Thursday, 7 July 2016

Intersex traumas: don't call me a transsexual

Over the past decade I have had to explain on countless occasions what the difference between intersex and transsexuality is. To this day I find it quite astounding that there are people who fail to see the difference, or who assume that there's any overlap between the two. After all, one is about moving between a sex binary, while the other is about coming to terms with a non-binary body.

I have sadly had to deal for over a decade with primarily Dutch physicians and psychologists who didn't get this difference, refused to accept it, refused to acknowledge me as being intersex, felt it'd help me if they'd brainwash me, or a combination of these reasons. At any rate they insisted that I had to be transsexual, possibly falsified medical results to hide evidence of me being intersex (and ignoring contradicting German evidence).

At this point, over twelve years later, there is no question any more of me being intersex. Yet I am left to struggle with the legacy of all those years of physicians and psychologists trying to 'prove' to me that could not possibly be anything other than a guy and/or transsexual. My passport at the time said that I was male after all, and I preferred a female role, ergo transsexual. Simple, right?

This despite the increasing amount of evidence that my body's phenotype was that of a female. Despite the best attempts by specifically the Amsterdam VUmc hospital's gender team to falsify blood test and other results to make it appear that I was a normal male, I learned through further blood tests, the hormone therapy and surgery with subsequent biopsy of the testicular tissue that I was not and never had been male.

Yet the memory remains of all those years spent looking at myself in the mirror, trying to make sense of what I saw. Some days I thought I looked female, while other days I could only conclude that I was looking at a male. I honestly did not know, but needed answers. I was however convinced that I was not transsexual beyond this brief initial week before I learned that this 'intersex' thing existed. The issue was with my body, not my mind.

As I managed to explain to a physician after a number of appointments, for an intersex person there are no answers for what's at point 'A', namely about what this body is that they inhibit, let alone what they should feel about it. This in comparison to a transsexual person, who knows point A - being the male/female body which they dislike - and point B being the inverse binary body they wish to get.

What's this point 'B' for an intersex person? Only after learning what point A is can one begin to think about that. Maybe there doesn't have to be a transition at all and point A is totally fine. One cannot know. Yet while one merely desires to figure out A, physicians and psychologists are hammering on point A being that one is a regular guy and that one should want to get to point B, being to become a gal. This isn't particularly helpful.

There never was support for me as an intersex person. Just constant, never-ending abuse and harassment. Denial that anything I thought I knew about my own body could possibly be right. Denial that the MRI results from Germany meant anything. I was fighting against the threat of forced transsexuality.

I'm a woman. I have always been a woman.

I have a normal natural female hormone level. I had my first menstruation at age 11. I have ovaries, a vagina and a typically female skeleton. There's nothing about me which would even begin to suggest that I am or have ever been a regular guy. Or a guy in any sense of the word.

This has to have been the most agonising thing about the past twelve years: trying to find that modicum of understanding and acceptance of what I am. Instead I mostly found myself constantly defending myself against doctors and psychologists who had to keep hammering on this one singular 'fact' they loved so much: I was a guy and wanted to become a girl. I had to be transsexual in their eyes. Whether I wanted to or not.

My identity as an intersex person was irrelevant to them. They never cared about it. All they wanted was to wipe it, brainwash me until I accepted their lies of me being a guy who wanted to get his dick cut off to become a pretty girl.

To this day I am not certain whether they were truly that naive or evil, or whether it was all meant to get me as an intersex person to embrace 'normalcy' and undergo a sex-reassignment surgery as a way to get me a belated 'normalisation' surgery, the genital mutilation surgery they perform routinely on intersex infants every day.

As a result, 'transsexuality' as a word only holds memories of terror, of pain and agony. Of fighting an impossible fight against a Medical Establishment who I could never dream to win against. Subsequently, when someone then refers to me as 'transsexual', or implies that my intersex condition is in any way, form, or shape related to it, it essentially makes that I am back in that horrible period again.

I hate transsexuality, because it is one of the prime triggers for my post-traumatic stress disorder. I hate transsexuality, because it is the prime reminder to me of my suffering and helplessness, of why I lost over a third of my life so far to something so utterly senseless and damaging.

And yet I cannot seem to get away from it. No matter how much I try to be just a woman and just a hermaphrodite, something which should have nothing to do with my life any more just keeps haunting me.



Gjermund ॐ Gusland Thorsen said...

Thank you Maya for clearing that up.

Inner Prop said...

To be clear, you don't hate transexuals, right? You hate transexuality.

I have a brother who is a trans-man (hope that description is acceptable) and I had started following you after reading a Quora answer you posted.

I can see from the outside the confusion people have and the frustration the confusion can cause. I wonder if including transexuals and intersexed people in with the LBG community isn't causing more harm through confusion than the additional political and public visibility benefits.

Maya Posch said...

@Inner Prop: Correct, I do not dislike transsexuals in the slightest. Even if I do not understand their motivations (my situation being different from theirs), I am fine with them taking actions which will ultimately make them happier, as well as those around them.

You're probably right that just throwing everything together in one big pile is probably not very helpful. LGB are purely about sexual orientation after all, whereas the others are a lot more complex.

Most people do not even know or care about intersex either. We just get thrown into the pile and even though there are far more intersex people than transsexual ones, many treat us as if we're just transsexuals if we're lucky. If we're not then we're being treated as if we have some gruesome disorder.

I guess much of my post is about my struggle to disentangle intersex from transsexuality, as you surmised. They're two completely different issues, so I too question the benefit of mixing them up, along with the LGB issues.