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Intersex and Trans

conflation almost always lead to erasure

Forum: transfeminist ML
Date: 04/06/2002

Hi WG,

Thanks for the announcement. I'm going to post this on my Public Service Announcement board (

I am however concerned about how this "Trans Inclusion Policy Manual" attempts to be inclusive of intersex, but ends up simply replacing "trans" with "trans and intersex" with no consideration given to specificities of intersex people's needs around services and accommodations. That is, many "trans and intersex" phrases do not seem to actually refer to the issues or needs of intersex people particularly, and specific needs of intersex people in this area are not addressed. In reality, being conflated with trans and thus sent to inappropriate resources (for example, being given a referral to counselors specialized in gender identity issues rather than someone specialized in helping survivors of child sexual abuse when seeking therapy to deal with the consequenses of medical abuse) *is* a common access needs for intersex people, and I fear that your document would perpetuate this very real health access problem rather than correct it.

I understand that your intention was to "raise awareness" about intersex by mentioning it - repeatedly, throughout the document. And I appreciate the fact that you included information about at least one intersex-specific issue - namely, unconsentual surgeries on children with intersex conditions. But overall I feel that the inclusion of intersex in document is negligent or tokenistic - and this is *exactly* the same kind of negligence that people operate from when they make a list of "LGBT issues" that only include gay and lesbian issues, or assume that "women" only spaces would mean only people with vaginas are (or should be) present.

The consequence of conflating intersex and trans issues is that you end up talking about (trans)gender issues even when you try to talk about intersex. For example:

In most cases, surgery is performed to designate a female gender and the child is raised accordingly. Many intersex people are then subjected to life-long hormone therapy to reinforce the gender chosen by the doctors. This gender may be in conflict with the person Ős gender identity.

Here, the only form of oppression experienced by intersex people are gender issue - surgery to fix the gender, hormone to reinforce the gender, and the possibility of a conflict between one's gender identity and assignment. This trajectory neglects many other ways intersex people are mistreated - i.e. medical display, dishonest and deceptive communication, document falsification, as well as shame; the focus becomes *gender*, rather than objectification, secrecy, isolation, and the lack of true informed consent. This is not about intersex inclusion - it is about seeing intersex through the lens of transgender standpoint rather than through intersex people's own eyes, and thus a co-optation of intersex lives and politics.

Also - if you make the second edition, please make the following corrections:

>>> Chapter 9 Resources - Print Resources - Books & Papers:

Alexander, Tamara (1997). The medical management of intersexed children: Ananalogue for childhood sexual abuse (

=> change URL to

Courvant, Diana & Cook-Daniels, Loree (1998). Trans and intersex survivors of domestic violence: Defining terms, barriers and responsibilities. Survivor Project, 10 NE Fargo #2, Portland, OR, 97212 (

=> change address to PO Box 40664, Portland OR 97240.

Courvant, Diana (1998). A walking map through the oppression of trans and intersex people. Survivor Project, 10 NE Fargo #2, Portland, OR, 97212 (

=> change address to PO Box 40664, Portland OR 97240.

Koyama, Emi (2001). Whose feminism is it anyway? A collection by Emi Koyama (

=> I don't distribute this zine anymore. The article, "Whose Feminism is it Anyway?", along with two others ("The Transfeminist Manifesto" and "An Open Letter to Alix Dobkin") are together distributed as "Transfeminism: A Collection" and is available from

>>> Chapter 9 Resources - Organizations

Intersex Society of North America P.O. Box 31791 San Francisco, CA, 94131

=> change address to PO Box 301, Petaluma CA 94953.

Survivor Project (trans survivors of violence) 10 NE Fargo #2 Portland, OR, 97212 (503) 288-3191

=> change description to "intersex and trans survivors of violence" => change address to PO Box 40664, Portland OR 97240.

>>> ALSO:

You mention at least twice (without citation) that ISNA estimates intersex condition as occurring in 1/500 children, but this is not true. See

Trans (or transgendered or trans-identified)is a term that can include transsexuals, cross-dressers, drag queens and kings, intersex people, transgenderists, androgynists, and other variations and combinations of gender identity and expression.

I understand that there can be reasonable disagreements on this, even among intersex people - but the position of Intersex Society of North America is asking trans organizations to *not* include "intersex people" as a whole in trans/transgender umbrella, as it almost always results in erasure of unique experiences and needs of intersex people.

Lastly, before you release future revisions, please read the following:

Suggested Guidelines for Non-Intersex Individuals Writing about Intersexuality and Intersex People

Questions & Answers about Gender Issues and Intersexuality

Interrogating the Politics of Commonality: A Possibility for Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Alliance (keynote at the Transcending Boundaries conference, October 2001)


Emi Koyama
Program Assistant, Intersex Society of North America -
Community Board Chair, Survivor Project -

----- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.