Friday, May 9, 2008

A letter to America: A Response

From Peter Trinkl, Board President, Bodies Like Ours
(In response to: A letter to America)

You say that you are writing a letter to an entire nation. An issue that you raise is that American men and women traveling abroad are often “disliked, distrusted, or on some occasions even hated”. I have never traveled to Europe, so I can only take your word for it. I suspect that American travelers are pretty much like travelers everywhere, often resented for having the time and money to travel. When some Americans travel the world, I suspect that there is often distrust based upon a past history of slavery and colonialism. In the near future, the majority of Americans will not come from Europe. Progress is being made towards America becoming a modern multi-cultural and diverse society.

You speak of the harmful effects of the relationship between the medical profession in the United States and the medical profession in the United Kingdom. I assume that you are referring to the cultural dominance of medical treatment protocols for intersex children put forward by advocates for the new DSD nomenclature (Disorders of Sex Development). It is most unfortunate that the treatment guidelines now being put forward are making their way into the United Kingdom. That is terrible news. I know that one document, a Chicago Consensus Statement, that still recommends involuntary infant genital surgery in cases of highly virilized CAH children.

I believe that we are in a time of change, where intersex people are speaking out about our own experiences, connecting with other intersex people, and demanding recognition as human beings. You say that “All I really want is just to lead my life as best I can and that is that”. I know that intersex children should not be made to feel guilty. But unfortunately, I think that the trauma is very deep. From what I know, I don't think that my parents were as abusive as your parents. However, I think that my parents were never able to really bond with me, which led to a lifelong estrangement. Being born intersex is an accident of birth, but it is an accident that lasts for a lifetime.

You say “However, the medical professionals who operate from the Clarke-Northwestern school of medical opinion over the USA have decided that I had no right being born. They don't say it outright and it is not aimed at me personally, but they basically assert that there is only ‘pure’ male and ‘pure’ female.” I agree with you on this one. From J. Michael Bailey saying that he has no objections to the possibility of parents aborting gay fetuses to the recent attack on the transsexual community under the guise of an academic discussion of the Female Essence Narrative, it is clear that some people are, at the minimum, not very good listeners, and at worst, well..... worse. I think that it is very damning, that time and time again, the subjects of Bailey's research disagree with his interpretations of their interviews. And now Alice Dreger has a Guggenheim. I think that it is great that Alice got a Guggenheim, but I am disturbed that she will use the funds to continue the flimsy arguments first advanced in her article in defense of Bailey. She can do better than that. Nearly every day, the thought crosses my mind: “Why doesn't Alice pick on someone her own size?” I hope that I don't offend intersex and transsexual people with these thoughts, because I am sure that there are many strong voices out there. But I believe that she should stick closer to personal experiences, such as deconstructing the Female Essence Narrative among so-called bio-females.

I agree that much of the work of the Clarke Northwestern group is closely related to past eugenics movements in the United States, even if it might not be explicitly stated and they only continue the work in spirit. Normalization is still the watchword in the treatment of intersex children. If it is not surgical or hormonal normalization, it is psychiatric normalization. I see the genetic identification of intersex conditions and genetic counseling towards promoting so-called healthy and well adjusted children as a growth industry. The search for a so-called gay gene continues.

Human Rights should not be confined by national boundaries. I am appalled that the United States included an exemption for its own practices of infant genital surgery on intersex children from international agreements condemning female genital mutilation. I am appalled that in the United States, normalizing infant genital surgeries are still performed on an involuntary basis on intersex children roughly five times a day. I am appalled that not a single state in the United States has banned involuntary infant genital surgeries performed before a child has a chance to grow up and make their own choices about their body.

But there is some progress in the United States. I am typing this using OpenOffice Writer rather than Microsoft Word.

This response from Peter Trinkl is also available on OII's website at: