Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Alice Dreger, have you no shame?

Dear Reader,

Alice Dreger recently posted a page in her blog that now reads:

Why "Disorders of Sex Development"? (On Language and Life)

The original title of that speech which she gave at the Kinsey Institute was:

"No Matter How You Slice It? Parsing Intersex"

The official announcement follows:
Nov. 12, 12 p.m.-1:15 p.m., Kinsey Institute Conference Room, Morrison Hall 2nd Floor, Bloomington -- Alice Dreger, Ph.D., associate professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University, will present "No Matter How You Slice It? Parsing Intersex." Is "intersex" a biological description or a political identity? A pathology, a variation, a human rights issue? And who belongs in and out of the category? This lecture will consider the many ways "intersex" has been constructed and deconstructed -- historically, medically, politically -- and will end with a suggestion of what makes the most sense today. For more information, contact jbass@indiana.edu.

Many people contacted the host of Dreger’s lecture and expressed their concerns about the lack of sensitivity in such a title being presented at the Kinsey Institute.

It is very interesting that ever since Alice Dreger started defending J Michael Bailey and writing long, inaccurate articles claiming that poor Bailey has been terribly mistreated and his life "ruined" by transsexuals, it seems that she has started following Bailey’s script herself by purveying the most absolutely offensive kinds of images (remember the cover and title of Bailey’s book) in order to generate controversy and attention. (See: Why would anyone defend this man?)

The Organisation Intersex International received many e-mails from intersex people from all over the United States and Canada about this title. All of them expressed their hurt and disgust that anyone would even think of such a title, especially after all the controversy that Dreger’s DSD Consortium had generated. The use of the title "No matter how you slice it" is unbelievably offensive to most of us. It’s one thing to attack a gender minority with DSD terminology. It’s quite another to rub it in by using vengeful titles for seminar talks.

Modeling herself on Bailey: Generating controversy and attacking critics

Many of us are now convinced that Dreger is positioning herself as the “J Michael Bailey of Intersex.” Whether that is true or not, she is off to a good start. She is out there stirring up even more controversy about DSD by using inflammatory titles for her talks, and will undoubtedly lash back at those who criticize her obscene titles.

Even those outside the intersex community are starting to understand how Dreger reacts to the slightest criticism, something many of us have had to contend with for quite a while now.

In a particularly flagrant case, Dreger recently attacked a transgender graduate student who criticized transphobia in academe:

Letter to WPATH Board of Directors about Dreger's attack on graduate student:

See also the following essay by Elise Hendrick: “Alice Dreger Destroys Academic Freedom in Order to Save It”

Responding to this new pattern of attack:

Let’s parse Dreger’s lecture. It’s time that intersex people do some of the parsing for a change. It is about intersex people, isn’t it? All the parsing that has been going on, that is?

Dreger knows full-well what she's doing when she uses language like that. It's a deliberately creepy hint about the "slicing up of genitals" by Dreger's expert medical colleagues after they decide who is to be assigned male and who is to be assigned female. The abstract then goes on to assign Dreger the power to decide about just about everything: who's in and who's out, who's real and who's an ideologue, etc., even though she's become an anathema to the intersex community for her insistence on pathologizing terminology.

Let’s start at the beginning, and work our way through Dreger’s talk:

The challenging thing about talking about the history and politics of the term “intersex” is that the term is a moving target. That is to say, it’s meaning seems to change even as we talk about it. – Alice Dreger

Target: why is it being targeted and who is targeting it? It appears that Dreger has made a slip and given the reader the whole purpose of her intersex/DSD activism – targeting intersex people and their rightful place as adults who should also have a say in what happens to us and to intersex children.

How you define intersex depends on how you define males and females. The category of intersex, like the category of male and female, has been (and will continue to be) constructed in different ways at different times and places. Nature is messy, even though we try to create neat categories from nature’s mess. – Alice Dreger

Messy. Nature’s mess: Another slip. So, we need experts like Dreger to help clean up Nature’s mess by making it clear that intersex people are “disordered” (maybe the messiest group) while those who can fit more easily in the male and female categories are “ordered”.

Reading between the lines, this appears to be a long apologia by Dreger of why she chose to champion DSD and why it was a great idea. She must be getting a lot of pushback from various quarters (even beyond the intersex community) for having done that. Thus she's now come out to explain it all, via yet another revisionist history.

Some observations:

After beating around the bush with all sorts of extraneous stuff, Dreger gets down to what she's really trying to do: Dreger makes it clear that she was the key person who "decided" that DSD was the right thing to do for the good of the intersex community. If nothing else, Dreger still wants to claim full credit as the decision-maker.

However, she goes on to make it appear that her DSD decision was seen as being good by almost all others, as if everyone immediately saw her "wisdom". Nowhere does she mention the extreme lengths she went to to promote DSD and push it down everyone's throats. Nor does she mention that when encountering pushback from the intersex community, she made personal attacks on critics as being a tiny minority of fringe identity ideologues, etc. - in a manner very reminiscent of Bailey's behavior.

