Cindy Stone = education and entertainment!
This afternoon Cindy presented a dynamic view into the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) and her experiences with being diagnosed and living with an intersex condition. To quote ISNA, “Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” Cindy talked to us about the diversity of what this means…there are many different ways that this can manifest physically. Literally for some, this means having genitalia that do not look like a “traditional” penis or vagina (i air quoted tradition because I do not believe there is a TRADITIONAL set of genitalia out there), and for some this means having a seemingly “normal” external genitalia with internal anatomy that do not match the external (same goes for NORMAL). Sometimes the latter intersex condition can mean that someone with an external vagina may have testes internally and sometimes an XY chromosome. Here is a little video to help with the understanding…
I hope this is not confusing, because ultimately, what all of the discussions that I have had about intersex identities and conditions have come down to for me is this:
Every Body is Different.
However, it is not that easy is it? It is not that easy because health care providers have been historically taking it into their own hands to prescribe gender to people at birth based on what genitals are between their legs…this is a problem when a doctor or a parent or a whoever decides to surgically alter a baby’s genitals to match some “traditional” allotment of gender. This surgery can harm or permanently distress a person’s ability to have sexual response. This surgery also brings up a whole host of ethical issues.
It is not easy because our health care system is not set up give access to people with bodies (or genders or sexualities) that are different. How do we increase access to proper, culturally appropriate care for intersex folks where the judgement and stigma about their bodies is not an issue. My only thought is to retrain our societal brain and then retrain doctor brains to reconceptualize “what the human body should look like.”
It isn’t easy because sex and gender are inextricably linked for a good portion of society. All of the stories of abuse of intersex folks, the surgery horror stories, the gender counseling, the putting of people in tidy boxes, it all comes down to gender liberation.