Monday, August 30, 2004

Who is a woman? by Curtis E. Hinkle Founder - International Intersex Organisation

Who is a woman? This is a question that some are now asking themselves. I have heard say that a woman is defined by her birth certificate, her hormones, her chromosomes and her genitals.

But all this still cannot and does not define what a woman is; because there are women with high counts of testosterone who even grow beards, others whose chromosomes say xy, xo, xxy, xxxy, xo/xy not to mention those of us who are born with ambiguous genitalia ... yes, intersex people!

I know of many a woman who expresses her masculine side without wanting nor desiring to be male identified and the same goes for men who demonstrate a rather strong penchant for their softer, more feminine side. These people still represent their gender, they are on some point of the gradient scale of their gender is all.

Masculine women and feminine men is something most of us are familiar with and accept but what of the woman who tells you she is a prisoner in her male body? What of the man who says the same thing, are they hallucinating or fantasizing, have they gone off the deep end of sanity?

Some women spaces do not accept their sisters born with an intersex or transsexed condition. Some women, because of what they were taught, say that these intersex and transsex women aren't really women... they say that such people are working for the patriarchy in order to co-opt womanhood, that intersex and transsex women are out to replace them or invade their sacred spaces and yet these same people accept into their midst IS and TS men, men who were born with what passes for a female body. This allowance for men (FTM) in women's spaces is not right as it says that these men are really 'women' and therefore dismisses and diminishes the very identities of FTM's. So there we have it, a double standard with an inside out twist … accept those who were female born (and invalidate them ) while refusing the females born with male genitalia or atypical genitalia.

Believe me, I would probably react strongly if i were faced with some new aspect of life... I would question and doubt to be sure. Still, there comes a time and a defining moment when enough evidence and proof is gathered in favor of these women to be fully and without question, accepted into the fold of femaleness, into the mysteries they have for so long been denied.

I am one such woman... a very feminine *femme* of the lesbian persuasion, a feminist capable of evolution and deep comprehension of differences, a High Femme!

Yet, even within the lesbian community, my femmeness is dissed and looked at with doubt, not because of my intersex condition but because I am not enough like other dykes, not up to date in style or manner of expression. Naturally, I am a very out queer lesbian, one who stands out in a crowd, sometimes because or my intersex condition and at other times for my expressions of femininity that seems to raise the hackles on some of my sisters since they would view me as a sell out to male dominated customs of seeing a woman… because I love and want to use make-up, lipstick, and above all shop till I drop without ever buying a pair of Birkëndocks (no diss intended).

Women come in all shapes and sizes, beliefs and politics, they issue forth from different milieu's and cultures. Women go through much abuse at the hands of others in society, they are often the butt of mean spirited 'jokes', of disrespect and of outright hate and horrible acts of violence perpetrated against them each and everyday no matter the culture and 'evolved' society in which they happen to live in.

Women can be nurturing or not, they can be basically whatever and whoever they choose to be … because a woman is also the life giver, the source of humanity.

But, still we fall into the trap of trying to be what our oppressors have conditioned us to become… like them.

We act out of fear and ignorance when an intersex or transsexed woman appears before our women's shelters and safe spaces asking for help, support and guidance. We attack these 'strange' women and continue the mutilation that the medical profession begun when these women were but infants … only now, we mutilate their sense of femininity, their self-esteem, their very sense of self. Yet, these 'strange' women are not men at all, never were! To fear an intersexed or transsexed woman because of what they may or may not have under their skirts on the erroneous assumption that they could 'rape' anyone is very sad and shows insincerity since even women rape and abuse other women. I am not advocating that those TS & IS women who still have their unwanted appendages be given any special rights or privileges … only that they be acknowledged and seen as the females they truly are by other women. Maybe if those of us who were fortunate enough to be born without any evident ambiguity as to physical sex were to extend our hands in aid of these IS & TS women and help guide, nurture, educate and simply accept them as they are … women, this action would bring many of them one step closer to discovering their lost heritage of femininity and womanhood… please stand up and help your IS & TS sisters!

A body shape does not make a woman, the brain and how it functions does!

One need not go through menses to feel and think as a woman. Many genetically born females never have the menses and yet they are accepted as women.

For me, what makes a woman a woman, is not chromosomes, hormones, or even the genitals ….. it is the brain, the largest organ in the human body!

Over the last few years, a medical and scientific researcher at UCLA has studied the human brain and found that a differentiation truly does exist between male and female brains … it is measurable!

What this means in effect is that all those women born with an intersex condition called transsexualism may very well be who they have always said they were … women! And one day, there will be a way of seeing this at an early age.

Imagine … if you will, awaking tomorrow morning in the comfort of your bed, you are stretching and coming out of sleep mode … all of a sudden, you feel this lump, and you know right there and then that things are wrong, you wanna scream, you wanna just go back to sleep and then you think to yourself that, hey, maybe I am sleeping and I'm having a silly nightmare … so, I'll just pinch myself and I'll wake up and everything will be ok. But, you already know this isn't so; you summon all of your waning courage and force your hesitant hand down over the swell of your tummy, down lower, yes, to where only yesterday all seemed familiar. Now, your hand brushes up against something that shouldn't be there, it is like an affront to your very sense of self, to you! Your eyes are wet with tears and wide with the mounting feeling of terror and loss of self.

Now, with much effort, you lightly touch this horror, who's identity you have begun to realize; this appendage, this monster.

You think to yourself that it's impossible, that it must certainly be a mistake, some cosmic joke being played on you… this cannot be! It cannot!

Your mind races, wondering how you can deal with this new reality, you think of all the things you will no longer be able to wear, of the womanly pleasures lost forever to you. Then it hits you … how will you now be received by your peers, by your sistahs … will they be understanding, will they still want to shower in your presence? Will they shun you, ask you to leave their sacred spaces? Will they denounce you as a man pretending at being a woman?

What if IS & TS women were simply taken at their word. What if an intersexed or transsexed woman was seen for exactly who she is, a female member of the human species. Women born with these congenital conditions are just like any other woman and it is a shame and a disservice to all women, everywhere to shun them and put them down. When women do this to other women, they are doing the work for the patriarchy they are so dead set against.

Let us all be more loving and accepting of ourselves and our sisters, no matter the appearance or manner in which we present or are born.

Joëlle-Circé Laramée
joellecirce@hotmail.com


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