Unfortunately for Dreger, criticism of DSD will not go away. Milton Diamond's essay in particular is steadily gaining traction and must be really grating on Dreger now - as then evidenced in the following re her Kinsey talk:

A couple of people at my Kinsey talk pressed me about the terminology and asked me to work more on trying to find a new, better term. What about, for example, "variations of sex development," as some have suggested? Honestly, I don't see that term flying in the medical system; I've asked about it, and it doesn't go anywhere. Part of the reasonable fear among medical professionals is over-de-pathologizing sex anomalies. . .

In a paper just published in a special issue I edited with Paul Vasey, historian Elizabeth Reis proposes "divergence of sex development" as an alternative. I think this is a good idea in general, and I hope that the big players will consider this term as an option.

But in general, I'm not interested in spending more time on nomenclature for sex anomalies and sex variations. Nomenclature is, at some level, a problem of luxury. Given a choice between spending energy on trying to get the perfect term or trying to save perfectly healthy clitoral tissue from well-meaning pediatric surgeons, I'll go for the later. – Alice Dreger

That certainly appears self-centered and dismissive of those actually directly concerned. It is as if intersex people who are over 18 years of age have no right to address any of these issues concerning intersex children. Unlike Dreger, there are issues about this topic that we do understand. Intersex adults were once intersex children.

Dreger spends an entire year or more of her life in a mean-spirited effort to push DSD down the throats of the intersex community. And now, when people even outside that community are beginning to question the wisdom of her “nomenclature victory", she replies with “...I'm not interested in spending more time on nomenclature for sex anomalies and sex variations. Nomenclature is, at some level, a problem of luxury."

"No Matter How You Slice It? Parsing Intersex": The Dark Side of Dreger's DSD Activism

That title reveals an insidiously hateful side of Dreger’s character: For someone who prides herself in being ever so clever with words, she had to know how hurtful that title would be to intersex people (especially those who've been "sliced" physically and emotionally by the system Dreger represents, and who don't appreciate being referred to as "it" either).

What reason could she have had to use such an awful title? Now I'm not one to attribute motives without hard evidence, but some folks might suspect Dreger of being in a rage against intersex people for having "turned the world against her", or some other such imagined injury. Folks might also suspect Dreger of designing that title to ensure that few or no intersex people would attend her talks (given the difficulty in maintaining one's emotions in the face of such despicable taunts).

So there we have it: Dreger out there trying to ensure that she gets credit as the decision-maker who gave the world "DSD", then dismissing any suggestions that the nomenclature should be changed as a "luxury" not worth wasting precious time on. Furthermore, when doing this Dreger presses home her academic power to define, defame and dismiss intersex people, in talks entitled "No Matter How You Slice It? Parsing Intersex".

For more information about Alice Dreger and DSD:
by Curtis E. Hinkle

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Circus Freaks and Alice Dreger’s Hermaphrodite Show

Alice Dreger, one of the most well-known intersex activists (who is not intersexed) will be giving a lecture relating to Disorders of Sex Development (the term she has advised doctors and professionals to call us). This lecture will be part of:

Kresge Art Museum's "Circus: The Art of the 'Strange & Curious' " exhibit. The exhibit will end with a showing of the film “Freaks”.

See http://www.intersexualite.org/Circus_freaks.pdf

I have just a few questions:
1)How would women feel if the most well-known feminist was a man?
2)How would women feel if this man totally dismissed their experiences as irrelevant and was working to not only label them as inferior but genetically defective (which is what Dreger’s DSD terminology and guidelines are about)?
3)How would women feel if this famous “feminist” who was a man went about calling women pejorative names without asking them how they felt about those insulting labels?
4)How would women feel if this same feminist man was giving a lecture on feminism at an exhibit of explicit pornographic art objectifying women from an historical perspective?
5)How would women feel if this exhibit ended with a showing of “Deep Throat”?

Would women denounce this? I am certain that many would. And as an intersexed person, I am denouncing this upcoming lecture of Dreger's.

I can see some valid points in Dreger's lecture but having a non-intersexed person who will be calling me offensive names surrounded by pictures of circus freaks is not what I call intersex activism.

by Curtis E. Hinkle

Talking About What Matters?

A response to Alice Dreger
by Curtis E. Hinkle

I am writing this response publicly because I write this in fear of further distortions and retaliation from the self-appointed Mother of the intersex community in the United States, Alice Dreger. She recently wrote a blog in which she once again tells us in the intersex community what is best for us, something which has been typical of her activism for years: “The Mommy Knows Best” syndrome of intersex activism. The title of her blog entry is “Talking about What Matters”

In this blog entry and others she has recently written, the message is clear:

We, the intersexed, do not matter.

