I am excited to be presenting at the 2013 Creating Change Conference in Atlanta January 23-27. I will be presenting in two sessions at the conference:
Intersex: An Introductory Workshop
Friday, January 25, 2013 from 3:00-4:30pm
An estimated 1 in 2,000 children are born with genitals, chromosomes and/or reproductive organs that obviously fall outside of the (narrow) medical definition of male or female. Unfortunately children born with intersex conditions are often surgically mutilated at birth. Even when children are able to escape surgery, it is difficult to escape the stigma, shame and secrecy that come along with a body that doctors and society tell you is “different.” This workshop will include a basic introduction to intersex issues and activism, including Caitlin’s personal story and a screening of a short documentary on the topic.
Exploring Disability’s Intersectional Space in LGBTI Rights
Saturday, January 26, 2013 from 9:00-10:30am
Outreach, organizing, and advocacy efforts to secure rights for LGBTI people are often made at the expense of people with disabilities, either by ignoring them or perpetuating ableism. Not only does this impact the struggle of the disability-rights movement, but also obscures ripe possibilities for intersectional and collaborative efforts. This session seeks to deconstruct ableism in the LGBTI-rights movement and explore the commonalities between the two movements in hopes of starting a cross-movement dialogue.
For more information, registration and the complete schedule, please visit http://www.creatingchange.org/
I am thrilled to be presenting at the Five College Intersex Symposium, Friday October 5, 2012 from 10:00am-4:45pm at Mount Holyoke College, Chapin Auditorium. I will be debuting a brand new talk on the intersections of disability and intersex. Please spread the word and visit Intersex Symposium on Facebook for more information.
10-10:30am Welcome (Coffee / Tea)
10:30-11:30am Speaker 1: Lynnell Stephani Long
Intersex 201: Alliance with your LGBT organization on or off campus
11:45am-12:45pm Speaker 2: Caitlin Childs
Intersections: How disability can inform intersex in the classroom and beyond1-1:45pm Lunch
2-3pm Speaker 3: David Rubin
“An Unnamed Blank that Craved a Name”: A Genealogy of Intersex as Gender
3:15-4:45pmTeaching Intersex Panel
Speaker 1, Lynnell Stephani Long (Intersex Activist & Educator)
Intersex 201 – Alliance with your LGBT organization on or off campus
Through alliances with existing organizations, the Intersex community can better leverage limited resources to make information and peer support available in all communities. LGBT organizations are the most resourceful organizations with which the Intersex community can develop such relationships. Through the relationships that we develop, we can enhance both the work of the Intersex community and that of LGBT organizations working at the national and local level. Organizations and their members can also help by talking to their friends and family members about the Intersex movement. The idea is that the more people are aware of Intersex the less likely they will be to accept surgery as the only option when they or someone they know have an Intersex baby.
Speaker 2, Caitlin Childs (Activist & Advocate)
Intersections: How disability can inform intersex in the classroom and beyond
When the Intersex Society of North America was founded in 1993, it incorporated the prior work of disability rights activists and disability studies scholars. Building on that history, this presentation will approach intersex by exploring its intersections and collisions with disability. Weaving my experiences as an intersex person and activist together with reflections on my organizing work in development disabilities and social justice, I will consider how ideas from disability studies and disability justice activism can continue to inform intersex discourse. Intersex and disability provide useful contexts for one another because of their many commonalities. Like disability, intersex is a large umbrella term under which many medical diagnoses fall. People with disabilities and people who are intersex live in bodies that are generally deemed undesirable and in need of correction and/or erasure through related processes of social and medical normalization. Issues of voice and agency compound the impact of this normalization. Medical experts and parents assume decision-making authority for both groups, imposing choices on their behalf and in their alleged “best interests” that deny them the right to fully informed consent and bodily integrity. Academic and professional experts who are not personally impacted routinely determine outcomes in policy, academic discourse, medicine, and general terminology without including intersex and disabled people or acknowledging the vital importance of their personal expertise and experience. This presentation will offer both practical and theoretical ways of addressing intersex in research, pedagogy, and organizing work that draw from and build upon disability studies.
Speaker 3, David A. Rubin (Senior Lecturer of Women’s and Gender Studies at Vanderbilt University)
“An Unnamed Blank that Craved a Name”: A Genealogy of Intersex as Gender
This lecture traces a genealogy of intersexuality’s underrecognized but historically pivotal role in the development of gender as a concept in twentieth-century American biomedicine, feminism, and their globalizing circuits. Using a queer feminist science studies approach, I argue that intersex has been and remains central to the history of gender as a classificatory schema, object of knowledge, technology of subject formation, and paradigm of sociality in late modernity. This genealogy pushes beyond current scholarship on intersexuality to suggest that, while dominant understandings of sex and gender have overdetermined the meaning of intersex, historically speaking, the concept of intersex paradoxically preceded and inaugurated what we would today call the sex/gender distinction. Through a close reading of psychoendocrinologist John Money’s biomedical research, I show that intersex was integral to the historical emergence of the category gender as distinct from sex in the mid-twentieth-century English-speaking world. I argue that Money used the concept of gender to cover over and displace the biological instability of the body he discovered through his research on intersex, and that Money’s conception of gender produced new technologies of psychosomatic normalization. Situating Money’s work within the history of feminist theorizing about sex and gender, I conclude by reflecting on what the intertwined histories of intersex, biomedicine, and feminism might mean for the field of women’s and gender studies.
Five College Intersex Symposium Sponsored By:
Five College Feminist Science and Technology Studies Initiative
Five College Women’s Studies Research Center
Five Colleges, Inc.
