The gay liberation movement/ era is now in its sixth decade, or more, if you count the 'anything goes' 1930s and the wild rutting of WWII, lots of it male-male, followed by the 1950s hangover of paranoia and oppression. The intersex and transgender movements/ era only got going in the 1990s, though the trans movement can also be dated to the celebrity first transsexual Christine Jorgensen in 1961, and the free love 1960s. Of course, there have been intersex (and male-male sex) from the Stone Age.
1/ Intersex are genetic abnormalities, and the condition usually easily hidden, even from the subjects, not really preventing the individuals from integrating in society. They are physically mostly normal, apart from genitalia, which may require cosmetic surgery and removal of mixed-up testes or ovaries.
Some insects (Drosophila), some snakes, some fish (guppies), and some plants (Ginkgo tree) have a mechanism for determining sex similar to humans. Males typically have two different kinds of sex chromosomes (XY), and are called the heterogametic sex. In the absence of the Y chromosome (XX), by default, the fetus will undergo female development. (For birds, some insects, many reptiles, and various other animals, the heterogametic sex is female. A temperature-dependent sex determination system is found in some reptiles and fish.)
Humans, as well as some other organisms, can have a rare chromosomal arrangement that is contrary to their sex; for example, XY females. Klinefelter's syndrome, in which two X chromosomes and a Y chromosome are present, XYY syndrome and even XXYY syndrome. Intersex occurs 0.02% of the time (1:20,000). The result is usual sterility, a congenital eunuch, hermaphrodite, since 2006, called disorder of sexual development (DSD), relabeled intersex in 2008.
At around eight weeks of gestation, the gonads of an XY embryo differentiate into functional testes, secreting testosterone. Ovarian differentiation, for XX embryos, does not occur until approximately week 12 of gestation. When these crucial windows of develop don't open and close according to schedule, there are at least 30 documented intersex variations that can result.
*Most common female condition is congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) (0 .01%, 1:10,000). The female genitals have a very large clitoris and partially fused labia, or even male genitals above the female ones in its extreme form. If the enlarged clitoris is the only abnormality, it is not really intersex.
*Most common male condition hypospadia, also not really intersex, is a common variation in fetal development of the penis in which the urethra does not open from its usual location in the head of the penis (0.25%, 1: 400).
*The full intersex conditions show inguinal (groin) masses which may turn out to be testes in girls and undescended testes which may turn out to be ovaries in boys.
*In androgene insensitivity syndrome (AIS) testicular feminization, uberfeminine, there is no hormonal response to the y chromosome, minimal to the x, so the person appears to be female but with a shallow vagina and no uterus. This happens 0.0016% of the time (1:64,000). The unresponsiveness of the cell to the presence of androgenic hormones can impair or prevent the masculinization of male genitalia in the developing fetus. I.e., the fetus should be male but as there is no testosterone absorption, the result is a sterile female. A famous case is Australian MP Tony Briffa, raised as a girl, then lived for a time as a man, and now chooses to live as both female and male.
Broadly speaking, some form of intersex occurs 0.017% of the time (1:6,000). Fertility is variable. If an intersex person has a uterus, they may be able to carry a pregnancy. If they have ovaries or ovotestes, that tissue could be used for reproduction in some cases. A few intersex people do have ovaries, a uterus, and a vagina, and can get pregnant.
It could be that a child’s status as intersex doesn’t become obvious until puberty, when their body produces more of a hormone that doesn’t match their assigned sex. Or perhaps certain expected puberty milestones (deepening voice or growing breasts) don’t happen. Or maybe the ones that happen are characteristic of what you thought was the 'opposite' sex.
In these cases, a person who had more biological male features as a child might look more feminine after puberty. Or a person who looked female as a child might start to look more stereotypically male as a teenager. And sometimes, a person might not learn s/he has intersex traits until even later, (difficulty having children). A person doesn’t 'become' or choose to be intersex. It’s what they’re born with, whether it’s clear at birth or not until later.
It's all explicable according to science, and as such, a straightforward issue of civil rights, not really a movement out to transform society. It is not really controversial, despite occasional prejudice depending on how sever the condition, in contrast to the gay or transgender movements which are indeed movements with political goals and are bound to face resistance, despite attempts to claim the 'battle' has now been 'won'.
