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2016 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

4. Intersex and Trans* Communities: Commonalities and Tensions

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Abstract

Intersex and trans* communities are similar in that they are both marginalized because they belie a core contemporary ideology: that people are born with a binary physical sex, and that this determines their binary gender. Having bodies and identities that often conflict with this precept, trans* and intersex people are subjected to social stigma that can have powerful negative effects. While this commonality has led some intersex and trans* people to make common cause and work together politically, other factors drive the two communities apart. To understand the tensions that separate two communities that might seem ‘natural’ allies, we must understand how each of the two communities is itself split into two subgroups. Both the intersex and trans* communities contain some individuals who frame their community distinction as a matter of identity and pride, and others who view their difference as a disorder that should be approached with pity and cured medically. The majority of the people in intersex communities use the disorder framework, while the majority of trans* individuals use an identity frame. Many transsexuals who employ the disorder framework present transsexuality as an intersex condition of the brain. Their hope is that if the larger society can be persuaded that this is the case, medical transition services will be freely provided out of pity to cure those afflicted with intersex brains, as children with intermediate genitals are given sex assignment surgery. Intersex individuals largely resist the idea that trans* status is an intersex condition of the brain, for reasons that this chapter will explore, and this tension drives the two communities apart. It is only the subsets of the intersex and trans communities that employ the identity framework who tend to work together as allies. These allied individuals center the idea that sex status should be a matter of personal autonomy based upon gender identity, and validate non-binary gender identities in addition to binary ones.

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Metadata
Title
Intersex and Trans* Communities: Commonalities and Tensions
Author
Cary Gabriel Costello
Copyright Year
2016
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-349-71325-7_4