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In Response to my Fury

Sophia Siedlberg

Revised February 2004

 
GENDYS JOURNAL

Issue 6
May 1999

 
What is the "Two Sex system"? Well in truth this is the observaton that generally there are men and women, but some men and women start placing their whole sense of ethics, morality and belief in this. Look at the Southern Baptist Preacher Fred Phelps or the Feminist writer Germaine Greer. Two examples of people born "perfect", who think they are perfect and who believe that their gentialia allows them to dictate. I call that rather sarcastically "Norm Born Privilege" The Two Sex system is a manifestation of sex supremacists who tend to represent the darker undercurrents and commonly held prejudices within so called "civilised" societies.

My aim in life is not to establish some Third Sex. It is to try to be a part of a movement that might establish a just society that does not cripple or maim children in the name of social convention. A society that does not stigmatise a child if its anatomical sex is indeterminate or it's "gender uncertain". Anyone who somehow holds to the belief that someone has to 'Fit in' with the two sex system is demanding that something akin to female circumcision is carried out on infants who at the time have no specific health reasons for treatment if they are born with ambiguous genitalia. The demand that a child be born a 'boy' or a 'girl' is not reasonable in my eyes. Nature does not always work that way.

Admitted there are intersex conditions that require surgical intervention at a young age to avoid the risk of cancer or physical distress. However not all conditions fit into this category. My anger at the two sex system is both based on personal experience and resentment toward the role that I was forced to live in as a child. I would not feel so angry if a child was given the time to grow and to express which gender they are best suited to live as. But the summary and arbitrary practices of infant genital mutilation in all forms, without any medically justifiable reason is barbaric. I also disagree with male and female circumcision for religious reasons. I disagree with all forms of infant gender reassignment or assignation when it is conducted without that child's consent. The issue here is clear, consent!

People like Germaine Greer and Janice Raymond have often stated that infant genital mutilation is a cultural thing and should be respected. Germaine Greer has recently, in her book The Whole Woman, disgusted the feminist community by stating that female genital mutilation is something "African women choose for their own gratification." (Probably referring to the model Waras Dirie who was herself a victim of female genital mutilation and who campaigns against it.)

Separately, regarding transsexual and intersex people, Germaine Greer has also stated that "lack of choosiness about who may be called a woman strengthens the impression that women do not see their sex as quite real."

My anger at the two sex system stems specifically from the fact that it never once allowed me to develop as an individual. If I did show any individual free will I was met with a brutality that I did not deserve. It is very easy for people to be offended by some of the articles I have written, but my sole aim is to fight for the right of the individual to have control over their own body as this should be an indisputable human right.

It is very easy to sit in judgement when the life you have lived has not been one where your very identity is crushed beyond redemption. My well known animosity against the two sex system is not as a result of wanting to assert some hermaphrodite pride, I merely wish to have the right to legally call myself a woman because that, in essence, is how I ended up - however 'Choosy' Greer and her cronies may be about who they call a woman. Besides Greers choosiness contradicts itself - it would mean that I could never have been defined as male. By the same logic, I wasn't born fully male either. I have in one sense been defined as "hermaphrodite" by the two sex system and branded as a danger to cultural and religious value systems held by men and women who ascribe to the two sex system.

No one calls me a man when I meet them, I don't have a baritone voice, I don't have a beard, I have a female body shape and am superficially accepted as female. But my confused documentation, my "Male" birth certificate and my ambiguous legal status is used as a stick to beat me with. The European Court of Human Rights considered that to be unimportant, their attitude in the Sheffield case proved this at the time. Things have changed of course but have some attitudes?

Being female, does not mean I am saying that I agree with the two sex system, it simply means that I am basically female. The two sex system left me ashamed of having a body that wasn't complete in some way at birth. I won't be, and no child has to be ashamed today, whether they have a simple external ambiguity or some profoundly "hermaphrodite" or "intersex" status at birth. Such children are not monsters to be moulded by their parents and the taunts of society into something they may not wish to be. Simply, such children need to be allowed to grow and discover who and what they are, and then be able to seek, without guilt or stigma, surgical intervention, should they wish it. in order to live as who they are in themselves.

