Straight Up | Issue 10

Straight Up | Issue 10

This week’s column is about Intersexions, a documentary that premiered in Auckland last week. The film is a collaboration between my dear friend Mani Mitchell and Mark Lahood. It shares the stories of a number of intersex folks across the world, interwoven with Mani’s story. Mani is a part of a generation of people who were non-consensually surgically and hormonally assigned after birth.

Intersex is a composite term for over thirty conditions that originate pre-natally. In brief, an intersex person may have atypical chromosomes, genitals that are not typically assignable (inside or external), or sex development differences. Often intersex folks are left right at the end of the LGBTQQI… acronym – which is why I wanted to put them first today.

It is estimated that there are over 2000 intersex New Zealanders. Many of them will have had surgeries as babies to ‘correct’ what are perceived by medical experts to be ‘abnormalities’.

What this really amounts to is doctors deciding to make people who have different kinds of bodies/genitals ‘normal’. In most cases these procedures are performed at birth, but some have gone on throughout childhood. In some cases what we are talking about is simply a baby having a large clit, or a small penis (people with clit’s might agree, that having a bigger one could be rather excellent. Now imagine what it would be like if someone removed it from you without your consent.)

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that doctors taking it upon themselves to hack off parts of babies genitals is a bad idea. Many intersex people lost sensation in those parts altogether as a result of these surgeries. Others live with pain or incontinence. These procedures are now largely discredited. Intersex activists have argued these surgeries are more about assuaging the discomfort of society (is it a boy or a girl?) than that of intersex folks. Yet up to five nonconsensual surgeries still occur each day in the USA.

If I am ever blessed to have a gorgeous intersex child, I will tell the doctors to leave it up to them to decide what they want to do with their body. Mani said it best, “whatever body I was born with can’t be shameful.” I know one thing for sure - you wont create a happy ‘normal’ child by mutilating their genitals. 

Finally, I want to shout out to Mani and all of the amazing intersex activists of the world, who are using their own often-painful herm-stories to make change. Xox (Herm is a personal pronoun some intersex people have adopted in order to make living as intersex visible).

– Dame LaDida
This article first appeared in Issue 10, 2012.
Posted 12:51am Monday 7th May 2012 by La Dida.