People with a 47,XXY chromosomal atypicality (also known simply as XXY, or Klinefelter’s Syndrome) often find themselves caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The karyotype and its manifestations may not be considered (by some) to be an intersex variation, or it may be assumed that XXY refers only to ‘XY men’ with an extra X chromosome with no allowance made for the possibility that there may be ‘XX women’ who have an extra Y chromosome.
As I wrote in my recent post about KS Awareness Week:
That there is no clear agreement about whether or not KS is an intersex variation is a useful reminder that the boundaries of the dominant sex and gender binaries are not as easily defined as many people would like. It once again highlights that enforced normalisation (XXY people are often “treated” by means of breast surgery and long-term testosterone treatment) is nothing more or less than the policing of socially constructed boundaries by medical professionals in order to uphold cultural stereotypes of what is meant by male and female.
Alterina Hofan of Jakarta is currently having to navigate these complex and difficult circumstances, to the point of being subjected to the full force of the law as a result of his wife’s parents’ alleging document fraud – even though the actions of the authorities seem to be in breach of Alterina’s human rights. Via The Jakarta Post:
Alterina suffers Klinefelter’s syndrome, a rare case where a male has an extra X chromosome that makes him look more like a woman.
After years of operations, Alterina has documented himself as a man and even married Jane Hadipoespito.
The problem arose when Jane’s parents denounced the marriage, filing a lawsuit against Alterina for document fraud because he previously declared he was a woman in his identity cards.
Police then took Alterina to prison, ignoring the latest report from a doctor that confirmed he was a man.
The police decided to take Alterina to the Pondok Bambu women’s penitentiary in East Jakarta, after being transferred between a number of men’s and women’s penitentiaries.
But because of his apparent male physical features, the police separate Alterina from other inmates and place him in a special room in the penitentiary.
Alterina has the backing of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), which views the case as an example of the state’s failure to protect Alterina’s rights. Josep Adi Prasetyo of Komnas HAM cites an international convention on civil and political rights that guarantees people’s rights of their identity and which was ratified by the Indonesian parliament in 2005.
“He has the right to say he is a man”, Josep said after visiting Alterina on Wednesday, adding an independent medical practitioner was needed in the case.
He also denounced the police’s decision to carry out a forced medical check on Alterina and undermine previous reports from the doctor declaring Alterina a man.
The police’s medical check-up show the opposite result, saying Alterina is a woman.
It’s really quite frightening that non-intersex people have the power to ignore fundamental human rights in pursuit of the violent imposition of a socially constructed gender binary. In addition, the blinkered ignorance of Alterina’s in-laws (and the authorities) of the ways in which intersex people may not easily be forced into one of two narrow categories is highlighted by Alterina’s wife Jane who has said that she doesn’t really care that Alterina’s documents don’t match his identity.
“All I want is for my husband to be freed as soon as possible,” she said.
Alterina’s first trial hearing is scheduled for Monday and I hope he at last receives a just and fair treatment which respects his human right to bodily autonomy.
Previous posts on this blog in the category Intersex:
- Five Myths that Hurt Intersex People (May 12, 2010)
- OII Position Statement on Genital Cutting (March 28, 2010)
- UK: National newspaper publishes unexpectedly reasonable report about intersex (March 21, 2010)
- 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)