Intersex is mostly just an extension of 'cisgender' (normal gender = sex), a developmental disorder. The 'battle' is more straightforward. The intersex condition really has little to do with the gay/ trans movements. (Among intersex, there are slightly more gays (1:8) than gays in the overall population (1:20).) Even gay-phobic Russia has an approved intersex organization and performs surgeries as dictated by the condition. Irene wrote at the interACT blog how she saw the 'What it's like to be intersex' video, and suddenly realized she was intersex. Kimberly Zieselman, author of XOXY: A memoir (2020), met Irene at University of Surrey in 2016. Irene had just found and joined Russia Association Russian-Speaking Intersex. She had been told the same cancer scare story as Zieselman had been as a child, to convince her to 'have a hysterectomy': My father told everything about me being intersex to all his lovers, and to all our neighbors, but not to me. I started getting periods, but almost no breast growth. In the whole history of mankind nobody ever wanted to get breasts more than I did (and still do to be honest).
Faking It MTV (2014) was the first media celebration of intersex. LGBTQI kids would be the cool kids. Lauren: If we’re going to have a real relationship, you need to know the real me because i don’t want to hide who I am anymore from anybody. The gay journal Advocate: The show is advocacy, activism and education all rolled up in a veneer of entertainment, and for intersex young people, it’s changed everything. Zieselman, who contributed to Faking It, admits she, though intersex, had never met a gay or transgender person before she became an activist for intersex. (And you can still feel her discomfort in XOXY, though she is carried along by the feel-good gay liberation (gaylib) bandwagon.)
2a/ Trans has a very different history, building on gaylib. The first mention of the term homosexual was in 1869. Kraft-Ebing (1840—1902) first analyzed homosexuality as pathological, a mental illness, along with shoe and other fetishes, necrophilia, s/m. Krafft-Ebing’s conclusions about homosexuality are now largely forgotten, partly because Freud's theories considered homosexuality to be purely a psychological problem (if a problem at all), not an illness or vice. A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes, but to get into accord with them. Really just a massaged version of Kraft-Ebing.
In 1952, when the APA published the first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-I), it classified homosexuality as a 'sociopathic personality disturbance'. In DSM-II, published in 1968, it was reclassified as a 'sexual deviation'. In 1973 the APA removed the diagnosis from DSM-II altogether. Activist Barbara Gittings (founder of lesbian group Daughters of Belitis) exclaimed at the time: The day we were cured en masse. In 1987, the lasting remaining psychopathy label ‘sexual orientation disturbance' was removed, and even 'homosexual' fell out of favor, in favor of the slang term gay.
2b/ In 1952, American trans woman Christine Jorgensen's public transition brought widespread awareness to transsexual reassignment surgery. At that time, transsexual meant surgery, the full monty. The concept of transgender only took hold after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, as gaylib grew into an important political force, embracing all non-cisgender identities.
The concept of transgender slowly separated from transsexual and transvestite crossdressing (the majority of crossdressers identify as heterosexual) in the late 1960s. Also drag, androgyny, and by the mid-70s, crossgender came to mean 'without sex reassignment surgery'. In the 1970s, Lou Sullivan began what became FTM (female-to-male) International in 1986, while feminists began to feud over excluding or including trans women.
As anthropology became more scientific, examples of alternate sexual/ gender realities became known. In Indonesia, there are trans-/ third-gender waria. The bugis of Sulawesi recognize five genders. By 1984, the concept of a transgender community coalesced. Leslie Feinberg's pamphlet, 'Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time has Come', circulated in 1992, claiming transgender as a term to unify all forms of gender nonconformity.
This subtly conflates – inaccurately – intersex with transgender, and tries to steal the limelight from LGB. Provincial documents in Ontario, such as birth certificates and driver's licenses have made non-binary gender markers available since 2017, and leave it up to the individual to decide if s/he wants to be an 'it'. Legal classification of sex in Canada is assigned to the provinces and territories. But in 2017 Bill C-16, updated the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include 'gender identity and gender expression' as protected grounds from discrimination. No room for a Trump to muddy the waters.
The Vatican refuses to go along with this conflation, and maintains that gay is still a sin (love the sinner, not the sin). Transgender people cannot become god-parents and the Vatican compares transitioning to self-harm.
Outdoing intersex's 30 variants, there are over 50 additional gender options including transgender, intersex, neither. In 2014, the US reached a 'transgender tipping point', according to Time. International Transgender Day of Visibility, Transgender Awareness Week, Transgender Day of Remembrance, plus Trans Marches as part of Gay Pride days/ weeks/ months now fill the calendar. OutRight Action International’s Advocacy Week at the UN in New York coincides with Human Rights Day (December 10). According to Amnesty International, 1.5 million transgender people live in the European Union, making up 0.3% of the population.
