BEWARE: Very political, this post might upset you or make you think!
The society that we are living in with all its discourses of power/knowledge wants to make us believe that there are only two sexes. But what if this wasn’t so? What if there are as Gilles Deleuze once famously proclaimed “a tiny thousand sexes”. What if 1 in 1000 or 10 000 newborn infants were intersexed, meaning that we couldn’t put the child in our neat little categories of male or female? What would our mostly Western societies be capable of doing in order to make them disappear? Because if we want to believe that there are only two sexes and such an inconvenient thing as an intersex person comes along and threatens to overthrow our belief system the easiest way of dealing with that problem is to make it disappear. Would they (different discourses, for example the state, the law, the medical establishment, the parents etc.) go so far and operate on that child, against its will to normalize it. Would they mutilate it’s genitals and sexual reproduction organs?
Yes, they all would. They all do!
The medical discourse constructs intersex people as an anomaly and this anomaly, this pathology has to be normalized- has to be taken care of- this is what medicine as a discourse according to Michael Foucault did from the very beginning. The discourse categorizes who and what is normal and who/what not and what then can be done to “cure” it.
The law- in Germany at least- tries to enforce that there are only two sexes too. This can be exemplified by the law (§ 12 BGB) and it’s guidelines that state that a child can’t be given an ambivalent first name. The first name of a child has to be either clearly female or male. No ambivalence is allowed. The law doesn’t state though that intersexed children have to be operated on, but it also doesn’t explicitly forbid it either.
The parents are often persuaded by doctors to allow the various “procedures” (read: mutilations) because otherwise the child will have a very hard time in this society and “we wouldn’t want to make the child feel like it is different”. They never seem to question that the child might only have such a hard time because of people like them.
These mutilations are justified by saying that it’s for the child’s own good. But is it really?
What about the hard childhood because they might have to operate on you more than once?
What about the adolescence in which you have to take hormones?
What about if no one ever really tells you what’s “wrong” with you but you know that you are somewhat different? After all other children don’t have to go to the hospital and take pills like you.
What about if because of these “procedures” you were only partly able to feel sexual pleasure because of numbness of some of the skin?
What about they never tell you and you have the feeling you are in the wrong body and finally decide to change your sex until you find out that they turned you into that body in the first place? You had a vagina/penis or a mixture of both but your parents preferred a son/daughter – or the doctor said “it’s easier to dig a hole than build a pole”? Thus you were turned into your body.
How would you feel?
Cheated, Angry, Hurt, Sad, Betrayed?
You had/have to go through all this just because people don’t want you to exist.
You have to because
Medicine decided that you are a not normal and the doctors want to try out fancy new techniques of sex reassignment surgery.
Your parents are too easily convinced because they only want your “best” and are thus complicit with the medical establishment.
The law acknowledges you only as male or female but not as neither or both.
We ( the Western nations) with our firm belief in human rights always point our finger at Africa and condemn the crimes of female genital mutilation that are committed in the name of tradition or religion. But we are actually doing exactly the same! The human right to psychical integrity/inviolability is violated either way.
Under German law (§ 2 GG) this right means that because of the human free will- any person has the right to decide what happens with his_her* (by writing in such a manner I try to make the existence of intersex and transgendered people visible) body and that you have to prove that a person no longer can execute this free will before you can for example operate on him_her*. The law also states that if you nevertheless do it you are committing a crime (§223 and § 226 StGB) and in case of, for example children, it can be interpreted as abuse or misuse of the duty to shield children from any harm.
If we have this law, why then are intersex people still operated out of existence? Why are we still waging a genocide against them?
Because according to the state there are so few?
Because we think we have the right to take their human right to bodily integrity away from them because they are not normal? Because we pathologies and construct them as such in the first place?
Because we can’t deal with the fact that “reality” is more diverse than we want it to be?
Because we are afraid of everything that threatens our “illusion” of two distinct sexes and that we would have to change our way of relating to the opposite sex(es) and to each other?
We are all part of this society and it’s not an abstract thing. Society lives and is re-produced through each of us and our deeds. We do society in our everyday life and can thus (help to) change it! The private (what we do and how we think) is political!
What’s your excuse (of letting this genocide happen)?
Or what do you do to make it stop?