Differing Sexual Identities

Intersex Pride Flag

Intersex Flag

An acquaintance and reader asks, “why don’t we consider trans* bodies that have medically transitioned in some way as intersex? Why isn’t there a separate sex category for altered bodies?”

This is a long and complicated answer, so settle in for a long one today readers.

There can be arguments made for transitioning/transitioned bodies to be seen as a sort of “artificial intersex”, and I’ve discussed this with others in the trans* community in the past. Once we begin medical transition, we will never again be 100% male or female in body, blending bits of both. So why don’t we consider them to be intersex?

Part of it has to do with definitions. Just as with varying definitions of what exactly falls under the trans* umbrella, there are debates as to what falls under the term intersex. I have a local acquaintance, a trans man, who was born with XY chromosomes instead of XX, but was in all other regards physically female at birth. Some would argue that he is intersex and others would not. I have another friend, also local and also identifying as a trans man, who is a chimera, an individual with two different sets of DNA (in his case, both male and female), who could also be argued as being intersex or not.

There are conflicting studies out there on transsexual brains, some indicating that we have the brain more typical of the gender we identify as rather than the gender we were assigned at birth. If those studies were to pan out (there are studies that argue that those differences don’t exist, or only exist once hormone therapy has begun), then one could make an argument for transsexual individuals being intersex as well. There are those who take these studies that show sex differences in the brains as proof that they are not transgender or transsexual, referring to their “condition” as Harry Benjamin Syndrome, identifying as a form of intersex.

In addition to all of these examples, there are those who argue that one is only intersex if there is physical evidence of a blending of the sexes at birth. This could be that someone has to be born with both sets of genitals or ambiguous genitals, or that they are born with physical organs of both sexes, such as someone who is born and assumed to be male but later discovered to have ovaries within. Others would argue that any kind of blending of the sexes qualifies as intersex, including transsexuals, just as some people argue that all those who transcend the masculine male and feminine female gender norms are transgender, including butch lesbians and effeminate gay men.

Transgender Pride Flag

Transgender Flag

Going above and beyond the issue of definitions, there comes the issue of identity. There are many who feel that intersex is and should be a separate identity from transgender. We see this issue come up when we break the various communities down into acronym form. When we only say LGBT, for example, it’s generally assumed that intersex is part of that transgender T. However, there are some who break it out, and I’ve seen a version of the acronym with thirteen letters to it. LGBTTQQIAAPPG, or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally, Polysexual, Pansexual, and Genderqueer. With this version, you can see that from that little T, we’ve broken out four identities, just as bisexual broke into three different identities.

There is nothing inherently wrong with these identities or claiming them as separate from the larger whole (even if some people don’t know what the difference between some of them are, such as bisexual/polysexual/pansexual). However, there are issues when members of the larger group try to claim that all members of the larger group are also members of all of the smaller groups. This leaves many in the minority group, in this case intersex, feeling as if their identity has been appropriated by the “majority”, stolen by those who do not fit it. This is a very real issue, as we see our own identities being appropriated regularly by mainstream culture. Gay clubs being swarmed by straight people as a spectacle or as part of bachelor/bachelorette parties. The entire metrosexual explosion that came about from the fashion industry twisting the original concept. Male sexual fantasies of two women together (but always assumed that the women are actually straight, or at least bi, not actually lesbian) as perpetuated in the porn, tobacco, and alcohol industries (among others).

To put this in a less conceptual method, imagine if someone claimed that all gay men are bears, and also twinks, and drag queens. Now, we expect this kind of fallacious thinking from those outside our community, but imagine if a gay man who didn’t fit into any of those categories made that claim, and in fact applied it to himself. This is the kind of thinking we have when someone says that all medically transitioned trans* people are intersex.

Many intersex people are trans* in one way or another, even if one does not consider intersex to be under the trans* umbrella. Many of them are “corrected” at birth, and thus have to transition medically to have their body match their identity. Many others embrace a non-binary gender identity to match their physical sex being non-binary, and thus could be considered as trans*. Further more intersex people are either predominantly one sex and identify as another gender, or they wish to have corrective surgery at a later age to remove parts they don’t wish to have, such as the previously mentioned example of an otherwise physically male person having the ovaries removed. Or to transition to female, as actually occurred in the specific example mentioned.

There are many more examples I could give, such as the differences between bodies, but those can discussed next time. It coincides with the post I made about evolving sexuality a week ago answering another question.

What are your thoughts, readers? Do you think that transsexual people should also be considered intersex?


4 responses to “Differing Sexual Identities

  1. As an Intersex/DSD person, I would say HELL no and that would be on the medical and scientific grounds. Trans have no medical and scientific justification for claiming intersex. On face value, Trans is purely psycho/social issue and not a medical/scientific issue. Even researchers such as Dr. Joseph Berger have said Trans is not Intersex.

    • I agree with you for the most part that trans* is not intersex (at least as the evidence shows now, but there are conflicting reports as I mentioned). The results of Dr. Berger do not coincide with the results of other researchers, so for now, it is safer to say that trans* is not intersex, but that transsexuality may or may not be.

      However, some forms of trans*, such as transsexuality, are medically based, as I discussed today. On that regard, I disagree with you. Additionally, psychology is a science, so even if being trans* was purely a psychological issue, as you say, it would still be a scientific one.

  2. I have seen people go through the transgender process and then through the artifical intersex process after along time on estrogen, it can be done.

    I start hrt in oct and in 5 years I will go for the surgery to become intersex.
    It is a money issue if anything, it will cost at least 15k just for a intersex surgery.

  3. Pingback: Our Own Failings | Transendent Lives

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