Friday, April 18, 2008

The Chatty Cathy Approach to Intersex Activism

by Curtis E. Hinkle

When I was a child, my sister had a doll that was rather popular for a while. It was called “Chatty Cathy.” This particular doll interested me because it could talk. However, you had to pull a string on her back to start the conversation. Pulling strings to get someone to talk who otherwise was just a dummy who really had nothing to say made a lot of sense to me. It meant that people who had almost nothing to say except a limited repertoire of stupid and often illogical ideas would speak about those ideas at the moment and in the context which was most beneficial to the person pulling the string. Their freedom of speech was not really taken from them because you could rationalize that really what you were doing was spurring debate, initiating dialog and encouraging them to express themselves.

If only the DSD activists and specialists could be more like Chatty Cathy! Well, in a sense they are. One big difference. Unethical and tyrannical methods have been used to suppress OII’s freedom of speech. Tracing it to the exact individuals involved is still a challenge. We can only trace it to the place of origin and ISP’s. It has been going on for a long time now. But the Chatty Cathy Syndrome has still been rather effective. Yes, they indeed do suffer from CCS.

Since its beginning, OII and many people with OII and its website have been systematically defamed, hacked, and blacklisted while DSD activists publish tomes and have articles published in the New York Times and other national media outlets about their freedom of speech being seriously threatened. But those of us in OII cannot even get a short letter to the editor published. So, whose freedom of speech is really in peril?

Instead of simply giving up out of frustration and giving in to their abuse of power, I felt there was one approach that should be consistently and methodically developed and used against them – “helping” them say what they really mean in front of the whole world because it was clear that what they really had to say had to be exposed so that those affected could have real discussions about their control over intersex and trans issues.

This method involved huge risks because they have the power, the degrees and academic authority. By intentionally provoking them with sarcasm, histrionic analyses and carefully chosen tropes (such as eugenics, among others), they have been making one political mistake after another and more people are starting to see what their real message is. Yes, it probably did appear (and still does appear to many people) that OII is radical, angry and irrational. That is a risk that was worth taking because the other solutions would have never been effective because it meant accepting the victimization, the suppression of our right to speak.

I started this technique many years ago in an online support group that Dreger was monitoring even though she never posted. I had noticed that once she started controlling the content on ISNA’s blog many years ago that intersex issues were slowly disappearing from the site. I wrote a post entitled, “It’s about gender, stupid”. The post was not directed to anyone in particular. It was just a general discussion about how gender, especially gender norms, often have disastrous consequences on the everyday lives of intersex people. Not long after that post, maybe a week later, this is what appeared on the home page of ISNA’s website.
“Intersex is not about gender.”

I started checking around to find out who wrote that and it appears it was Alice Dreger herself. I also found out that she was writing almost all the content on ISNA’s site for a long time. If you notice, now that she is not with ISNA, the site has published almost nothing new.

There is NOT one mention that I can find on ISNA’s website about the Christiane Völling case in Germany. That case is probably one of the most important anti-surgery cases litigated. How could ISNA not be interested in this case? With their huge medical staff, why would they not offer open and positive support? The way the case has been handled, I fear that it might not succeed in the end. But the situation could have been different had there been more open discussion about this by those who are on the medical board of ISNA. Not a word anywhere that I can find.

Instead of speaking about such an important topic, what has Alice been doing? She has been publishing one blog entry after another on her personal blog in response to OII’s criticisms. She has been writing tomes denouncing the “feminine essence narrative” and actively defending Bailey, Lawrence and Triea. These people have nothing of scientific value to defend. There simply is no science behind what they are publishing. It is political spin and gender policing.

Why the silence about Christiane Völling’s case in Germany?

Her lawsuit is an anti-surgery case that was widely publicized in Europe with articles appearing in many languages throughout the world. There was almost nothing in English except what I translated.The reason for the silence among English-speaking experts is very simple. This is about a "feminine essence narrative." Christiane Völling was assigned MALE and her female reproductive anatomy was removed without her consent. She has proof of this and presented it in court. She won, but the surgeon is now appealing and the letters from the court still address her as "Herr Völling".Christiane knows that she is a woman despite her assignment as male. That is the reason there is NO support from Dreger and other DSD activists of this intersex woman who has been subjected to a life of suffering.

I have so many people to thank for having helped OII, some who are not directly associated with OII but who have been open to real discussion of intersex issues. I feel very positive about the future because real science based on data from the real world, not the narcissistic rants of political correctness or bigotry (which often form marriages of convenience), will ultimately prevail.

So, if you find that some of OII’s articles are “over the top” at times, remember that we have had no other way to get our message out but by provoking the people who are suppressing our freedom of speech to show their true intentions.

Therefore, in conclusion, I would like to stress OII has been a champion of DSD activism in the sense that we have been actively involved in “Defending the Speech of Dummies”.