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Hans Lindahl @hiHelloHans
, 23 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
As an intersex AND queer person: it takes deliberation to talk about #intersex issues in a way that does not risk inadvertently throwing LGBTQ+ people, esp trans people, under the bus. We have a responsibility to calculate every word, esp "biological"... #thread
btw yes, I AM of the opinion that "I" firmly belongs in the LGBT+ acronym. Intersex medicalization born from homophobia shows parallels: intersex ppl falling on a spectrum of sex face violence & erasure for the same reasons as ppl who fall along a spectrum of gender, sexuality.
As #intersex knowledge slowly becomes more and more mainstream, I become more and more cautious about the language we move toward and away from. We must be deliberate so as not to exacerbate common arguments against our LGB and trans peers.
For example: evangelical/right-wing outlets may tolerate intersex and NOT trans/LGB ppl bc intersex differences are "biological." They can't deny our validity in the same way bc intersex is pinpointed, observable by commonly accepted metrics, of medicine, science.
This is why it's dangerous to be #intersex: unlike LGBT, our differences can be pinpointed to bodily markers w current technology, & can thus be erased or "corrected." Intersex people w genital differences don't have choice or timing in coming out to families and institutions.
Falling along the sex spectrum, as intersex people do, is completely medicalized. Our differences are called "physical" because, sure, they can currently be observed by some marker on our bodies. Genital differences, hormone levels, now chromosomes etc.
Sexuality and gender differences, unlike sex differences, are not seen as physical, and instead were (often still are) pathologized as mental disorders. Of course, sexuality and gender differences both hinge on the concept of binary "biological" sex, which we know is false.
I am against using the word "biological" to describe intersex/sex spectrum differences. What is "biological?" Occuring naturally within body and mind? Existing congenitally, from the point of birth? Traceable via current science?
"Biological" was a staple. A LOT of intersex 101 materials use definitions including phrases like "born with biological sex characteristics" which I know is useful to distinguish bodily sex traits from gender: something that is hard for us to do with general audiences.
Where is the line, and why are LGB+T not equally "biological?" Does "biological" carry the weight that something is more natural, therefore more valid? Does it carry the weight of science, our most accepted system of revealing "objective truth" in the world?
I believe it's dangerous to seek "biological" or bodily markers for social concepts, e.g. chromosomes being a predictor of gender in #intersex kids, a gay gene. (Remember "race biology?")
Interesting though: conservative groups may accept intersex bc we have "biological" markers for differences that are affirmed by current technology, while this phenomenon is exactly what fuels our medical erasure, a practice which firmly began in homophobia.
I have similar issues with "born with" as describing intersex traits. Aren't LGB+T people also "born with" their differences, even if they realize or come out later in life? Intersex people also may not realize until later in life. Some til their 40's, even.
Intersex & trans affirming language share many commonalities:
▪️Removing associations between gender and body parts
▪️Questioning if "identity" and similar terms are actually dismissive, e.g. why are we not simply what we are, instead of "someone who identifies as something?"
I see conservative outlets weaponizing intersex existence AGAINST trans people, to say that we are valid via "biological" while non-intersex trans people are not.
To talk about #intersex requires serious nuance: a lot more labor explaining things like sex vs gender, & how these are both connected & distinct, in ways that r hard to sell to legislators, medical bodies, + authorities that determine human rights. (even to mainstream LGBT orgs)
We're starting to have a mainstream understanding of what it means to be gay, & even to be trans (ofc in a more limited binary narrative) which is a good thing. It's a difficult balance selling something to a general audience vs conveying real nuances our communities experience.
It's literally my full time job to describe #intersex issues and craft sensitive language. We want to launch a similar mainstream understanding of "intersex." I don't have all the answers and I'm sure my positions will evolve quickly, too.
Still searching for good substitutes for "biological" and "born with" that distinguish sex and gender to general audiences, while consciously affirming non #intersex LGB+trans people as equally valid.
Lately what I've been doing is dancing around these terms, e.g. statements like "intersex people have bodies that defy a common understanding of sex as a simple 'male' or 'female' binary" which feels more accurate while long winded.
My favorite #intersex 101 ever (so far) comes from Dr. Anne Fausto Sterling via @INTO.…
"Sex in the body is something that’s built on layer after layer. There’s the layer of chromosomes, the layer of hormones, the layer of genitals and anatomy, that all build towards what we see as male or female... they don’t always work in concert." —@Fausto_Sterling on #intersex
Anyway, everyone is valid, language is hard, the end. /thread
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