3/ Resistance to trans: Intersex push back
Some transsexual and intersex people object to being included in the transgender umbrella. In his 2007 book Transgender, an Ethnography of a Category, anthropologist David Valentine asserts that transgender was coined and used by activists to include many people who do not necessarily identify with the term, and states that people who do not identify with the term transgender should not be included in the 'transgender spectrum'. 21% said the term queer best described their sexual orientation, 18% said pansexual, 16% said gay, lesbian, or same-gender-loving, 15% said straight, 14% said bisexual, and 10% said asexual.
While Iran does not recognize transgender (or gay), it does recognize transsexual and intersex. The government started partially funding sex reassignment, and now carries out more surgeries than anywhere besides Thailand.
Emi Koyama describes how inclusion of intersex in LGBTI can fail to address intersex-specific human rights issues, including creating false impressions that intersex people's rights are protected by laws protecting LGBT people. LGBTI activism has fought for the rights of people who fall outside of expected binary sex and gender norms. But this assumed the 'I' doesn't feel hijacked by the gay and trans groups, which it shares little in common with.
Piggy-backing undermines the special (largely medical) rights of intersex, confuses them with trendy androgenous, bisexual, pansexual gender-bending. Julius Kaggwa of Support Initiative for People with Congenital Disorders (SIPD) Uganda has written that, while the gay community offers us a place of relative safety, it is also oblivious to our specific needs. Mauro Cabral has written that transgender people and organizations need to stop approaching intersex issues as if they were trans issues, including use of intersex conditions and people as a means of explaining being transgender. We can collaborate a lot with the intersex movement by making it clear how wrong that approach is. Zieselman, as cisgender intersex, has been a willing Trojan Horse for her new gay and trans activist friends, not expressing any public reservations in XOXY with being conflated with LGBTQ, though she cannot claim to be a spokesperson of anyone.
The same problem has arisen between lesbians and feminists, not to mention trans women and feminists. Intersex is a kind of cover, a front for the more contentious and disputatious gay and trans lobbies, with their highly political agenda to enforce a fluid conception of human sexuality, denying the natural dimorphic sexuality that has been assumed from creation or whenever the first mammals arose.
Finally, as Biden forges ahead with intersex washrooms, trans women in women's sports and trans men in men's sports, etc, there is resistance to the woke agenda. James Carville: Wokeness is a problem and we all know it. But they don’t want to say it out loud. Carville referred only to the 'faculty lounge' politics of parsing language :'people of color', Latinx and new genderless pronouns. Biden seems to have the ear of Carville. A recent New York Times column argued that, “Biden’s strategy is to lower the volume on culture war issues by refusing to engage.” Has wokedom burned itself out?
4/ Intersex stories and trans un-PC tales
*Roshaante Anderson, a British black intersex person, raised as girl but no breasts, but with both testes and ovaries. S/he could feel both male and female. Sex with a man was quick, no emotion, with a woman more romantic. He enjoyed being with women more, realized s/he got more respect as boy, so opted at 13 for refashioning as a cisgendered boy, having his ovaries removed (he had both ovaries and testes), phalloplasty (two small penises made from the clitoris and a way to squeeze his balls for an erection), the urethra made from a vein taken from his arm, the vagina close up. I felt like an alien all my life. He would have preferred being born one or the other. Not gay. His advice: Don’t mention it all the time.
*One young man Saif (sword), in What it’s like to be intersex, related how the doctor forced him (he knew he was a he) to be castrated and take estrogen the rest of his life to trick his body into being a girl. He finally rebelled, but too late, and has to live with the tragedy. It is always possible to create a fake vagina, but impossible to return his manhood.
*Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex (2003) and Oprah's show promoting it (2007) was the first time intersex had a public face. Her show at youtube has 1.2m hits. Hida identified as both genders, was grateful her father didn't demand an operation to fit a gender, wouldn’t want to be ‘regular woman’.
