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As a medical condition, DSD has no real bearing on sexual attraction, and in fact, when the now-defunct Intersex Alliance was formed in the 1990s, some of its members resisted being thrown into the LGBTQ acronym.“At the time there was talk about adding the ‘I’ to that alphabet soup,” says Green, “but ultimately our goals were more about bringing some understanding to our medical care, especially as things have settled down from being an activist movement to an advocacy movement.”As for Caitlin, who identified as queer before she identified as intersex (a word she heard for the first time at age 18, three long and confusing years after being diagnosed with a condition she didn’t fully understand), being “different” has more than a few advantages.
“I don’t menstruate, and I think that’s pretty great,” she laughs.
She comes to see me speak, and since she works as a therapist, I think it’s really helped to educate her to be a better therapist.”The fight against the knee-jerk inclination to conduct surgery at birth is both medical and social.
For one, since almost all such surgeries create female, not male genitalia for the child, this can be extremely distressing for kids who feel male once they start growing up.
Every day in hospital maternity wards, intersex babies are born to freaked-out parents who’ve never even heard of such a thing, parents in a highly emotional state who are offered the immediate opportunity to surgically alter their child.
Reducing the number of these surgeries is something intersex activists see as fundamental to their cause.“Sometimes the word intersex doesn’t help either,” says Janet, who has counseled confused new parents.
But we are not our genitals, any of us, whether our bodies are ‘right’ or not.
“It usually suggests to people that someone has all the organs of males and females—but that is not physically possible.
But now, perhaps for the first time ever, an intersex person is making the evening news, and intersex activists think this just might be a defining moment for their movement. “Intersex bodies should not be treated as though they are a sickness that needs to be cured, nor should [Semenya] face social stigmatization for the narrow-mindedness of some,” read one typical blog post.
Op-eds across the globe have condemned the public debate as snarky.
“And the fact that the word has ‘sex’ in it, that’s double jeopardy.
Particularly for parents of a newborn who hear that word for the first time, it’s so alarming.