Thursday, June 26, 2014

A is for 5 Alpha Reductase Deficiency

Our A word for today is 5 Alpha Reductase Deficiency, one of the more common intersex conditions.  5 alpha reductase deficiency is a recessive mutation where a genetic male does not produce 5 alpha reductase.  5 alpha reductase is the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone.  The lack of dihydrotestosterone can result in male, female, or ambiguous genitalia.  People with 5 alpha reductase deficiency have testicles and usually are born with female primary sex characteristics and a male gender identity.  At puberty most 5 alpha reductase deficiency will masculinize considerably.  With testicles it may be possible for them to father children, but they are at a higher risk for testicular cancer.  Interestingly, without dihydrotestosterone, they will not suffer male pattern baldness.  Because it is a recessive genetic trait, certain populations have higher rates of 5 alpha reductase deficiency.  In the Dominican Republic 5 alpha reductase deficiency is so common they have a local name for it, guevedoce (eggs at twelve, a reference to testicles descending in an often seemingly female child).         

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A is for Asexual

Today, A is for asexual.  Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction, and/or the lack of desire for sexual activity.  Asexuality is distinct from celibacy because most celibate people do have sexual attraction and desire.  Furthermore, some asexual people have sex for reproduction or to please their partner.  Many asexual people have romantic, but not sexual, relationships.  They categorize themselves as heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, or aromantic.  There are also grey-asexuals, sometimes called semisexuals or hyposexuals, who experience sexual attraction, but not enough to act on, or only enjoy sex under certain, limited circumstances.  There are also demisexuals who only feel sexual attraction after a strong emotional bond is established.

Now you must be asking, what does any of this have to do with intersex?  Certainly intersex people come in all sexual orientations including asexual ones.  Due to the terrible outcome of genital surgeries, both in terms of sensation, and function some intersex people live celibate.  Without the orgasmic incentive to be sexual, and the fact that many potential partners would not accept intersexuality, many intersex people are somewhat grey-asexual.  They have limited desire and limited opportunities for sex.  Whether this is true, innate asexuality, or a socially forced asexuality is a matter of debate.

Obviously asexuality does not apply to all intersex people, or even a majority of them.  That being said, there still is a connection between the two, and thus I gave asexuality a post.      

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A is for Androgyny

Today I continue blogging my way through the alphabet with another A word, androgyny.  Wikipedia defines androgyny as:

“The combination of masculine and feminine characteristics. Sexual ambiguity may be found in fashion, gender identity, sexual identity, or sexual lifestyle. It can also refer to biological intersex physicality, especially with regard to plant and human sexuality.”

I disagree with throwing intersex people in at the end of the definition.  Organisms that are naturally biologically male and female, like most plants are called hermaphrodites, not androgynous.  Intersex people are usually called intersex or by their specific condition.  Having an intersex condition does not mean the person in question will automatically be androgynous.     

Androgyny usually refers to how one moves through the world in relation to the gender norms of their culture and time.  What is considered androgynous changes.  For example, the flappers of the 1920’s were considered androgynous because of their short hair and short dresses. 

Historically intersex people have been medically treated and hidden to reduce androgyny.  This is ironic since artists like Annie Lennox, David Bowie and Prince have made androgyny trendy.  I think if an intersex person identifies with androgyny; it can be a fantastically subversive slap in the face to an oppressive system (and will make you trendy).  However, if you do not identify this way, that is wonderful as well.    

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A is for Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

I have decided to blog my way through the alphabet.  Hopefully I can cover important intersex issues and topics that have not been mentioned in this blog before. 

Our first A word is Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.  AIS is one of the most common intersex conditions.
Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome occurs when a person is born without receptors for testosterone.  Because they are immune to testosterone, they appear physically female, regardless of whether they are genetically male or female.  All vertebrates physically develop as females in the absence of testosterone.  CAIS is often discovered at puberty when a girl does not menstruate or grow pubic hair.  A genetically XY person with CAIS will be sterile.

Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome occurs when a genetically male person is born partially insensitive to testosterone.  This usually results in ambiguous genitalia.  Given testosterone injections at puberty can result in more masculine secondary sexual characteristics.  There is a higher chance of testicular cancer in PAIS people.  They are usually sterile, but there have been some exceptions.

Mild Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome occurs when a genetically male person is born mildly insensitive to testosterone.  This insensitivity is not enough to affect their physical development as males, and often goes undetected.  Arguably they are not intersex.  MAIS men often have diminished secondary sexual characteristics.  They occasionally have hypospadias (urethra does not come out at tip of penis) and gynecomastia (breasts on men).   There are higher incidences of breast, prostate, and testicular cancer in MAIS patients.  They usually have diminished fertility.  

Hope you found this informative, stay with me as I blog my way through the alphabet

Thursday, June 12, 2014

5 Reasons You Should Care About Intersex Rights

Intersex people make up such a small percent of the population that our concerns and issues are easily overlooked.  Here are 5 reasons why you should care about intersex rights.

~We are not scary
Even social conservatives who are opposed to homosexual and transgender issues can’t argue against intersex.  We certainly did not choose to be this way.  Most of us live as one gender and often live heterosexual lives.  We are not radicals, our demands are quite modest.  We are not a threat to anyone.  