At the Gendys Conference in 1998 I met a woman who was working with parents of transsexual children. I admired her courage because in that essentially privileged position society gave her, (of being recognised as a parent) she put her own children and those of others first. She supported the children who needed to define themselves. Not the gut reaction that they should be as initially determined. If she worked with the parents of intersexed children, and explained how the child's own identity must be allowed to take its own course, often to find its place within the two sex system in any case. Perhaps the misery I know and have witnessed would be alleviated. If anyone wants to discuss "real women" and "real men," then, I would define her as a real woman, not because of her biological status, or the fact that she is a parent, but she is a real human being with intelligence enough to see beyond arbitrary definitions, and able to offer some hope to disaffected and alienated children, be they transsexual or intersex. She helps to allow them to become real people themselves. To be 'real' is to be an individual, of either sex or having transitioned from either sex or none. To be false speaks for itself. Listen to Greer and Co., because here is the catch, Germaine Greer is not "real", she is a despotic mind in an ivory tower. Those at the conference I went to were real, they were the minds and personalities that transcend the lies.

It is the False people, the false minds and personalities that seem to see another human being as a false body when it suits them. No one should be branded as a false or deformed body and nothing more. Please understand I value the mind and the personality of people above all else because for many years, that is all I felt I had in common with the rest of humanity. The two sex system as it stands only tolerates people if they physically fit some strict definition of male or female. It never seems to try to understand a mind or a personality. It also seems incapable of tolerating an individual defining their own sex physically or mentally. How then can I or any civilised human being, tolerate such intolerance?

My fundamental difficulty lies with the responses I have had and continue to have when I stand up and criticise the two sex system. Jed Bland, in an article titled "Why two sexes are enough" (which I suspect is in response to my angry article "Another ministry of the normal") seems to have missed the point . When leaving the last word to Christine Burns, the quote sends shivers down my spine. "After all if they stood up and insisted on being visibly different . . . . demanding that all intersex people should be classified and honoured as a third sex then think how dangerous and complicated that would get."

Forgive me but I always felt that words like 'dangerous and complicated' were often used in a very negative context. No child born with an intersex condition insists on being born that way, I cannot also see how such a child is a complicated danger to anyone. As an intersex person I do not insist on being "Visibly different" as an adult, but my legal documentation insists on defining me as different by calling me a man when I am so patently not. I am a woman, by all current standards. I have done all I can to integrate as such, but the ambiguous documentation forces me into the open.

Such children have a fundamental right to grow up and control their own bodies and their own sexuality. If they choose to refuse such intervention, they have a right to be recognised and respected as they grow up. My point being that if the stalwarts of the two sex system insist that society has to be choosy about who is called a woman and who is called a man, (To Quote Germaine Greer) then what happens if intersex and transsexual people are not recognised in the sex they can only live as. It's a no win situation. The cold reality of this debate is simple, many of the people Jed Bland has quoted, such as those who advocate a two sex system and those who are critical of consenting adults seeking a surgical solution to their own difficulties, obviously do not grasp the deep and painful reality of being on the receiving end of such the two sex systems mistakes.

It's rather like the capital punishment argument that says "Oh a few innocent people will face the death sentence, but that, sadly, is the price we have to pay for this deterrent." The reality is that mistakes are made, and are difficult if not impossible to correct. You cannot give an intersex child the full reproductive organs of one sex when you have already tried to assign them to the other. Likewise you cannot resurrect the body of a wrongly executed innocent.

While I feel no anger towards Jed Bland, he is after all a real individual in my eyes, I all too often find myself disagreeing with him on many issues. A kind of ambiguity seems to lurk within his writing, one moment arguing for things I find incredibly crass, the next arguing against them.

However the message I got from his last article was one of being politely slapped across the wrist for stating something profoundly angry. Then again I am guilty of that written ambiguity, such as agreeing in part with Valerie Solanas, the author of the S.C.U.M. manifesto. While I disagree strongly with her idea of eliminating one of the two sexes in order to achieve a genderless and sexless society. (That is unrealistic), the basic tenet, that the two sex system is essentially corrupt and destructive, is something I both know to be true and have experienced for myself.

