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  BLACKLINES

Race and the Intersexed
by Lynnell Stephani Long
2003-06-01

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( 'This demythologizing of black sexuality is crucial for black America because much of black self-hatred and self-contempt has to do with the refusal of many black Americans to love their own black bodies ... . How does one come to accept and affirm a body despised by one's fellow citizens?' — Cornell West, Race Matters )

According to ISNA's Web site ( www.isna.org ) , one in every 100 children born are born Intersex. That is the total number of people whose bodies differ from standard male or female. The 2000 census bureau reported that 25% of the population is people of color ( i.e. Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asians ) . That would mean 1/4 of Intersex children born are children of color. So why are there so few people of color that are Intersex out? Why aren't there more activists of color working with ISNA to help end Genitalia Mutilation?

When I first started researching data for this article, my original intentions were to write about what more Intersex organizations can do to gather the help of people of color. But I think it's important I write about the stigma people of color face, and what more we can do to erase those stigmas.

Someone recently asked me what emotional difficulties did I face when I came out as Intersex. At first I thought this person wanted to know what I faced in gaining my medical records, changing the name and info on my birth certificate, and so on. They explained to me how rough they thought it must have been for me as an African-American Intersex woman that was raised male for most of my life. I said I cannot speak for other people of color born Intersex, but I can tell them how I felt, and what I endured.

Like Cornell West elegantly said in his book Race Matters, there are different stigmas and stereotypes in the Black community. While most of those stereotypes stem from myths, they still exist.

It's said that all Black men have huge penises. In fact a lot of Black men are so proud of their endowment they walk around grabbing themselves at any opportunity. Well imagine if a Black child is born Intersex and raised male with a small penis. In my case I was raised male because my karotype is XY. The doctors saw I have something that resembled a penis with Hypospadias, did surgery and handed my parents their baby boy.

Growing up in an all-Black community and going to an all-Black high school was rough as hell. While a lot of the other boys walked around nude, proud of the size of their penis, I tried my best to hide. Hiding didn't stop the questions though. Questions like, 'Why is your penis so small? Why do you have breasts? What are you, a boy or a girl?'

My mother didn't know how to handle the situation, so she did what a lot of other Black mothers would do. She told me to keep it a secret, and not to change in the locker room. Maybe it was because of the lack of info regarding Intersex conditions, but my mother refused to acknowledge I was different. She practically handed me over to the doctors to 'fix' me.

Even today, in 2003, I am amazed at the number of people of color who do not know what Intersex is. It incenses me that people think being Intersex is a 'white' thing. I am curious to know how many of these same people thought, or continue to think, that HIV is a gay disease and that people of color are immune to it? I believe if I can save one child from the horror I had to undergo, I would have paid my debt to society.

There isn't any one thing an organization like ISNA can do to help the Black community, except make sure information is available. I strongly believe people of color need to educate themselves. We need to step outside myths and stereotypes. If a child is born with a small penis, that child may be Intersex. If a girl is born with an enlarged clitoris, chances are she is Intersex. There is nothing to be ashamed about. There is no reason to hide the child or try to get that child fixed unless the child needs medical treatment.

Whether people of color accept there is a third gender called Intersex or not, it's important for us Intersex to learn to embrace and love our Intersex bodies. I am an African-American Intersex woman who has stood in front of countless audiences, across America and Canada, outing myself in the hopes of educating that one person that will take that information back to their family, and save a child's life. In God's world, nothing happens by mistake.

'I speak without concern for the accusations that I am too much or too little woman. Too black or too white, or too much myself.' — Audre Lorde


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