~Diversity is a good thing
Diversity has become an HR buzzword for good reason.  The more variety of people and experiences you have, the more innovative and creative your organization is.  It also inoculates you against groupthink.  Intersex surgeries and secrecy decrease human diversity.  

~ It is honest
The oppression of intersex people is based on the lie that that everyone is born biologically male and female.  This is obviously not true.  Isn’t it better to have an honest society?  The truth will set you free.

~ We all deserve to choose our fate
Would you like to be non-consensually subjected to surgery that had not medical benefit?  What if this surgery would greatly impact your sexual functioning and determine how society will treat you?  No one would want such a thing to happen to them.  We should all get to decide what happens to our bodies.

~ You could be intersex

There are many people who don’t realize they have an intersex condition until puberty or when they try to get pregnant.  There is a chance you could be one of us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Insults to the Intersex Community on TV

On TV lately there has been a rash of insults directed at intersex people.  The first such insult was on the political commentary show Fox and Friends.  One episode was commenting on Facebook expanding their gender options.  The cohost of the show Clayton Morris, clearly not knowing what intersex is, joked that he changed his Facebook gender to intersex.  Later one of the host joked saying one of the options was “intersex, whatever that is.”  This prompted a letter from Inter/Act condemning these comments.

Due to this outcry Fox made a short on air apology to the intersex community.  Frankly it was a rare moment of acceptance on gender issues for Fox News.  I can accept that apology because these comments obviously came from a place of ignorance.  That does not excuse insulting people though.  If you do not know what something is, look it up before you open your mouth.  Hopefully Fox learned their lesson and will strive to do better in the future.
The more heinous insult was from the show New Normal.  On the episode Goldie Rush the character named Gary complains about all the losers he dated in the past.  Then there is a flashback montage to all of these alleged losers.  One of them says they are intersex.  That’s barely even a joke, just an insinuation that intersex people are losers and not dating material.  There was some outcry about this on online forums, but no apology was ever made.
This I cannot accept.  They are picking on the intersex community just because we are small so there will be very little backlash.  This is not funny, it’s bullying.  Shame on the New Normal and it’s director Ryan Murphy for allowing this.  As a gay man he should know better than to insult sexual minorities.  Thankfully the show only lasted one season.

I hope that these incidences will teach the mainstream culture that insulting intersex people is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.  We are a natural variation of humanity, not freaks to be mocked.  I also hope that anyone who overhears an insult towards intersex people will make a stand and educate the joker.  Knowledge is the best weapon against ignorance.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Legal Hope for Intersex Rights

Some of you might be aware of this case in South Carolina (if no, I have posted several sites were you can read about it).  It is an older case, but so important I feel I must comment.  A baby boy, identified only as MC in legal documents, was placed for adoption.  As a ward of the state he was subjected to feminizing genital surgery.  Now he is eight years old and identifies as male.  His adoptive parents, Mark and Pam Crawford are suing the state of South Carolina over the nonconsensual surgery.  The courts have recently ruled that the case may move forward.

I am stunned and excited about this case.  These parents sound amazing and so accepting.  Fighting for their son when they are in a unique position to do so could do wonders for intersex people.  I have previously written about the legal aspects of intersex.  Legal remedies for intersex genital mutilations are hard to come by.  Intersex people who are angry about their surgery realize this long after the statute of limitations has expired.  Another problem is intersex surgery on infants is still an accepted standard treatment and thus is not considered malpractice.  They have quite an uphill battle to fight, but if they win, it would be a HUGE win for intersex rights in America.  Good luck to the Crawfords and their legal team.  I expect I will be writing more on this case again as it unfolds.!U945K

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

intersex and the transgender tipping point

This week Time Magazine’s cover story is the “Transgender Tipping Point”.  The theme is how the transgender rights movement is making headway.  The timing on this article is exceptional.  The US courts have ruled this week that Medicare must now cover sexual reassignment surgery.  Thus I will write, yet again, about the unusual relationship between the transgender and intersex movements. 

First, as an ally of the transgender community, I must say that I am happy for about the ruling.  Transgender people should have every right to have coverage for their surgeries.  I only object to genital surgeries that are performed on infants who can’t consent.  I am also happy to see the transgender rights movement gaining traction.  They are one of the most abused minority groups in society and have very few legal protections. Any assistance and justice for them is a good thing.

The relationship between transgender and intersex communities is complicated at best.  The mainstream society lumps us together all the time.  This is unfair and inaccurate.  Many, if not most intersex people do not transition from the gender they were raised as.  A few transgender people further blur this issue by claiming that they have the physical brain of the opposite gender thus they are intersex.  Other transgender people have tests done on them looking for intersex conditions.  They are looking for a physical, medical justification for their gender dysphoria.  This I have a problem with.  It is disrespectful to the experiences of the intersex community to use us as an excuse.  Intersex and transgender people struggle against the same ignorance and social conservative attitude about binary gender.  We should be standing side by side, not disrespecting each other’s lived experience.  Because of these similarities, I am a trans ally, and am happy for their victories.  I just hope that the few transgender people who claim to be intersex will rethink this.