This issue of the Gendys Journal somehow felt like a mild rebuke, as if I had touched a raw nerve when "Another ministry of the normal" was initially put out on the internet. Yet cynically I just wanted those who had not experienced the iron fist of written bigotry, to see how it actually feels. Every time I open a newspaper, or switch on the television, that level of venom, aimed at all transsexual and intersex people is all too common. I suspect my exercise backfired a little.

But the reality is less of an intellectual exercise. Two articles in the Daily Express (21st. December, 1998), The Man's View and The Woman's View, would to most simply be some comment of the perspectives of those who are fully male or fully female, within the boundaries of the two sex system. It is light hearted, a joke. To someone like me it's a lot more insidious. As a child, I would have been told that I "Like buying little matte black gadgets from Halfords - Or Else!" As an adult it's "You will like buying plates and using steam irons, you will like washing up - Or Else!" Well I am sorry I decide what I like and what I don't like. I wash plates because I don't want to eat the remnants of the last meal in my present meal. Not because of some feminine element to my psyche. I don't buy little toys from Halfords because they don't interest me. this has nothing to do with my hating the false identity I was forced to endure as a child.

I can do about five things simultaneously, such as watch the television, operate two computers, do the ironing and make myself a coffee - this does not prove to me that I am essentially a woman. I can also read maps and have a well developed sense of space, I am certainly not a man. Don't say that because I can do both sets of tasks equally means that I am "hermaphrodite", because the men and women I know who hold both sets of attributes are not "hermaphrodite".

I am only confused as to why society sees fit to call me either a man or a woman when it suits, in some attempt to confuse me into some status I cannot live up to, that being of some stereotypical freak. Why can't the broader society accept who I am and accommodate me in the female female body I ended up with?

There is a female to male transsexual I know, who is probably more of a real man than most so called 'real' men I have met. In some sense he is to me a bit of a father figure, that is more real a man than my natural father ever was. At the Gendys conference he was arguing that his birth certificate was still defining him as a woman, so had to stand up, and publicly discuss his transsexuality, but he is a man. He defined himself as a man, he spent years fighting for the physical status of a man, he is accepted by all he meets, as a man. He is a stocky, cheerful, kind and at the same time strong and determined man. Every quality a man is supposed to have, in a positive sense. The sort of man that most would regard as a father, a husband, a brother and in his past a son.

So why on this earth do the authorities and so on call him a woman? or politely "A female to male transsexual" and then proceed to spit in his face and argue that he is some sexless monster. If this two sexed society ever bothered to look up from the pages of legal small print, and recognise him, then fine. This is in essence what Christine Burns was saying in that quote at the end of Jed Bland's article - that people who do define themselves as a given sex are not able to because of the law. The two sex system must accommodate this. But to be realistic, the chances of this accommodation are slim, despite the appearance of the "Gender Recognition Bill," which recognises a vague thing called "gender" because too many MEN(M) and WOMEN(W) are in powerful positions and they are hostile to my friend.

He introduced one journal with that dogged determination of his, still hoping, still fighting, still having to justify himself. Yet I still feel sceptical about the government, even though it says it will recognise him one day. I have to ask myself when? Why can they not issue him with his rightful identity? They argue that he was born female so history must record this as so. Right, fine, so that makes some sense I suppose, if you want to be overly pedantic.

Here's a difficult question then. Why is it that most physically intersex births are covered up by use of sexed birth certificates? Is that not trying to deny history? Why also do they seem content to give a male status to a child who may not want it by surgical and legal means, while at the same time denying someone else who has lived as a man for years, has had surgery to be a man and who is happy with that status? It's a bit hypocritical and, dare I say, sadistic, isn't it?