University of Massachusetts WGSS
Mt Holyoke Gender Studies
Hampshire Feminist Studies
By: Moya Bailey, Caitlin Childs, and Mia Mingus
This is an outpouring of love for Caster Semenya. Wrong is not her name. What is wrong is the way she has been treated in global media. As three queer women, we have struggled with our own relationship to the feminine as it has been constructed in mainstream society. As a black woman set adrift in a sea of whiteness, it was hard to see myself as beautiful. My curves and skin color made me unattractive in my world. As a white, feminine woman who is also intersex, I have struggled hard to come to peace with my body. Doctors and the world around me have told me I am defective or have denied my existence entirely. As a disabled Korean adoptee, I grew up as an outsider, rarely seeing people who moved like me or reflected me in my community or in the media. I was constantly told that my body was something that needed to be “fixed;” that it was “wrong;” and that it, that I, was “undesirable.” We engage with each other as comrades, three queer women uniquely shaped by our lived identities and experiences. We were the odd ones out, queered by our bodies, but later we claimed our queerness with fierce intention and pride. Now we choose our difference, embrace what sets us a part from a constrictive mainstream. It is for these reasons that we feel a deep kinship with Caster Semneya. Her story unfolded internationally without her consent and knowledge. We write to right wrongs done to someone whose only crime was daring to be all that she is.
Atlanta Pride had humble beginnings in 1971 as a protest march organized by the Atlanta Gay Liberation Front to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, and has since grown to be one of the largest Gay Pride festivals in the U.S. and definitely the largest in the South. Unfortunately, it has lost much of it’s radical queer roots in the process and has become more of a large party with tons of corporate sponsors and assimilationist politics (but that is another blog post.) Because of a number of issues Atlanta Pride has been moved to Halloween weekend this year, instead of the usual Stonewall anniversary weekend. This has left a great opportunity for local organizers to plan events that are political, community based, and that remind us of the reason we celebrate the last weekend in June.
I want to highlight a reading I am involved in that will take place Stonewall weekend for the fabulous two-volume anthology I have a piece in called ‘Visible: A Femmethology’. I am especially excited to commemorate Stonewall weekend with a reading from this book, as I think the fact that it challenges the queer community on assumptions and ideas around femininity and femme identity is especially appropriate. The event is free and open to the public. Hope to see you there!
Stonewall Anniversary Weekend Femmethology Reading
Saturday June 27th, 2009 8:30pm @ Aphrodite’s Toy Box (3040 N. Decatur Rd. Scottdale, GA 30079)
‘Visible: A Femmethology‘, the only two-volume anthology devoted to femme identity, calls the LGBTQI community on its prejudices and celebrates the diversity of individual femmes. Award-winning authors, spoken-word artists, and new voices come together to challenge conventional ideas of how disability, class, nationality, race, aesthetics, sexual orientation, gender identity and body type intersect with each contributor’s concrete notion of femmedom. Join us as we celebrate the release of this anthology, with readings by 5 local contributors: Brook Bolen, Caitlin Childs, JD Dykes, Asha Leong, and Margaret Price.
You can view the Facebook invitation here, read about the book on the Femmethology website here, read about the fabulous publisher here, and get info on the venue hosting the reading, Aphrodite’s Toy Box here.
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.
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 . 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.
I want to start by saying, I am glad you are here. I am glad you stumbled upon a page of an actual intersex person. I hope that you take advantage of this opportunity to educate yourself.
Intersex people are not something you can can gawk at to fill your curiosity, get a good laugh or get your rocks off. We are real people with feelings, lives, friends, families, jobs and hobbies just like you. Our bodies have been marginalized, mutilated, photographed without our consent, poked and prodded by multiple doctors, nurses and medical students. We have been labeled disordered, freaks, accidents, mutations, defective. We have been told our bodies are wrong, that no one could ever love a body like ours and that it needs to be “fixed.”
These days it seems that many of the hits I am getting on google are coming from folks searching for things like (these are a few actual search terms bringing folks to this page):
pictures of an intersex person
picter of intersex people
intersex conditions and pictures
hermaphrodite genital pictures
intersexed genetil pictures
I understand that people are curious and after doing this work for years, have received multiple requests on anonymous feedback forms post-presentation saying they would like to see pics of mine or other intersex folks genitals. That is particularly frustrating feedback to get after I’ve spent 1-2 hours explaining the medical exploitation of intersex people and the trauma many of us go through with public displays of our genitals, but that is another blog post.
All that said, it is none of your business what my genitals look like or what any other intersex person’s genitals look like unless we want or choose to show you or tell you. I would never walk up to a person I didn’t know and ask to see pictures of their genitals. The fact that people think they have a right to access the bodies of intersex people is part of many years of historic exploitation and medical abuse of intersex people and our bodies.
And the pictures you can find online and in medical text books of intersex people’s genitals are exploitive. Babies can not consent to having their photograph taken and published. Even older kids and adults are forced to pose for those awful pictures with blacked out eyes. Can you imagine what it would feel like to have your picture taken and your identity slightly masked so that you can appear in medical texts around the world as an example of a “wrong” and “defective” body??
If you want to learn about intersex people, click on this link and you can read basic information on intersex, as well as access a resource list with tons of web links and books. Learn about the surgeries performed on infants without consent. Learn about the lives of adult intersex people haunted by a lifetime of unnecessary surgeries that robbed them of their sexual sensations and pleasure. Learn about intersex people with severe post traumatic stress from multiple surgeries, genital exams, and public genital displays. Learn about the deep pain and shame associated with being told something is freakishly wrong with your body. Do the work to educate yourself and stop perpetuating the exploitation and harm of intersex people.