On the occasion of IDAHO – International Day Against Homophobia, it is pertinent to remember why intersex is a part of the LGBTIQ alliance.
Intersex individuals generally have a sexual orientation, however it is more likely to be perceived as heterosexual than same sex. We also have a gender identity, however that generally appears to conform to man or woman, rather than gender non-conformist.
Intersex & the notion of transitioning
There is a notion held by some and projected by a tiny percentage of intersex individuals that intersex is associated with gender non-conformity and some kind of transitioning. This is rarely true of almost all intersex. Sex transitioning with respect to intersex is meaningless. Irrespective of surgery or medications, our genes and the physical consequences of those genes remain unchanged.
Our sex preferences are as diverse as those of non-intersex individuals and are apparently informed by the same biological and social processes as everybody else.
The question then is how did intersex come to be allied to others who are a part of LGBTQ activism and the LGBTQ community?
Homophobia – experienced by all LGBTQI peoples
Homophobia is the simple answer. Although people with physical differences are often subjected to prejudice because of those differences, and many people seem simply to be disgusted by anything that falls outside their range of day-to-day experiences, for intersex there is far more to it.
Intersex researchers have noted that the most common concern for parents when told their child is intersex is that it means their child is somehow “gay” or “queer”. Intersex surgery on infants addresses those parental fears by modifying anatomies to ensure a child will become a man or a woman in heterosexual relationships.
All intersex risk homophobia
Many intersex people, on learning of their differences as adults, are rejected by their partners because of homophobic notions that their partner is not “really a man” or “not really a woman.” Others are pressured to undertake masculinizing or feminizing medical treatments and surgery so that they are clearly seen to be the “opposite” sex of their partner lest the relationship be thought of as somehow “gay”.
Although generalised fear of physical differences may account for some of the prejudice experienced by intersex, the major driver is the fear held by many that if the sex of a person is uncertain then the nature of that person’s sexual relationships are uncertain.
Intersex is not a part of LGBTIQ because of sexual orientation or gender identity. All of us in that alliance are bound by the nature of our oppression – homophobia.