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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Gay > Rubrieke | Columns > Christina Engela: Fundamentally Speaking

Broad-spectrum anti-idiotics


Christina Engela - 2011-01-26

"Before Carol was a Carol they were David, strange but true. Make some hard cash and any transsexual can become a woman."

This is broadly speaking the comment someone made about somebody else in a discussion I was part of recently. They had it in for somebody whom they didn’t agree with on some or other matter, and went around posting articles and comments venting their dislike for them – and in each case pointing out the detail that they were "transsexual", only to have it pointed out to them later that they had it completely wrong – "Carol" is intersex, not transsexual.

Personal differences aside, it made me wonder why some people find it necessary to pick out a particular characteristic of somebody they don’t get on with – and then use that as an insult and a judgement – at the same time insulting and judging all other people who have that feature in common too.

That is like saying Joe Soap, who is an Aquarius, is an incredibly bad cook – and therefore all other Aquariuses are too. Make sense?

I see no need for some people to climb into somebody's gender pedigree or to vilify or mock someone for being intersex or make it a point of special mention every single time they are brought up as a topic of discussion. This form of "entertainment" is cheap and degrading of transgender and intersex people.

It is the same as saying, ''John who wrote ‘X title’, the topic of our article, has only one testicle (so he is therefore, by implication, less of a man than me). Hahaha." It is irrelevant. And if it is used as a means to ridicule or whip up sentiment against somebody, it makes it even worse. If you don’t like somebody, then just say so – it is unnecessary to offend all other transsexual, transgender or intersex people because you dislike one person who happens also to be transsexual or intersex.

A little clarity on the differences between intersex and transgender seems required on the topic of transsexuality in comparison with intersexuality. Allow me to provide it.

Transgender/Transsexual

For the record (for those of you that still don’t know): I am transgender, meaning that I transitioned from male to female, which technically means that I could be called "transsexual". However, while some people may call me "he/it/tranny/freak/wannabe" IRL (at their peril), it is still offensive to me, and even hurtful to be called anything other than a woman. I’m not sure if people do this out of actual ignorance, bigotry or even malice.

Now, allow me to put it to you how I see it: While I may not be able to reproduce biologically – as some transphobic people like to point out, and use this detail to claim that I am "not a real female" or "good enough" to be treated as female or thought of as such – I seem to corner them on the detail that there are many born females and males out there who also cannot reproduce and yet nobody ever uses their sex or gender as an insult against them. The same argument is particularly useful when it comes to same-gender marriage issues, but that is another point for another day.

Also for the record: I feel no shame for my nature, or my transition – nor do I see any reason for such guilt complexes as would be forced upon me by certain social groupings, religious zealots or individuals. If somebody doesn’t like it that I am trans, or that I once was male – tough. I tell them “That is your problem, not mine and I simply don’t care. You don’t have to date me, and you don’t have to sleep with me, so it's none of your business. Give me a hard time about it and you will get what you give, maybe more, and in a tender spot.”

Intersex

The issue of intersex is a little more complex and thorny at the present time than the transgender issue, because while we trans people may feel that we were born in the wrong body or gender, intersex people may feel like they are one or the other gender, but their physical bodies display either both or indeterminable gender characteristics. This gives rise to many of us realising that internally at least, we are pretty much in the same boat. This group also includes people with intersex genes – but a large number of such people are not even aware that they are, in fact, intersex or that there are women out there who are completely content with being women who have, in fact, got male DNA – and vice versa.

Add to this the complication that society pressures people to conform to either one or the other gender – anything in between the two is considered "wrong" or just "doesn’t belong", and just as in the case of transgender folks, people are always trying to "fix" intersex people without ever stopping to consider that there may be nothing actually wrong with them.

Furthermore, when a baby is born intersex, the old method of dealing with this is that parents or doctors (or both) decide for the individual as a child or minor which gender would suit them best and effect surgical changes. This is especially unfair and cruel. Of course, the whole matter is hushed up and the poor child therefore has no say in the matter and has a condition forced on them that may or may not actually be the correct assumption. In the end, this can result in great misery for these people, who may struggle with numerous stigmas and internal issues afterwards.

The increasingly modern view allows intersex children to choose for themselves which gender suits them – and if they even want to have any surgical alterations made. Many do not, and are quite content being intersex – and here's the clincher: Why shouldn’t they be? It is that person's body and their life, after all – and why should conformity be so important that it be forced on anyone? Why should they be made to feel guilty or "sinful" because they are born intersex? Why should they be mocked or ridiculed for it?

Hermaphrodite

By the way – just an extra annotation: "hermaphrodite" is considered un-pc and insulting when applied to intersex people. It is also completely inaccurate, as "hermaphrodite" describes a creature that is actually both male and female and could technically reproduce by themselves, or simultaneously with another member of their own species. Earthworms and snails are good examples of true hermaphrodites.

“Intersex” is the correct term and describes people who may vary from having both ovum and testes (although the "plumbing" may not be functioning for various reasons, etc) to just having genitalia difficult to identify as male or female.

In closing: I don’t expect everyone to know this, as it simply hasn’t yet become common knowledge, although if people took the trouble to do a little research on the internet – such as Wikipedia – they would find it easily available and easy to understand.

That said, I hope this helps you all to understand the issue a little better.