UK: National newspaper publishes unexpectedly reasonable report about intersex

March 21, 2010

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:


2 Responses to “UK: National newspaper publishes unexpectedly reasonable report about intersex”

  1. shiva Says:

    The Independent has, IMO, been consistently far, far better than any other UK paper on gender, disability and other human-biodiversity issues in the last year or so.

    Incidentally, what’s bad about the -ed formation for adjectives of identity terms? I’ve seen people objecting to it before in the cases of both “intersex(ed)” and “transgender(ed)”, and been unsure of why it is percieved as offensive…

  2. Helen G Says:


    Incidentally, what’s bad about the -ed formation for adjectives of identity terms?

    I’ve followed what the FAQ page on OII Australia’s website (Link here) says:

    Do not use ‘intersexed’, ‘intersexual’ or other terms that tend to make intersex an adjective or a verb.

    Intersex is always the preferred term as in “I am an intersex woman”, “I am intersex”, “I am an intersex man”, and so on.

    ‘Intersexed’ tends to indicate something has been done to us and that reinforces the notion of a condition or a disorder.

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