Op-ed: Trans, Intersex Visibility and the Myth of Scarcity

The recent media focus on Caitlyn Jenner’s coming-out as a trans woman seems to celebrate her conformity to binary gender standards. But that media spotlight has illuminated some existing tensions among and between trans and intersex communities. As transgender civil rights have progressed and positive media attention increased in the past year, so have concerns about scarcity of coverage for the differing issues of each community. Inflamed tensions between the trans and intersex communities are even more deeply rooted in the common misconceptions that intersex and trans people often have about each other.

Specifically, the celebration of a particular type of gender-affirming surgery as liberating, brave, and beautiful can be triggering and even offensive to many intersex people. In many cases, intersex advocates are fighting for the right to not be involuntarily subjected to surgeries many trans people find medically necessary to live authentically. Opposing involuntary gender-assignment surgeries is central to the intersex awareness and advocacy movement.

By contrast, the common but mistaken assumption that all transgender people actively seek out similar surgeries as gender-affirming treatment has been promoted to oppose “transgenderism,” as if it were a choice or a social movement. Read More