*Zieselman should have been male but looked like a girl, so the doctor removed her testes at age 10. Like Irene in Russia, no consent. She has taken estrogen all her life to look female. She likes being female, had no ovaries, so she would mostly like have had her testes removed anyway. She complains in XOXY that she suffered from dissociative disorder (blanking out when high emotions). When she learned her 'truth' she finally overcame that. Her doctor, Lydia Bingley: I’m not sure telling the truth is the best path. Look at your life---had you known the truth at age 16, your life may have been much more difficult.
Was 'being kept in the dark' the cause of Zieselman’s dissociative disorder? Possibly. She overcame that, knowing her 'truth'. She has an epiphany later that Dr Bingley might have been guilty. She was defensive and cut all communication with me. She was in fact part of the harm. She was a guilty party and I hadn’t allowed myself to contemplate it because she’d been nice to me. But that now felt like a lie. She was covering her own ass.
True enough. Zieselman is a lawyer and Bingley knew by then that other intersex were suing doctors for malpractice. In 2011, Christiane Völling became the first intersex person known to successfully sue for non-consensual surgical intervention (awarded €100,000 by the Regional Court of Cologne). In 2015, Malta became the first country to outlaw non-consensual medical interventions to modify sex anatomy, including that of intersex people.
The intersex lobbying was quickly approved by Obama, Zieselman and others were invited to the White House, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights held a meeting in 2015, HRW published the report I want to be like nature made me: medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children in the US in 2017.
Zieselman: Intersex is something to be celebrated and not fixed, i.e., 'intersex is good' a la 'gay is good' and 'trans is good'. Contentious beliefs, contradicted by other intersex activist: You are wrong. We shouldn’t be celebrating being intersex---that is what has caused us to be mutilated as babies. Ziesleman's reposte: Hurt people hurt people. Obama's State Department celebrated US Intersex Awareness Day: The US stands in solidarity with intersex persons around the world. We recognize that intersex persons face violence, discrimination, … An easy human rights victory for Obama.
Zieselman was not worried about being sterile and was coincidentally working in infertility patient advocacy when she decided to adopt. The people we were helping were infertile and desperate, choosing difficult medical procedures and complex contracts with egg donors and surrogates … to produce biological children. Before long, I was unable to sympathize. I couldn't help but think of all the children worldwide needing to be adopted.i She eventually adopted Chinese twins.
Un-PC trans tales
*Caitlyn Jenner (a big Trump supporter and now running for the Republicans for governor of California on the recall ballot) said she didn’t mind when people called her by her deadname (birthname), which most trans people generally consider a painful faux pas. She also complained about not being able to hang out with her male friends at the country club. Bruce/ Caitlyn Jenner had a tracheal shave, a procedure trans women sometimes get to reduce or remove the appearance of an Adam’s apple, and a body depilation, removing male hair growth. In her memoirs, she coyly hints she may go the full monty, but who knows?
In 2015, Jenner was named one of Glamour’s women of the year, which turned into a conservative meme that is still openly mocked in online circles for social conservatives and trans-exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs. Conservative media still misgenders or calls her by her deadname sometimes. Of course, almost no trans women have the luxury of shaving their Adam's apple or depilating their beard, chest, legs. Such elite transitions are just that, exceptions that don't prove any rule, provide any real evidence that engineered genders are either practicable or desirable.
*James Shupe is a retired US soldier who in 2016 became the first person in the US to obtain legal recognition of a non-binary gender. After he retired, Shupe began living as a transgender woman in 2013. He chose the gender-neutral first name Jamie and convinced the Army to change his sex marker to female on military records. Then he had second thoughts and now criticizes transgender surgeries, cautioning against what he says are high complication rates. He also opposes transgender people serving in the military.
In 2019, he released a statement explaining that he had returned to [his] male birth sex. He has since become a vocal critic of the concept of gender identity. He explains his dilemma as autogynophilia, a male's propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought of himself as a female. In 2019, Shupe successfully petitioned the court to cancel his non-binary gender designation to revert the sex listed on his birth certificate to male. The petition filed by Shupe described the sex designation of non-binary as "psychologically harmful legal fiction."
5/ Cut to the quick
1/ As we learn more about genetics, intersex provide a gold mine for exploring the potential of humans. Avoiding unnecessary surgeries, especially without consent, is a perfect right, and is being adopted.
2/ Fetus development and maldevelopment is responsible for intersex, but quite probably involved in making gays and even trans, also a result of 'crossed wires' in the early stages of fetal development. The correct balance of testosterone/ estrogen hormones is vital at key stages of the development, first of the physical gonads, and then their wiring to the brain. So intersex research will likely lead to further pinpointing the 'gay gene' (if there is one), though the full story on gay/ trans is rooted in psychology as well as genetics. (There are three factors at play: sex, gender identity, sex-attraction.)
