For this blog post I want to discuss a rare sort of person who occasionally posts on online intersex discussion forums. These are people who wish they were intersexuals. At first this revelation shocked me, there is certainly no social advantage to being intersexual, but on closer examination, I realized there are 2 different kinds of wannabes, and they each have their own reasons.
The first variety is a transgendered man who is living in denial. Such wannabes will post about how they have their doctors run a battery of tests to look for some indication of intersexuality. Of course the doctors don't find anything, intersex conditions are not something that stays hidden. If you appeared physically normal at birth, and went through a normal puberty, you are almost definitely not intersexed. In essence they are looking for some medical justification for why they feel that they are a woman. They have my deepest sympathy, our patriarchal society has so ingrained the ideal that men are superior, and to want to be a woman is such a step down, that they feel there must be something biologically different about them. However, real intersexuals, myself included, also find them to be detrimental to the intersex movement. As I have mentioned in a previous post, most intersexuals do not change gender from the one their parent assigned them, and transphobia, and fear of gender nonconformity in general, are one of the major causes behind intersex surgery. To further this connection in the public mind between transsexuals and intersexuals will only lead to more destructive genital surgeries. These poor people need to learn to accept their sense of gender and not project their feelings on the intersex community.
Another, rarer, and harder to explain group genuinely are wannabes. They are people, usually women, who genuinely want to be intersexed, even to the point of using hormones to alter their appearance, often to make a statement about gender. The most famous example of this is the performance artist Del LaGrace Volcano, who uses hormones and title of "intersex by design, not diagnosis" as a way to subvert our current gender paradigm, and show what a wide variety of gender presentation and variation there is. I am all for the genderqueer (those who choose to live as neither male nor female), and defiantly support a breakdown of gender roles (most of them are based on a patriarchal power imbalance, but then I'm not just a hermaphrodite, but also a feminist). However I also think this rare breed of wannabes need to be very careful. They need to realize they had the good fortune to be born into a socially condoned body, and as such were not mutilated in a misguided attempt at 'normalizing' their genitals. If they want to use the label they had better be very understanding and use it to further the cause of real intersexuals (and sorry, no, technically you can't be an "intersexual by design," by definition, it is a medical condition you are born with).