My discontent with the two sex system, as it stands, is that it cannot do two things at once. It cannot call him a freak, and then expect him to conform even more to prove he isn't. He cannot prove anything any more, he has nothing to prove. He is his own man - what more do they want? If the two sex society cannot accept that he is a man, and cannot realistically believe they can accept him as a woman. What do they call him, Third sex? It's the same with me, they cannot call me a man, it's impractical, they cannot bring themselves to call me a woman either. Well given that they could not recognise what I was at birth, what am I supposed to do, describe my biological status, that of a Female Eunuch? (I am determined to remind Greer of her folly in that title.), or has the state become just too "Choosy" about who it calls what. What is wrong with simply saying to me "Yes you are a woman" and to my friend "Yes you are a man."?

When I expressed the idea that men and women could seem arrogant at times, this is what in essence I meant, Those who live in these ivory towers arguing ethics cannot often grasp the harsh reality they are discussing. You cannot be so blasé about a child's future identity, nor can you lie about their birthright as intersex children and brand them as the sex they are never going to or would want to be. The Joella Halliday case was a stark illustration of this. Her parents had the decency to find out who she was before allowing anyone to act surgically on her anatomy. A particularly difficult approach considering the severity of her condition at birth. As for the state, the Greers, Raymond and Grays of this world, the response was less realistic, "It's a Boy!"

My argument is simple, if you buy into a two sex system, with the technology that is now available no matter what compromises you make to keep this "Status quo", you are inevitably buying into the most dangerous, (And yes I use that word with straightforward intent). nightmare of all. You are buying into the feared society of designer babies and dictated biological determinism. If I ever had children I would never wish them to grow in such an abhorrent, germ line manipulated horror of a society.

The arguments that profess that a transsexual undergoing S.R.S. is basically an individual going against nature seem to many to be sound on the surface, but no I cannot accept that. Nature by whatever accident of events gave them "gender dysphoria", (The need to have SRS) that is part of their nature. It also gave humanity the means to develop ways of giving them something of the anatomical status they believe is rightfully theirs. The underlying question is one of need and consent. By providing their needs and modifying them according to how their mind has stated their own body needs to be, you have allowed for evolution to take another tiny step in its course.

By misusing the same technology on children who are at an age where they will not remember what was done, and by hounding them if they grow to contradict the intended identity dictated for them, or complain about how painful the aftermath of the surgery is, this is obviously in disregard to their inability to give consent, and to the consequences of that. You are not allowing that child to evolve, you are going against evolution.

This is probably why some of the things I can say in my written outbursts can be very hurtful and challenging. You may not agree with my often overt resentment that is aimed at the two sex system, but it functions as it does, like some demonic puppet master controlling some grotesque Punch and Judy show. Humanity will never evolve, because it will never adapt to change.

Look again at this status quo that so many wish to protect, and tell me this. With the increase of intersex births taking place because of environmental changes (so some say), and with the ever spiralling pace of biological technology, is it really so safe to assume that the two sex system as it stands will go on for ever. Be very careful about how you perceive nature and describe her in pre-deterministic terms. She herself, or he himself, or they themselves could turn into your nemesis.

Face it, people balk at genetically modified and industrially processed food, yet alone pre-processed human beings. My suggestion to the ethicists, commentators and self appointed experts would be very very clear. If you go down the road of trying to engineer an unborn, newborn or young child's identity to fit with some social, religious or ill perceived 'Natural order', be very sure you can allow that individual to evolve and to modify themselves, into how they see themselves. If you don't, you will be facing a terrible nemesis. It won't be some mythical god they will be shouting at, it will be you. And nature will probably in the end hear them, having being assaulted herself.

So when I turn on the two sexed system, and describe it as arrogant, despotic and controlled by sexually abusive pigs, please try an understand that MEN (M) and WOMEN (W) (Such as Greer and Phelps) define themselves as such, solely as such, without any other sense of identity besides the capital, uppercase, (M) and (W). If I stand up to them and say DESPOTS (D) then it is my right to do so. The two sex system has to face its own two sex status before it can accept that part of it which confuses it, two sex people. To those who I respect, I apologise if I were not clear about to whom my venom was aimed.

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