Yesterday (20 March 2010), on the last day of KS Awareness Week, the journalist Colette Bernhardt wrote about intersex in The Independent. Of course there is inappropriate terminology (“third sex”, “hermaphrodite”, “intersexed”, etc), and of course there is a lot of emphasis on chromosomes and gender, but despite its flaws it comes across overall as an unusually balanced article.
As a useful contrast to the usual generalisations about intersex, there are a few paragraphs about – and quotes from – people with specific intersex variations: Jay Hayes-Light (5-alpha reductase deficiency), Alexandra Tovey (Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) and Adele Addams (Klinefelter’s Syndrome).
I was particularly interested to see that the article included some words about Sarah Leaver who, although she hasn’t been medically diagnosed as being intersex, did discover from her medical records “that an operation she’d had as a toddler in 1977 to remove a ‘hernia’ had in fact been to remove a male gonad” and now looks forward to a time “when intersexed [sic] people are no longer viewed with disdain or pity, and the world doesn’t cling so much to ‘male’ and ‘female'”. Amen to that…
As the writer and psychotherapist Amy Bloom sums up: “Not monsters, nor marvels, nor battering rams for gender theory, people born intersexed [sic] have given the rest of the world an opportunity to think more about the odd significance we give to gender, about the elusive nature of truth, about the understandable, sometimes dangerous human yearning for simplicity – and we might, in return offer them medical care only when they need it, and a little common sense and civilised embrace when they don’t.”
All in all, an unexpectedly reasonable article worth taking the time to read – although why commenters felt it necessary to derail into a completely irrelevant discussion about “Christian bigotry” remains beyond my comprehension.
ETA, Sunday 28 March 2010: Last night, I went along to see the play Memoirs of a Hermaphrodite at the Oval House Theatre (PDF of pages from OHT website) – no spoilers here, just to say this dramatisation of the memoirs of Herculine Adélaîde Barbin is well worth seeing if you get the chance.
Previous posts on this blog in the category Intersex:
- KS Awareness Week, 14th – 20th March 2010 (March 14, 2010)
- IAAF still playing god with Caster Semenya’s life (March 12, 2010)
- ‘Sex Not Specified’ (March 9, 2010)
- Q: Caster Semenya, the real “Middlesex”? A: No. (February 27, 2010)
- Medical science: police the borders of identity first, reduce the risk of CAH second (February 20, 2010)
- From the IAAF to the IOC: another (not so) fine mess (February 17, 2010)
- Intersex youth in Gaza (December 21, 2009)
- Intersex Solidarity Day – November 8 (November 8, 2009)
- This week, I have mostly not been blogging about… (September 12, 2009)
- Athlete to be subjected to a “gender verification test” (August 20, 2009)
- Sugar and spice and all things neurobiological (March 31, 2009)
- OII receives a letter from Dr Zucker’s legal representatives (March 21, 2009)
- Intersex Solidarity Day – November 8 (November 2, 2008)
- Disorders of Sex Development (September 27, 2008)