Sunday, 29 June 2014

To Not Have A Body

For over two decades I was told that I was a boy, then a guy. That when I looked in the mirror I saw a male. For a decade I got told that I was a boy, even when I had my doubts. Doubts which got shoved aside and ridiculed.

To this day I still can not see men as men. Physically speaking. I recognize that they exist, that they look a particular way, but according to my brain's programming I am what a male looks like. Ergo those so-called males are not.

In some ways having the German medical results and the conclusion of having my official name and gender changed to female was a terrible thing, as it committed me to a female role. Not that a male role suited me, but at least there I had a whole medical system, politicians and psychologists telling me that I was just a confused guy. Of course my looks did not match up with this male identity.

Ironically you could say that my external programming has led me to see women as 'men', since I look female, but to me this was associated with what a male looks like. Yet they are also female.

Now that I'm still fighting to learn what my body truly looks like, nothing about any of this still makes sense. Most of this whole gender thing just hurts. I don't understand what this 'male' thing, other than something horrible which was forced upon me for so many decades. I'm trying to figure out what this 'female' thing is what I supposedly have always been, yet which I knew I wasn't. Female is male and male is female. There are no males, all females are female and male. Everything makes just about equal sense.

My body doesn't make any sense. People telling me what I'm supposed to see in it isn't helping much. In the end it's just their interpretation.

I appear to have a rather odd collection of genitals and reproductive organs, though I can not be sure which exactly. Here too I can not say anything definitive.

Nothing of this makes any sense to anyone not familiar with the same situation.

I'm so terribly confused.


Sunday, 22 June 2014

A Month Of Medical Uncertainty, Questions And Surgery

Last month I went to a nearby hospital for a second opinion regarding the reconstructive surgery I will be having next month. Though initially positive, with an MRI scan and other examinations scheduled, the moment I got a response from a third surgeon and told the surgeon at the other hospital about it, the MRI scan suddenly got cancelled, as the focus shifted to a very slow investigation and determination of my type of intersex, starting with genetics. This even though my genotype will have no effect on any surgery. Defeated, I tried to ignore all this and just see this upcoming surgery as the one event which would tell me the answers I have wanted to know for so long.

Then all of a sudden, a few days ago I got an email from a doctor I talked with at the hospital I went to last month, asking me to make a new MRI appointment. This came very sudden and no explanation was provided for why suddenly things got changed around. Now I have an MRI scan scheduled for the 8th of July, and a bloodtest on the 1st since it'll be a scan with contrast dye which requires one to have healthy blood chemistry. I really don't know what to think of this sudden change, but I'll go through with it regardless.

I should have the MRI scan results just in time to send them to the surgeon who'll do the surgery on the 14th next month. I'm not sure he'll need them, but more information can't hurt. I should be hearing about the surgery soon now. An appointment with the anaesthetist will be scheduled as well. Hopefully this can be done on the same day, or I'll have to travel twice to and from Munich. I also don't know yet whether insurance will cover the surgery, or that I'll have to cough up roughly ten-thousand Euro very soon now.

So, the events surrounding this MRI scan are just bizarre and confusing, while the surgery just frightens the hell out of me, mostly due to all of the uncertainties. While some have suggested in the past that I'm completely set on the 'fact' that I have female genitals, am a hermaphrodite and only seek to prove this, while ignoring any evidence to the contrary, things aren't quite that easy. While I would love to have a 'normal' body, I know I'll never have one. What I have in terms of male genitals is so underdeveloped and useless, and I have always felt deep inside that I have female genitals. With multiple confirmations from German physicians and surgeons on this latter point, I just want to know to which extent these female genitals are developed.

What I fear with this surgery is that the surgeon finds nothing remarkable and closes the incision again, leaving me with the burning question of what this 'vagina' was that multiple German medical teams have seen so far. I just want to know what is or isn't there. Connected to it the heavy psychological burden of wondering in how far I'm deceiving people around me by pretending to be a girl.

I don't believe in any of this 'you're whatever you know you are' kind of nonsense, to be honest. While I have to admit that my general appearance is more that of a female, I cannot ignore the matter of my physical sex in as far as verifiable at this point contradicting my feminine build. What if this Dutch physician was right when he told me that I should end this 'pointless quest' for answers to the wrong questions and that I am merely a 'feminine-looking male'?

There's only confusion, pain and horrific memories mixed in with the worst kind of apprehension possible for next month swirling through my mind, occupying most of my thoughts. Its stress has kept me from getting any decent sleep for many days now and I have seen myself forced to postpone activities to improve my day to day life, such as finally buying furniture. None of it is relevant. I just have to try and get through next month's challenges. Hopefully once I'm safely home again after the surgery I can find the peace again to keep rebuilding my life.

Engage survival mode.


