Thursday, October 29, 2009

halloween, magical hermaphrodites and queer horror

In honor of Halloween, I would like to address the main cause for intersex surgeries, fear. Doctors are afraid the children will not be normal (within a patriarchal, heteronormative context). They may subconsciously fear the children's condition as something monstrous and abnormal that need to be immediately corrected. The parents, on the other hand, consciously fear that their children will be mistreated and ostracized by society, and seek to prevent that. Their intentions are entirely charitable, but they are still letting fear cloud their judgement and leads to some very bad decisions.

This fear is pervasive. Dreger was absolutely right when she said "In terms of sex, me have much in common with the Victorians. We still worry a great deal about sex and order, and about ordering sex. We still insist that there are no hermaphrodites, lest they grow and multiply." This fear of the intersexed as something strange and out of legend dates back to antiquity with Hermaphroditus in Greek mythology, and Ardhanarisvara in Hinduism. This has lead to the notion that the intersexed have magical, spiritual, or psychic abilities. For example many Native American cultures hold a special, sacred positions for two spirited people (can include transgendered, intersexed, or homosexual people, depending on the specific tribe). They are considered especially powerful shamans. To this day in India people show great respect for hijras (a third sex made up of castrated men, considered to be neither male nor female) out of fear of their power to hex. This is also true in Wicca were the balance of masculine and feminine energy is considered essential for spells to work. Many transgendered people like this idea of a mystical history they are transitioning to be a part of, however I find this view to be detrimental. No offense to those who hold these belief systems, but queer people are no more magical or psychic then anyone else (how cool would it be if we were though?). In mainstream western culture, which does not have any place for the intersexed, the thought of hermaphrodites being powerful increases the view that they are monstrous and unnatural.

This perception of queer as something monstrous has been perpetuated through recurring characters in horror movies. The most obvious queer monster is the lesbian vampire (Dracula's Daughter, The Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil, The Hunger ect.). These movies are fairly common, based on straight men's fantasy, but they still harm queers with their assumptions. Another obviously queer horror character is the transgender psycho (Psycho, Dressed to Kill, Silence of the Lambs ect.). These movies are very harmful to the entire LGBT community in general, and to transsexuals in particular by portraying them as murderus maniacs. In any case, the message is the same, that any sort of gender nonconformity is dangerous and threatening, and not he natural order of things. This is not the case. Intersexed people are no greater threat then "normal people" (except maybe to themselves, the suicide rate is very high for intersexuals, that is the real horror story). This message of queers as being somehow subhuman, or psychotic and violent gets absorbed by society and perpetuates abuse and mistreatment of queer people, including the intersexed.

In short, I hope everyone has a happy Halloween, just be aware of the stereotypes scary stories play into and don't let those lies to translate into the harm of real people.


  1. What would your suggestion be to parents of an intersex child? In our current world, could an intersex child get through school without psychological harm? Could you condone postponing surgery until a child was old enough to express a "preference" for one gender over another, and then go through with surgery?

  2. I tend to agree with the policy of the North American Intersex Society, give the child a gender to raise them as so they are not teased or confused, but be honest with them (within an age appropriate context) and respect any choices they may make later on. I am not opposed to surgery, but it HAS to be an informed, rational decision made by individual when they are old enough, not by panicked parents and doctors. The parents also need to realize the doctors tend to mislead them, telling them their children will grow up with a totally normal gender identity and sexual capacity. This is not the truth. Most intersexuals know innately that they are different from their peer and often get quite angry about what was done to them. Most are rendered inorgasmic, scar tissue always forms and nerves almost always get severed. parents need to be told this honestly, not buy into the doctors God Complex that they can make everything alright with a wave of their magic scalpel.