09 November 2011

Ones and Zeros: Breaking Past Binary


I recently stumbled across a blogpost on the official OIIUSA website that made me hackle, hard.
For those that don’t know, OII is Organization Intersexual International, the international awareness and rights organization for intersexuality. I began following the blog some months ago as a result of Black’s imminent release, doing research for content—news and otherwise—to feed onto a subject-related page.
The content of the blogpost in question was to be commended, actually: 8 November was Intersexuality Awareness Day, and the post was the biographical information of one of the first known and documented intersexuals.
What set me off was that the blog also stated the following:

Organisation Intersex International would like to invite others to join us each year by commemorating November 8 as Intersex Day of Remembrance. All human rights organizations and allies are invited to show their solidarity by organizing workshops, lectures, discussions and other activities which deal with any or all of the following topics:
  • The life of Herculine Barbin. 
  • Intersex genital mutilation. 
  • The violence of the binary sex and gender system. 
  • The sexism implicit within the binary construct of sex and gender. 
  • Human rights. Intersex issues are feminist issues.

Follow along with me here for a minute, while I point out how the gargantuan fallacy in the above collection of statements is generating more misunderstanding and in general doing greater harm than perpetuating tolerance and understanding.

I’m logically on-board with every one of those statements, save the last.
I know how they worked around to it, but the fallacy that led them there is what lays at the heart of all the shitstorms flying about.

Intersexuality is not transgender or transsexual. I get that. Intersexual is the physiological presentation of dual gender, whereas the latter two “definitions” are a reference to psychological states and gender identities or self perceptions. OII’s website makes a very large effort to delineate intersexuality from trans* -- which, in a way, is acceptable.

But to follow that with aligning intersexuality with feminism just turns everything on its head. To encourage human rights is all well and good, and insofar as human rights go, yes, there is some measure of parallel between intersexual rights and feminism—but there’s a greater parallel between intersexual rights and trans* rights, and there’s an even stronger parallel between the two when you begin to consider what these latter two are conceptually striving for.

Because ultimately, though ignored and disregarded as a subtext in the LGBTQ community at large, the intersex and trans* are striving for a destruction of the current binary gender definition structure altogether. They aren’t about the equality between one end of the spectrum and the other. They aren’t out to balance the mathematical equation where male is on one side and female’s on the other. The majority strive to wipe the slate clean, and create a culture where one’s gender identity is redundant. Where the physical presentation of gonads and the chromosomal structure of one’s genetic makeup has a value of zero. Where there are no labels with which others can judge, delineate and otherwise put you in a box because of self perception, self identification, or gender identity.

After all, the ultimate purpose of labels is to delineate, right? And the purpose of delineation is separation. Which naturally, thanks to human nature, leads to the “us versus them” mentality, and perpetuates ignorance, intolerance, fear, and hatred.

Last I checked, feminism was about lauding the female as equivalent to the male. It’s a step in the right direction in terms of human rights. But if you step back and look at the directions these two subsects of the human rights awareness movement are going, you’ll find that they are so strongly divergent as to be polar opposites. Feminism highlights all the aspects that intersexuals and trans* are trying so desperately to overcome. Feminism says, “these things matter, and are just as good as the rest!”

While the TQ in the LGBTQ community stands back, and whispers, “no, they don’t matter at all, none of them do.”

In the end, we are all individuals, and should not be judged by the physiological geography of our genitalia, nor the amalgam of our chromosomes. We should each have the right to self-identify as we see fit, without fearing the repercussions or ostracizing of socio-cultural stigmas that suggest our definitions or perceptions are in some way incorrect or unacceptable.

Insofar as society and culture are concerned, we should be judged only on the weight of our merits, and the ethics with which we comport ourselves. What end of some binary spectrum a person inhabits is not for you to decide. And how they define themselves isn’t any of your concern, either. It’s not there for your approval.

Andrej Pejic said it best when interviewed by a reporter:
“When you look in the mirror, what do you see?”
“I see myself.”
“You don’t see a gender?”
“I don’t really think it’s that important. When someone can clearly define for me what it means to be male or to be female, then I’ll be able to answer the question.”
Instead of fighting for equality of gender, for equality of sexuality, equality of ethnicity, equality of every other delineating aspect and label that a human can be slapped with, let us instead strive for tolerance and acceptance of one’s fellow human. Let us strive to celebrate that which truly defines us instead of harping upon the avatars that represent us.

Let us, please, do away with all the labels, and let us all simply be human beings.

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