April Herndon's blog
After several years on hiatus, ISNA’s teaching kit is back! The newly revised Teaching Intersex Issues is now available.
The teaching kit is designed for undergraduate classes in fields such as Bioethics, Science and Technology Studies, Women’s Studies, and Cultural Studies and contains two weeks worth of lesson plans, including annotations of key readings and videos, discussion questions, and class activities. The kit also comes with a copy of ISNA’s Speakers’ Handbook, which contains valuable information about intersex conditions, “what if?” scenarios to help educators field difficult questions, and personal narratives from other educators and activists.
The WAC’s mission is to offer “a designated safe place for womyn and men interested in womyn’s issues to think, discuss, argue, laugh, and freely be themselves. It also serves as a resource center for feminist, reproductive rights, justice, queer, and various other issues.”
As a professor at Gustavus last year and as a research associate this year, I have seen the members of the WAC do very good (and hard!) work on campus to educate their peers and tackle the tough issues. This year alone, they’ve held several drives to collect cell phones for women, sponsored events to educate peers about sexual assault, organized programming to educate peers about feminism, and engaged their peers, faculty, staff, and administration in important conversations about diversity and campus climate.
Both Hanley and Baratz come to the board with a wealth of experience in the healthcare field where they have worked to understand and overcome healthcare disparities while working toward a patient-centered model of care. We’re proud to welcome these two new board members and look forward to working alongside them.
Click here to read more about “ISNA’s Board of Director
A recent article entitled “Adult Genital Surgery for Intersex: A Solution to What Problem?” by Mary E. Boyle, Susan Smith, and Lih-mei Liao suggests that genital surgeries among adult women with intersex conditions present dilemmas similar to those involved with infant surgeries.
After conducting interviews with six adult women who chose to undergo genital surgeries as adults, the authors concluded that the women in their study often experienced little or no dilemmas surrounding the choice to have surgery but that the women felt conflicted after surgery. Prior to surgery, the women in the study believed that having surgery would “confer normality” and help them feel they were entitled to intimate relationships. The interviews also revealed that the physicians caring for the women in the study often presented surgery as unproblematic course of action and that for some of the women challenging medical authority—even as adults—was very difficult.
Last night I was shocked and horrified as I watched the plot of Fox’s popular medical drama, “House,” unfold. Fans of the show stay tuned each week to see Dr. Gregory House take on medical mysteries with a sarcastic wit and his own special personality. Last night’s episode, entitled “Skin Deep,” proved that much more is flawed about this show than the protagonist. It was, without a doubt, one of the most offensive and hurtful portrayals of people with intersex conditions that I’ve ever seen.
For those who didn’t see the show, allow me to summarize the painful episode. A 15 year old supermodel presents with mysterious symptoms, such as erratic behavior and uncontrollable twitching. Throughout the show, much is made of her feminine physique, with comments about her beautiful breasts and buttocks playing a lead role in the dialogue—even among the doctors. In the course of searching for a diagnosis, the medical team discovers that the young woman has been using heroin and that her father sexually abused her once while he was intoxicated. After ruling out effects from the heroin and possible post traumatic stress disorder resulting from the sexual abuse, House finally reaches the conclusion that the young supermodel must have cancer and a series of scans reveal internal testes that are malignant.
We are thrilled to announce that the Arcus Foundation has renewed funding for ISNA with $50,000 per year to help cover our 2006-2008 operating expenses! Arcus Foundation has been a key supporter of ISNA’s work since 2001, but this is the first time ISNA has secured ongoing funding from the Arcus Foundation.
Created in 2000 as a family foundation, the Arcus Foundation seeks to contribute to a pluralistic society that celebrates diversity and dignity, invests in youth and justice, and promotes tolerance and compassion. Initiated by Jon L. Stryker and Robert E. Schram, the foundation was formed in the belief that all individuals have a right and responsibility to full participation in our society and with the conviction that education and knowledge can be an antidote to intolerance and bigotry. Arcus has been ISNA’s strongest foundation sponsor since 2000.
We’re often asked why ISNA doesn’t forcefully advocate for a genderless society. Many times, these questions come from people with a genuine interest in gender studies and educating people about intersex. The truth is that we share lots of common ground with people in the humanities and/or activist communities who have fought long and hard to insure that the voices of marginalized people are heard.
When women of color told feminists that their lives weren’t reflected in theories that assumed white experience to be universal, scholars listened. When queer people came forward to say that theories of gender that neglected sexuality often fell short of capturing the realities of their lives, scholars listened. Without a doubt, scholars have a rich history of taking the voices of marginalized people seriously and changing their theories and practices accordingly, and now ISNA asks that scholars listen to what people with intersex conditions have to say—even if it might not be what they’d like to hear.
The Winter 2005 issue of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review features an article about intersex. The article, entitled Intersex Surgery, Female Genital Cutting, and the Selective Condemnation of ‘Cultural Practices’, discusses the similarities between female genital cutting (FGC) in African and Asian countries and the cosmetic genital surgeries performed on intersex infants in the West. Written by Nancy Ehrenreich with Mark Barr, the article suggests that although people in the West often medicalize the cosmetic genital surgeries currently performed that these procedures, much like FGC, have cultural roots.
A new article just published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism makes a compelling case for getting rid of all medical terms based on the root “hermaphrodite.” The authors (including two ISNA staff members and three ISNA Medical Advisory Board members) explain the problems with terms like “pseudo-hermaphroditism” and “true hermaphroditism.”
Why get rid of these terms? Because:
- These terms are stigmatizing to patients and their families. We should all be working to reduce stigma, not add to it through medical care.
Now that we finally have a regular staff of five at ISNA, we find ourselves in the happy position of regularly having interesting discussions about our work, our mission, and our cause. One such discussion arose recently around the question of how frequent intersex is.
We had put our Programming Assistant Colleen Kiernan on the task of updating the frequency chart on our FAQ. Colleen soon hit a evidentiary wall, and posted her frustration on our staff intranet, as shown below. Our Director of Public Relations Jane Goto then replied with many important insights. So we thought we would share this dialogue.