Sunday, September 16, 2007

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.
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:
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;