3/ Variations on sexual traditions are documented by anthropologists and provide food for thought. Are any of these outliers – intersex, gay, trans – 'good'? Intersex, even gay, as part of God's creation or Nature's evolutionary mechanism. But then volcanoes, earthquakes, floods are also part of creation. We get the good and bad, which is really just what's good or bad for humans.
Essential here is humility, a recognition that being outside the norm, outside the reproductive process, is by definition a handicap, an additional challenge. But that's okay. Yes, God's creation, but not 'good' per se. You have to prove your worth in your actions. It's a lesson for everyone: we are all handicapped in some way; recognize this, adjust your behavior, not just try to force society into accommodating you. By definition, being mostly sterile, all three categories have at best a supporting role in society.
A nice example: Newly rediscovered Casimir Pulaski, Polish hero of the American revolution, was the classic Amazon; i.e., acting out the traditionally male role of hero, preferring the company of men and revolution, no need for sex assignment surgery. S/he was accepted and admired as the exception that proves the rule.
(Image credit: David Lyons/Alamy)
Sometimes there is a serendipitous collusion between the powers of pathology and creation. Pathology is from pathos (πάθος), experience or suffering. In our postmodern world, there is no clear morality, so there's no surprise that the new buzz-thought is 'no clear gender', or 'sex =/ gender'. Pansexual is the buzzword at Okcupid.
4/ Tweaking by restraint
If we use hormones to force the body to conform to a dysphoric self image, we condone violence against God's creation/ Nature. If the dysphoria requires surgery, it should be a last resort. No transsexual is ever the real McCoy. As for most intersex, the surgery results in castration. Perhaps a fitting metaphor for what capitalism does to humans, and what the trans movement against 'hetero-patriarchy' does to social relations, abolishing old norms and replacing them with artificial, empty categories, trans men adding a feminized character to what is manly, and trans women adding a masculinized character to what is feminine. In the end, to be filled by personal whim. Trans woman Debbie Hayton: there are 8 billion genders, 2 sexes.
5/ Re trans rights vs children's rights: Cary Gabriel Costello, director of LGBTQ+ studies at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: Doctors seek to treat children as objects, who can have no say into how they will be treated. But trans activists want children to be treated as adults, which is just as problematic. Children are malleable, changeable. Just as intersex fight to prevent unnecessary surgeries, 'trans questioning' youth should not automatically be injected with powerful drugs and then operations to create an alternate, sterile future, as opposed to wrestling with their demons and making peace with their bodies. Just as intersex should wait til they are 18, so should trans. Encouraging a postmodern gender fluidity, putting first gay, then trans on a par with cisgender is applying an artificial, even sterile uniformity on what is fundamental to the human experience. No one benefits. Throwing out millennia of tradition for a clever but shallow thought-experiment is both dangerous and foolish. There are eerie cases of second thoughts and detransitioning, which is easier for trans men but virtually impossible for trans women.
6/ And what about parents' rights vs children's right to a mother and father? Zieselman was barren as a result of her condition so always knew she would have to adopt to have a family. Her condition made it easier to accept adoption without that obsession with genes she witnessed in her work as a lawyer. Gays insist on the right to reproduce to experience the 'joys of parenthood', where the ethics and morals of creating designer children, and imposing gay parents on unwitting offspring, are never called into question. So much for children's rights. The state backs gaylib, and forces adoption agencies to accept gays (and no doubt now trans) on an equal footing with straights. The Vatican is virtually the sole voice to question this. In effect, the West has bought into the 'gay is good' ideology. This is a grand social experiment whose results are not yet in.
Camille Paglia warns that the movement to androgyny occurs in late stages of culture, as a civilization is starting to unravel ... you find it again and again and again, through history … and the people who live in such periods, the late days of culture, whether it's the Hellenistic era, whether it's the Roman Empire, whether it's Weimar Germany, people who live at such times feel that they're very sophisticated, they're very cosmopolitan, and homosexuality, heterosexuality ... anything goes ... but from the perspective of historical distance, you can see that it's a culture that no longer believes in itself.ii
iKimberly Zieselman, XOXY: A memoir (2020), 90.
iiInterview with Claire Fox, at the Battle of Ideas, November 2016.