Intersex and Trans Demands (Circa 2004)

This certainly is a blast from the past! I found this list online today when I was searching around for intersex websites. I periodically do this since new sites pop up all the time and I like to keep track of what is happening in the online intersex world.

I helped write this list, along with some trans community members, back in 2004. I was part of a group of young, white, anti-authoritarian, community organizers in Atlanta who decided that rather than continue to organize in ways that were potentially problematic, we should take the time to caucus around race, look back critically on past organizing, and think about ways that white organizers can work with communities of color in ways that are actually useful to communities of color. We eventually did some interesting community organizing projects that were very intentional in regards to building relationships, taking leadership from communities of color, and sustainability. These caucuses were far from problem free and eventually did dissolve. However, I learned a lot from my involvement and that work has definitely informed my activism since.

This list of demands came out of some of that work. It was initially written just for the folks involved in the caucusing. Most of us involved in the caucusing decided to attend the SEANET (South East Anarchist Network) Conference in the Spring of 2004. Upon finding out that the conference organizers had decided to use a gender caucus format for the bulk of the conference, we sent this list to the organizers and to be distributed at the conference. Apparently it made it’s way around the internet world. I think it is a useful starting point. There are probably things I would change and add to it now, but I think it is definitely worth sharing. Let me know your thoughts too!

Also, I am working on a blog on the differences and commonalities between intersex and transgender. I think that intersex and  trans folks are natural allies in many ways and I have some thoughts on the ways we can work together and support each other’s activism and struggles. We intentionally separated out the trans and intersex demands on this list, even if some do overlap, because we acknowledge big differences do exist and think it takes away from both trans and intersex folks’ unique experiences to lump everything together.

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April, 2004

Here are two separate lists that a few of us developed in Atlanta. We initially wrote the list because we had found other lists in regards to sexism to be good, but incomplete and lacking in our own experiences.

The trans demands are lacking in MtF voices. This list comes out of our community. The list is far from complete, but is good to start discussions around these issues. We wanted to make sure we sent them out before the SEAnet (South Eastern Anarchist network) Gathering in April [2004]. We encourage everyone (particularly SEAnet organizers) to take the time to read them.

INTERSEX LIST OF DEMANDS

  • Don’t assume you know someone’s sex based on how you perceive them or their gender.
  • Don’t assume all women have a vagina, uterus, etc.
  • Don’t assume all men have a penis, testes, etc.
  • Don’t fetishize our bodies.
  • Don’t use the word hermaphrodite to describe us unless we identify that way and give permission.
  • Don’t feel sorry for us.
  • Respect our sex identification.
  • Don’t exploit our existence to discredit biological determinism or other academic ideologies.
  • Know the difference between sex and gender.
  • Know the difference between intersexed and transgendered.
  • Don’t ask us or try to picture what our genitals look like.
  • Don’t ask us if we have sexual sensations.
  • Don’t assume you have the right to know intimate details of our bodies. We have the right to privacy and safety like all other people.
  • Realize we have historically been mutilated, fetishized, and made into freak shows. Understand how this affects us and our safety.
  • Don’t say “cool” or “weird” or treat us differently when we tell you we are intersexed.
  • Educate yourself!!! Read books on intersex.
  • Girl, woman, female; boy, man, male are not always interchangeable.
  • Don’t assume all intersex people are queer.
  • Realize that not all people with intersex condition are out.
  • Realize that not all people with intersex conditions even know that they are intersexed.
  • Remember that we are 1 in 100, and that is not rare at all!!!
  • Don’t call our conditions “disorders,” “retardations,” “abnormalities,” etc.
  • Realize that bodies come in all different shapes, sizes and with different parts.
  • Realize how fucking strong we are to speak up about the medical abuse and victimization we have been through and that we deserve mad props.
  • Don’t write us off as rare and unimportant. Don’t put off educating yourself for other “more important” issues.
  • In situations such as gender caucuses, keep in mind that not all the people who identify as women have similar genitalia, etc. Understand that we have been taught that our bodies are “wrong” and “ugly” and that it reinforces this when people say they love being women because of their vagina, uterus, etc., this reinforces those feelings. Woman does not necessarily = female. Man does not necessarily = male.