Saturday, 14 June 2014

Would Alan Turing Have Committed Suicide In Today's Society?

June 7th, 1954 saw the demise of one of humankind's greatest minds in recent history when Alan Turing committed suicide. He only lived to the age of 41.

Instrumental in the code-breaking efforts of the British and other Allied forces during the Second World War and the development of computer science as we know it, Turing is even today recognized as one of the founders of today's computer-based systems as well as fundamental artificial intelligence research. Tragically his life was cut short due to a highly personal aspect of Turing's life, namely his affinity for members of the same sex.

After being caught he faced the choice of either getting sentenced to prison for this 'act of indecency' or to undergo chemical castration. Opting for the latter, he referenced this fact in a letter to a friend and fellow mathematician, Norman Routledge:


I've now got myself into the kind of trouble that I have always considered to be quite a possibility for me, though I have usually rated it at about 10:1 against. I shall shortly be pleading guilty to a charge of sexual offences with a young man. The story of how it all came to be found out is a long and fascinating one, which I shall have to make into a short story one day, but haven't the time to tell you now. No doubt I shall emerge from it all a different man, but quite who I've not found out.

[..]" [1]

Alan wrote this in 1952. Two years later, having undergone the chemical castration, the subsequent depression he suffered led to his decision to end his life.

By every reference and standard Alan Turing's story is a tragic one, yet a question which rarely gets asked is whether something similar could happen today. If not to Turing himself, were he alive today, then to someone else in a similar situation. Sadly, I have to admit that after giving it a lot of thought the past years - ever since I heard Turing's story - I cannot say with any reasonable amount of certainty that Western society has progressed to the point where such a thing would not be possible any more.

True, same-sex relationships are in general not illegal any more in Western societies - ignoring the areas where it's still an unhealthy idea - yet at the same time the sheer resentment and hatred which was noticeable back in the 1950s is still very much prevalent today. One only has to notice how for example homosexual men are referred to in the media. The stereotypical image of a homosexual man is one who is physically and mentally weak, is very feminine, and performs disgusting acts with other men which heterosexual men would rather not talk about. This all in light of research showing that in general homophobes tend to feel the most sexually excited at the thought or viewing of homosexual acts.

So while someone like Turing would be unlikely to face the human rights-infringing prospects of either imprisonment or castration courtesy of the British government, he would still face the public scorn and derision which comes with not being a white, heterosexual male in Western society. Every report I have seen or heard about so far indicates that non-heterosexuals are less happy than their heterosexual counterparts, with depression and an increased rate of suicide being the obvious results. One can also not ignore the countless reports about 'gay therapy' being applied in virtually every Western country, from the Netherlands to the US. This involves the - sometimes government-sponsored - brainwashing of an individual to contort his or her sexual preferences, which generally leads to severe depression and all too often suicide.

What has always hit me in Turing's story was the complete unfairness and irrelevance of what he was accused of. Even today Western governments feel the necessity to regulate and rule over both the biological sex, general sexuality and sexual preferences of their citizens. A truly fair government would not care about the gender of its citizens beyond a simple registration right after birth but no mark on official documents. It also would not care about the sexual preferences of the same citizens, nor would it feel called upon to limit partnerships through what amounts to simple discrimination. In the end Turing died because of how society treated him for something he was born with and which should have had zero impact on his daily life if the government hadn't interfered.

In contrast, when it comes to intersex individuals it's still the 1950s. Like how homosexuality wasn't allowed to exist back then with it actually being a criminal offence, so too are infants born with intersex characteristics immediately accused, judged, found guilty and subjected to forced and medically unneeded genital surgery on a similar level of cruelty as the chemical castration Turing was subjected to. It's a good indication of how far we as a society have come in the 60 years since Turing's death. Not a single step. The same mistakes are still being repeated and the innocent continue to suffer for what isn't their fault and which should never be a concern of society to begin with.

Those of us who celebrate Turing's accomplishments today still wish that we didn't have to also mourn his tragic and needless death.



Monday, 2 June 2014

Defining The Undefinable: Feminism And Misogyny

Misogyny: hatred of women. (from Greek: misos 'hatred' and gunē 'woman'). [1]
Feminism: the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of sexual equality. [1]

If there's one thing most people in discussions in the media, online and off-line are very assured about, then it has to be their conviction that their definition of specific terms have to be the right and precise ones. This is why some of the most abused terms whenever it's about men and women (or when people think it's about this subject) are those of feminism and misogyny, as well as their derivations. The awkward part about these fiery displays of self-assurance is that there's a painful absence of a clear definition of these terms both sides like to wield so prodigiously.

