Thursday, May 29, 2014

Things You Wanted To Know About Intersex, But Were Afraid To Ask

Are you queer?  Is this a transgender thing?
No, most intersex people do not transition from the gender they were assigned and raised in.  Some may choose to transition, or identify as something else altogether, but so do many non-intersex people.  Gender identity and sexual orientation are separate issues from intersex.  It may surprise you to know that many intersex people get married and blend completely with heterosexual mainstream culture.

You denounce genital surgeries on children, is this just about sex?
No.  It is true that genital surgeries very often reduce sexual sensation.  The surgery issue goes much farther than merely sex.  It is about personal autonomy and bodily integrity. The right to choose for ourselves what happens to our bodies and our lives is the much deeper issue.    

Can’t you just do a test to find out a babies true sex?  What is the babies “real” sex?

No.  You can test gonadal tissue, chromosomes (which sometimes are both ambiguous) and hormone levels to find the cause for ambiguous genitals. This will not, however, tell you the baby’s “true” sex.  This is hard to accept, but the baby is not really a male or female.  Biologically they are intersex.  While testing will tell you which intersex condition they have, they cannot tell you how the baby will identify. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

13 Tips for Parents of Intersex Children

  • 13. Protect your child, medical people, and even relatives will be curious, but they don't have to see everything, its not a freak show 
  • 12. Ask if the hospital has any referrals for support groups for people going through the same thing. 
  • 11. Realize intersex is not something that is “cured” it’s a lived experience. 
  • 10. Take care of yourself, ask for a referral to a therapist if you are feeling overwhelmed. 
  • 9. Realize there is no rush for treatment, most intersex conditions are not immediately dangerous.
  • 8. It’s OK to make mistakes, the gender on birth certificates can be changed for example. 
  • 7. If your doctors are not understanding, or pressuring you, it’s ok to get different doctors. 
  • 6. Not everyone will “get it” and that’s ok, give them time. 
  • 5. Don’t do anything irreversible, your child should have the right to choose what happens to their body. 
  • 4. Realize that it is ok to be different, you child can still have a wonderful life. 
  • 3. If you are worried how caregivers will react, you have the wrong caregivers. 
  • 2. Don’t be afraid to seek out more information on intersex, knowledge is power. 
  • 1. Love, support and accept your child, no matter how they identify.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Locker Room Question

Hello all. When I was giving my talk at Ohio State, I suddenly realized one of the biggest fears parents have. What if someone sees my intersex child … gasp … naked! This is a legitimate concern (I guess I’m a little slow not to have seen it earlier). Baby sitters changing diapers, sleep overs, locker rooms, there are occasions that this might happen. My advice to all parents sweating over this is to relax. These situations are really not that bad. Have a relative you trust baby sit. Host the sleepovers. Public bathrooms have privacy walls around the stalls. Locker rooms usually have bathroom stalls you could change in (I did this in gym class in high school*). My point is, for every one of these “scary” situations, there are easy ways to work around them. That being said, parents should be aware that in the 50s and 60s intersex children's genitals were photographed for medical texts book in an invasive, voyeuristic manner. Given this history it is impotent to protect our children from being exploited, but don't lose perspective over this. The risk of being seen naked certainly is not a good reason for genital surgeries. Your child’s genitals don’t define them as a person, and don’t have to be public knowledge. Let them know they are loved no matter what they look like, or how they identify.

*I had genital surgery as an infant; no one would have realized I was intersex just by looking. Thus, I didn’t change in the bathroom stall out of fear of being outed. I was just shy, modest and uncomfortable with public nudity.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Talk at Ohio State and Expanding the Blog!

Hello everyone. I know I have been promising to write more for years and went silent a while ago. If you are still checking my blog I thank you, you are better than me. I have good news though, I am planning to expand the blog and post twice a week. I am excited because I recently got back from giving a talk about intersex at Ohio State University. The LGBT med student group at OSU medical center invited me. If any of them are reading this post thank you for your hospitality, it was a great time. The talk went very well. Everyone was polite and genuinely curious about intersex issues from a personal perspective. They wanted to know what life is like for intersex individuals and how choices made for us as infants can affect us later in life. I was asked about everything from dating to gender identity. Because they are future doctors, they were especially curious about how they could better care for intersex patients and their parents. This gave me a lot of hope for the future of intersex rights and our damaged relationship with the medical community. I realized that as more people are becoming aware of intersex issues, there is a greater need for someone to put these issues into a personal context. That is why I am expanding the blog and tweeting. Check every Tuesday and Thursday for new posts. P.S. I am also tweeting now so check me out at twitter!