TRANS/GENDER LIST OF DEMANDS

  • Don’t assume someone’s gender identity.
  • Don’t constantly reference someone’s gender identity in an attempt to seem OK with it. Likewise, don’t think we care if you’re OK with us or not. No one asked for your approval.
  • Don’t trip up on pronouns- if you fuck up, simply correct yourself and go on.
  • Don’t glamorize someone’s gender identity or think it’s “cool” or say that you’re “into it.”
  • Read trans/gender theory. Know the difference between: transgender, transsexual, gender fucking, gender blending/bending, gender vs. sex, binary gender, passing, transitioning, binding, tucking, packing/stuffing, third genders, drag queens/kings, androgyny, butch, femme, crossdressing, boi, MtF, FtM, tranny boys, tranny dykes, boydykes, transfags, etc., etc., etc.!!!
  • Know the difference between intersex and transgender.
  • Think about how you would really feel if someone you loved transitioned. Think about your fears and why you have them.
  • Recognize your own transphobia.
  • Know about transitioning and surgery and hormones.
  • Don’t just name yourself a “trans ally” one day.
  • Realize that some of us have struggled with our gender identity for a long time. Don’t think that we just woke up one day and decided that we would identify as transgendered. So when we finally find a space that we’re comfortable in (even if temporarily), don’t co-opt that space or try to make it yours too.
  • Even if you think fucking with gender is hot, don’t talk about it in an objectifying way.
  • Realize that it can be hard existing in in-between spaces and really know that trans oppression and transphobia exist. Know the fear of not being able to determine when you pass, the fear of being arrested/strip searched/thrown in the wrong holding cell, the threat of violence, the annoyance of having to “come out” about your gender identity constantly, etc.
  • Understand the privilege of feeling at home in your body, using a public bathroom, knowing which M/F box to check, having people assume your gender identity and them being right, etc.
  • Realize that there is a gender community and that the validation we receive from that community can be incomparable to what you could ever offer us and let us seek refuge there.
  • Recognize how class and race fit into these equations.
  • Recognize and respect someone’s gender identity regardless of whether or not they choose to have surgery or take hormones. Similarly, don’t judge someone for transitioning or not wanting to identify as “transgendered.”
  • Don’t think of a transgender identity as “political.”
  • Don’t partner with us out of some weird transitioning or coming out process for you. Don’t ask us how we fuck.
  • Question your own gender! (But don’t then tell me, “You know, I’ve never felt like a ‘real man’/’real woman’ either.” -What this means is don’t assume our experiences are the same.
  • Don’t ask questions about someone trying to determine their “real gender.”
  • Don’t think that FtM are dealing with some kind of internalized sexism.
  • Don’t assume our gender identity, render it invisible, or think it doesn’t matter because of who we choose to partner with.
  • Don’t label our gender or sexual identity for us. Recognize the difference between the two!
  • Don’t think of our experiences and identities as monolithic.
  • Don’t think we are a “recent emergence” that somehow came out of gender/queer theory and academia.
  • Realize that there are a variety of trans/gender expressions. Don’t assume that people should express their gender similarly just because they both identify as transgendered. Likewise, don’t judge someone because you think that their trans identity and gender expression conflict.
  • Think about the language you use to differentiate between trans and non-trans people and if it’s even necessary to differentiate.
  • Don’t assume trans people have a “shared experience” with people assigned the same gender.
  • Don’t assume FtMs are “better” than other men, or MtFs are not “as good” as other women (especially in terms of sexism).
  • When doing introductions at a meeting, say the pronoun you prefer for that space along with your name, etc. (Facilitators should make sure this is done.)
  • Be sensitive to pronouns you use for someone when dealing with authority, police. Keep in mind that people’s pronouns/gender identity may not always match up with their I.D.
  • Don’t include us in your process of learning about intersex or trans issues unless we ask you about it.
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5 Responses to Intersex and Trans Demands (Circa 2004)

  1. Sophia K says:

    I saw this on the Gainesville Lesbian Avengers (now defunct) website a while back and I still think it’s really awesome! There’s just a few things under the trans demands that I question as valuable (e.g. I don’t particularly like “gender theory” and I don’t think it’s necessary for people to know the mechanics of tucking and find it a little creepy that people would even want to know about it). But I REALLY, REALLY like that it addressed the whole “fucking with gender is hottttt!” issue and the academic abuse of trans and intersex lives.

  2. Caitlin says:

    Hey Sophia,

    Thanks for your comments and feedback! I am glad you found some of the demands to be useful. I’m with you around critiques of gender theory (something I have grown more frustrated and disillusioned with over the years) and definitely think this list needs to be critiqued and expanded. I was excited to find that it had made it around the internet and hope that it can play a part in fostering more critical discussion.

    Thanks again reading and participating!

    Caitlin

  3. […] found this list in a post by Atlanta, Georgia, intersex activist Caitlin Petrakis […]

  4. Laurie V. says:

    I stumbled across this site by accident, my freakishly old computer is slow and sometimes the link you click, isn’t the one you were trying for. I’m intersex, and have no issue with answering questions, but I support and understand your rights to be left alone and volunteer when you want, if you want.
    My only problem with the concept of this is intersex and that is transgender, is sometimes when the Intersex diagnosis is late in life( due to parents and doctors playing God) you technically fall into the “transgender” category by no fault of your own.

    I’ll admit too, I have searched the net looking for “intersex photos” , not for any sick reason or fetish, but because I know my baby pictures were used as a “typical case” and I want to find the sites that have them and see if I can get them removed. Parents of newborns with what is commonly called ‘normal genitals” don;t need to see other naked infants to compare if their child looks okay, so I see no reason why scientists need to see my picture.

    Best of luck with your work. We might not agree on everything, but we don’t have to.

    Laurie

  5. Caitlin says:

    Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for commenting! I am not sure we actually disagree.

    I understand that some intersex people also identify as transgender, and that intersex people who choose to change their gender/sex as a result of surgery performed without their consent are often labeled as transgendered or transsexual by the medical establishment. The reason I think it is important to separate intersex and trans is that there are differences in the experiences of intersex folks (even ones who self-identify as or are labeled as trans by others) and folks who are trans and not intersex. I think it is a disservice to all of us to be lumped into one big category.

    All that said, I do think that intersex folks and trans folks who aren’t intersex have much in common and should work together (with a mutual understanding and respect for differences.) Trans folks in my community were some of my biggest allies when I came out and started speaking about my experiences as an intersex person. We felt invisible and marginalized in the activist circles we were working in at the time, and it was incredible to have folks to check-in with, not to mention having a group of folks to have your back when issues arose. This list came out of that very group of trans allies and myself.

    Anyway, maybe that clarifies my thoughts on the issue. I would love to hear yours. Thanks for reading and posting!

    Caitlin

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