I think it is time to tell Ms. Dreger just how offensive her activism is to many intersexed people from all over the world and it has indeed been VERY offensive to many of us for the following reasons:

1) She has a history of silencing people and denying them access to being heard if they do not conform to HER ideas on sex and gender.

2) She works closely with people who have eugenic ideas concerning children who are not born “normal”. She actively defends them as serious scientists and condemns those who oppose their pseudoscience as the ones who are radical. She has been actively defending J. Michael Bailey, well-known for supporting selective abortion for homosexual fetuses and who is now involved in intersex research along with Alice Dreger. [See footnote (a)]

3) She has consistently refused to give any visibility to Intergender issues and has written that Intergender does not in essence exist. In her world only males and females have a "real" gender identity. All others need help from her experts from the Consortium of DSD, (Disorders of Sexual Development) to know what gender they “should” be. In essence, she advocates forcing gender assignments on the intersexed. [See footnote (b)]

4) She is one of the main architects of one of the most universally offensive paradigm shifts in intersex protocols in recent history. It is she who wrote the article that recommended that the term "intersex" be replaced by "Disorders of Sex Development" and she did this without consulting almost anyone in the intersex community. It is almost impossible to find any support for such pejorative terminology among actual intersexed people.
[See footnote (c)]

5) She has consistently been in favor of pathologizing any rejection of one’s original sex assignment and has written many times over the years that transsexuality is a mental illness.

6) She is now recommending that a person with a sexual fetish for feminizing surgeries, Anne Lawrence, be invited as a speaker. People in the intersex movement adamantly oppose Anne Lawrence and others who have surgical fetishes being involved in intersex. Lawrence is now on an influential APA committee for intersex. Not only is this offensive to many intersexed people who suffered genital surgery as infants in order to “normalize” their appearance but Ms. Lawrence is in no way connected to actual intersexed people. [See footnote (d)]

7) She misrepresents the objections of intersexed individuals to the denial and erasure of our experience of ourselves by accusing us of promoting establishment of a third gender. What we have been advocating in OII is allowing the intersexed child self-definition and self-determination of their bodies and identities. Intersexed people and our allies from all over the world have voiced our objection to the physical violence against our bodies and the psychological violence against our lives imposed by a medical paradigm that was not patient centered. She has mistranslated this to mean that we want to be raised as a third gender and that mistranslation furthers a violent image of us as freakish and marginalized.

Ms. Dreger does not in fact talk about things that really matter to the intersexed. The following list illustrates some of the things she has misused her position of power to impose on the intersexed. These were done without knowledge of or input from actual intersexed people themselves. We object!

1) Supporting the eugenics movement and conflating intersex with a birth defect.
2) Perpetuating the binary identity movements of male and female only.
3) Telling doctors to change the terminology from "intersex" to "Disorders of Sex Development".
4) Actively supporting a well-known sex fetish and one of its main apologists, Anne Lawrence and thereby conflating issues involving people who get sexually excited at the idea of feminizing surgeries and children who undergo these same surgeries without consent.

Not only do all the above issues not matter, they actually undermine intersex visibility and progress. Intersex is not about identifying as a male or female which is something that applies to the whole human population. Intersex is not about birth defects to most of us and it is certainly not a disorder to most of us. And please, no sex fetishists for feminizing surgeries need apply to “help” us. Intersexed people, by and large are ardently working toward an end to genital surgeries which have been historically forced upon us without informed consent. I would recommend that Dreger start talking about what matters: actual intersex issues as articulated by intersexed people and that she stop supporting eugenics, sex fetishes, imposing binary male/female identities on all people and calling the whole intersex community disordered.


(a) To read about Dregers’ defense of J Michael Bailey and his support of homosexual eugenics see: DSD: Homophobia and Transphobia exposed
(b) To read Dregers’ view that Intergender does not exist:
Quote from Dreger: Second, and much more importantly, we are trying to make the world a safe place for intersex kids, and we don’t think labeling them with a gender category that in essence doesn’t exist would help them.
Source: http://www.isna.org/faq/third-gender
By the way, I am not aware of anyone in the intersex community who is advocating raising children as third gender. What we have been advocating in OII is allowing the child to self-define. However, many intersexed people all over the world would disagree that Intergender does not in essence exist and actually consider that perspective a form of violent erasure of our existence. – Curtis E. Hinkle
(c) To read about Dregers’ responsibility in changing the very label intersex people are to be called, read: Alice Dreger: Disorders of Sex Development
(d) To read about Dregers’ support of Anne Lawrence, who promotes the rights of those with a sex fetish for feminizing surgeries see: http://www.alicedreger.com/in_fear.html
Quote from Dreger's blog: P.S. Several readers have asked me who I would recommend if they were interested in inviting a transgender activist/advocate to their campus to speak. I recommend clinician and scholar Anne Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D. whose work has focused on improving healthcare for transgender women like herself;