The Problem With Intersex


Yesterday was Intersex Awareness Day, so it seemed appropriate that I spend part of the morning with a new gynecologist.

The previous one had rammed a one-size-fits-all speculum into me that arched my back up off the table in pain. The experience convinced me to take a hiatus from pelvic exams. Why did I need a stupid Pap smear, anyway, since I don’t have a cervix? That was three, perhaps four, years ago.

I like nurse practitioners. Most seem to remember that they are patient advocates. This new one had studied my records and done her homework regarding my condition. Without her ever mentioning intersex or DSD, she examined me, and we talked about things like lifelong hormone replacement therapy, and vaginal dilation, and post-surgical clitoral sensitivity. Like those things were commonplace.

As soon as my defenses reclassified her from suspect to friendly, I snapped into long-lost-intersex-friend mode. In such situations, something deep inside prompts me to talk endlessly about intersex, as though pushing the words out will make the pain go away. She smiled…and listened…and put a hand on my shoulder…and almost…almost made me feel okay with being in a doctor’s office.

Intersex isn’t about gender. It isn’t about sex. Or body differences. It’s about being treated as so alien that the gender, and sex, and body differences become the measure of our lives. Kudos to one nurse practitioner who gets what intersex awareness means.

2 thoughts on “The Problem With Intersex

  1. This setups a lot of my anxiety in medical related situations…

    I’m not exactly in the position to do it myself but I’ve been thinking that we (all) need an etiquette guide for doctors, nurses and students on how to deal with IS patients — as well as more specific physical related guides dealing with our variations.

    On one side it creates undue stress and anxiety, yet on the other it has provided me with enough material to write a few novels or plays…

    I’m leaning towards comedic as there’s already more than enough horror stories out there.

    But still having that twist at the end, that it’s just because of having an IS condition.

    Because otherwise it’s such a foreign concept to some people.

    Maybe that would provide a bit more healing than therapy has, which can use a guide of their own too… with the suggestion I just need hormones or pills because I’m too sensitive or uppity, or treating my anxieties as just a symptom of my condition…

    even during those occasions they want to bring in other doctors and nurses (to which often they don’t ask)- just to see, just to be the living example, and I’m feeling like we should just open up to everyone in the lobby and charge admission, so they can pay my copay or insurance fees too.

    I don’t always want to be my own advocate or the teacher for everyone else.

    And I shouldn’t have to be, especially with my pants down or some other awkward position, power exchange and still being forced to confront ignorance or outright bigotry.

    to what sometimes makes a basic checkup, a demoralizing, dehumanizing scene… and shading it towards potential stigma on their part.

    But that sounds like way too much rage… I mean, I do find it funny sometimes. If I was describing some of those situations to anyone else they would find the entire situation absurd.

    Which makes for a better place to communicate to others and for me to reflect on those events because it is completely absurd… downright comical even … if it were happening to anyone else.

    But I digress…

    From the cities to podunk towns in the middle of nowhere most docs seem to google the conditions more and often find archaic information or for the few that are willing to pay for a medical journal, often its too clinical to address the human/patient component.

    And I haven’t really seen much from support groups or activist organizations with information FOR doctors, nurses, students, etc…

    they really should have one.

  2. There are a few pamphlets around, but I doubt anyone sees them. Most doctors will never have an intersex patient. Add in that it’s a sexual difference, and it’s easy to understand why the morbid interest when we do show up in their office.

    Writing is cathartic for me. I hope you will gain some benefit from putting your words down on paper. And, yes, a comedy seems appropriate at times.

    Thank you for helping to educate the doctors you meet.

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