Saturday, 1 October 2016

The impact of being white, male, female, gifted and intersex

Over the past decades I have had plenty of opportunity to experience what it means to be a number of things in Western society, ranging from the mundane to things which the average person has never heard of before. Each of these things are things which I was either born with, or related to them. For every item it either impacted my life in a significant way, or barely at all.

First the easy one: I was born as a Caucasian person, i.e. the most boring form of 'white'. Not typically standard, though, since I have type I-II skin (forget about tanning) and reddish-brown hair. I escaped the brunt of the jokes and harassment aimed at red-haired people, but especially my super-light skin gets me a fair amount of (sometimes unpleasant) remarks.

Moving on, I started my life as a 'male', in so far as that outwards I appeared to be male (until puberty kicked in) and lived in a male gender role until the end of puberty. Swapping gender roles from male to female shortly after that, I cannot really say that there is much of a difference.

Sure, as a woman you're allowed to wear pretty much anything and are allowed a far wider range of behaviours, whereas male-accepted clothing tends to be rather all the same and include about five different colour ranges. I definitely find that I enjoy the freedom I have in a female role much more.

Among the negatives of being a woman has to be the having of periods (yay, pain) and dealing with the occasional guy who insists on getting too close and trying to be too friendly (with or without lewd remarks) is annoying at least and potentially dangerous if it involves a drunken guy. Fortunately I have learned to beat up guys in the past, so I'm at least hardly the defenceless maiden there. Not being cat-called as a 'guy' by guys (or gals) made for a more quiet life, but it seems like a worthy sacrifice to me.

As for discrimination with my job (software development) or similar, I haven't noticed anything there. Even in my contacts with large (German) businesses during projects I have never noticed any negative treatment of me or any other women involved. We are being paid the same as our male colleagues and skill seems to be valued far higher than whichever genitals one may or may not possess.

Putting all of those things together, I can say that neither my skin nor my gender role has really affected me in a negative way. I regard all of them fairly neutral, even if I can appreciate what I have ended up with there.

To anyone who has followed my story for any length of time it should be fairly obvious what the impact of me having been born intersex was, yet the impact of being gifted is probably less known. Both of these things were however instrumental in alienating me from the people around me, starting as a child, then getting so much worse during puberty.

The physical aspects of being intersex, with my body developing in a confusing manner, along with me being on a fully different intellectual level as others made it seem like I was alien somehow. I had to live with a body which refused to develop in a normal male fashion, while I found nothing which my classmates did interesting, except where it involved video games, computers and similar.

Naturally I had no idea back then that I was different, beyond feeling like a typical nerd loser. Someone who'd rather do 'nerdy' things than 'normal' things, and who would rather talk about adult topics than the normal stuff children and teenagers talk about. That's how I ended up just reading about quantum mechanics or just regular fiction books during high school instead of following the classes. I still aced my way through HS, despite putting in hardly any effort. Never doing homework, never studying or learning for a test beyond skimming the text book a bit beforehand.

Being gifted taught me that I can put my mind to anything and accomplish that task. Anything but making other people understand what it is that I am doing or why it's so interesting. It's probably one of the reasons why prefer to just be by myself, working on interesting projects and talking with people more like me via internet. If I could, I'd give up this body in a heart-beat. Stop being human, just be an intelligence without all that unnecessary burden.

As said, being intersex isn't easy either. There's a certain expectation of 'normalcy' within society, whether it is to neatly divide everyone into categories along one's skin colour, genitals (only one set, please!), or the sexual and political preferences (could be one category...). The fact that intersex exists is a clear hint by nature that the concept of binary gender and biological sex is invalid, something which societies cannot cope with (yet).

I spent the past twelve years surviving the worst individual members of society, the medical community and psychologists could throw at me, from accusations of me having a gruesome 'disorder' (DSD), to being crazy enough to warrant immediate lock-up in a mental hospital to being an 'unnatural existence'.

What I experienced solely due to having been born intersex is among the most hateful, frightening, hurtful, traumatising and terrible experiences. I can say basically nothing positive about how I have been treated by others as a result, and the horrible way society still treats people like me simply defies belief. On one side they will condemn female genital mutilation (FGM) as a 'barbaric practice', while at the same time approve the genital mutilation of intersex infants in order to 'normalise' them.

In the end I guess I can say that I can deal with pretty much anything life has thrown at me, except for the intersex part. Not because of me being intersex by itself. I'm fine with how I am and would not want to change my body significantly, let alone remove parts to be more 'normal' or such nonsense. Nay, it's purely about how especially doctors and psychologists have abused and hurt me for reasons I still cannot comprehend.

Even if I were to undergo surgery tomorrow in order to make me into a regular female, removing any traces of the male genitals, it could not erase the psychological trauma, or improve anything. In fact, it'd just make things unimaginably worse.

This is the primary reason why I have lost all faith in humanity and why even something as 'straightforward' as finding a new place to move into is as inviting as voluntarily opting to get gang-raped. Maybe if they're nice they'll refrain from doing so, but the expectation is there.

Being intersex shattered my trust in humanity. The latter has done almost nothing since then to restore that trust. This poses me with the very serious question of why I would wish to continue dealing with it. Why live in human society? Why deal with people who likely just want to screw me over no matter whether I am looking for a place to live or merely buy a sandwich?

There are many things I can get upset about in daily life. The attitude of third-wave feminists about how tough life is for Western women is one. The hypocrisy about FGM is another. The insistence of primarily men to judge about female reproductive health also gets me properly riled up. The treatment of the poor. The wasting of food. Terrible energy policies. Too many topics to choose from.

Yet in the end I'm always again reminded that as an intersex person I do not exist and do not have rights. That I am only still alive because 'they' haven't gotten around to taking care of me. People like us are invisible, after all. Merely parasites until we can get 'normalised' and brainwashed into being proper, binary cogs.

And for some reasons landlords manage to remind me of doctors and psychologists in all the wrong ways. Go figure.



Inner Prop said...

I'm glad you're still posting. I was worried last Sunday.

First I want to say that as a member of humanity, the weight of numbers may be against us, but there are good, nice, empathetic and sympathetic people out there. They may surprise you yet (in a good way).

Secondly I'm pleasantly surprised at what you had to say about equality in the workplace. I hear a lot of complaints in the US and maybe we're worse, but it's nice to know that some people somewhere have performance based equality.

Finally, just to help you feel you are not alone, two of my daughters complain about being pale girls and the problems therein. They too are not red haired or freckled, but they are pale.

Maya Posch said...

@Inner Prop - I think that one of the things which is helpful in Europe is that countries here generally tend to have full anti-discrimination laws. Within the EU it's even a primary human right. This means that it is not allowed to discriminate against someone by paying them for example less, on the basis of their gender or sex.

In the US such a provision in the constitution sadly fails, allowing for such travesties like discrimination based on race, gender, sex and religion, as well as the legal discrimination against other groups based on one's religious views.

Sadly this doesn't really help us intersex people much, but at least it's a start, I guess.

And yes, people tend to assume that you're unhealthy or something if you have very light skin. It can be annoying :)

Aurélien said...

Don't lose faith in humanity yet.
People like you, like us, who post and talk and act and change things for the others and the next generation, we're worth staying for each other at least :)

Light Warrior said...

I was also worried, reading your last post. I'm glad you are OK