Let's start with the easy one: misogyny. Seems straight-forward enough, doesn't it? Someone hates women in general, ergo said person is a misogynist. Yet the problems arise when one starts asking what it is that this person hates and what defines women in such a sense that they are all included in this. Take for example the person most recently called out as a horrible misogynist: Elliot Rodger, the shooter in the 2014 Isla Vista, California shooting which killed 8 including himself. [2]

What did Elliot hate? Did he hate all women? No, to one reading his autobiography it becomes quite clear that he is only interested in - or rather obsessed by - the blonde, Caucasian type girl. What he hated was that they didn't flock to him. Over time this sense of rejection grew into hatred. In his view blonde, Caucasian women became 'women' in general. He didn't hate fat or ugly girls, he just longed to have this one perfect girlfriend. Unable to fill in this pre-formatted space in his head with a girl fitting the description, his obsession culminated in rage as he never found himself able to reflect upon this urge and deal with it.

Since 'blonde, attractive, Caucasian' women isn't 'all women', Elliot wasn't a misogynist. Just someone who was raised in an environment which apparently promoted the growth of pre-existing tendencies. The autobiography brings forward the image of an introverted individual who is convinced that he is extroverted, a dangerous situation for one's psyche because of the high probability of disappointment. In the end he found solace among others who blamed their problems on 'women', yet always in the most generic terms possible. No one hates women in general. No one can define exactly what they hate about 'women' without getting stuck in generic descriptions which would fit many men as well.

Much of the issue here is that of defining what a 'man' and a 'woman' are. What makes one into one and not the other? Do we truly have two distinct groups? What is 'masculinity' and what is 'femininity'? As someone who is both and yet neither due to being born in an intersex body, many of such related questions have been asked of me. Despite spending so many hours thinking about how I would define myself, or rather what parts of my personality could be defined as either feminine or masculine I can still only conclude that they're irrational stereotypes without a solid founding in reality.

Would a misogynistic person hate only, say, fifty percent of a person like me? Only the feminine bits, essentially. What if these properties are also found in men? When it comes down to it all properties can be assigned in relatively equal amounts to both men and women, whether it comes to patience, management capability and not getting lost. The only significant differences can be found in the brains, where brains defined as 'male' have a more pass-through structure, whereas 'female' brains are significantly more interconnected and are more aimed at analytical processing instead of snap-judgement. These are just the two ends of a spectrum, of course. From these tops at either side a gradual merging occurs until both types meet up in the middle.

Fine, you may think at this point, but if misogyny is - if you'll excuse me - a bit of a misnomer, then surely feminism is quite undeniable and easy to understand, right? In a way, yes. In Western society the group of individuals classified as 'women' based on their biological sex have for a long time been considered to be inferior to men for rather shaky and unscientific reasons. The reversal of this process and the harmonization of society into a more merit-based one has to be seen as one of the biggest sociological accomplishments of the 19th and 20th century which continues to this day. Yet when the easy to grasp part was done and over with and all women had the right to vote, the right to marry who they wanted, decide when they would get pregnant and the many stigmas surrounding women in Western society began to fade at long last, the nit-picking started.

The part where things go bad here is that at some point feminism crossed from the territory of 'suppressed group of individuals' to 'women's rights'. While some of the current issues at stake are fair ones, such as equal wage and everything else that fits into a merit-based system, things get fuzzy quickly when it zips into issues such as 'representation'. Why would any group of people in any function have to consist out of roughly half men and half women? What is the rational explanation for this? It's obviously not merit-based, but instead seems to make the assumption that 'it's the right thing'. While equal representation is logical in politics, in many other areas it's a curious position at best.

Here too starts the issue of trying to define 'women' and 'men'. Women are better at A, because of specific reasons, as well as at B and C. Yet 'women' isn't 'all women'. While some women are great organizers, or skilled with various technologies and the like, you see a similar diversity as on the male side of the spectrum, with those who can do marvelous things with a piece of wood, a computer or who are great leaders, while a similar number would be helpless at any of these tasks.

Ironically the insistence by certain individuals who call themselves feminists on various topics usually lead to blanket statements made about 'men'. Listening to some of the ranting done by these prominent figures show a disgruntlement towards men more severe than what even Elliot Rodger raged about in his autobiography. If anything these so-called feminists went straight from feminism into the exact opposite form of misogyny, missing of course the point that this straw man they set up of 'men' is largely fictional. The diversity of personalities among the individuals marked with a biological male sex is such that it is impossible to classify them all as part of one singular group.

This is something which I as an intersex individual understand quite well, as 'intersex' is the very definition of diversity. It covers thousands of medical conditions and biological variations, with each individual different from the other. I am an intersex individual, but I'm not every intersex individual. In fact I would say that I have very little in common with most intersex individuals, both physically and in terms of personality. This is no different from the diversity among so-called 'men' and 'women'. It's this diversity which makes all of us so very different and yet so very much the same.


[1] Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 12th edition.