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Is Intersex a Gender Issue? The Role of Transphobia and Ableism in the Intersex/Trans Conflict

Proposal for the True Spirit 2002 conference

Presenters: Emi Koyama
Format: Workshop


While the alliance between intersex and trans people seems natural, the reality is that the relationship between these two movements has been hindered by mutual misunderstandings and by societal stigmatization of both groups that we have internalized. One of the bi-products of this dynamics is the tendency for some trans people to feel envious of intersex people, as well as for some intersex people to chalk up their gender transgression or transitioning to their physical intersexuality. The presenter points out that these are both manifestations of our internalized transphobia as well as ableist ranking (i.e. it's better to be physically different than to be mentally different), and argues that they are ultimately harmful to intersex movement as they reduce intersex issues to gender issue, bypassing broader discussions about medical ethics, informed consent, childhood trauma, and concealment/normalization of "deviant" bodies. This workshop explores how going beyond the "commonalities" rather than focusing solely on gender issues might paradoxically strengthen the alliance between intersex and trans movements.