Press Release: 5 March 1998
Intersex activist Angela Moreno talks about how she was subjected to mutilating genital surgery and years of lies. Physicians who claim that intersex activists criticisms apply only to older surgeries take note:
Angela’s surgery was performed in 1985, by experienced specialists. The “clitoral reduction” destroyed her clitoral sensation, not to mention her mental health.
Angela is now comfortable with her intersex status, describing herself as “a different kind of woman, born uniquely hermaphroditic” and who wishes from the bottom of her heart that she had been allowed to stay that way.
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.
At the start of ISNA’s life, when Cheryl Chase wondered why the facts of intersex weren’t included in the women’s health bible, Our Bodies, Ourselves, some people told her intersex was a women’s health issue.
Kudos to the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective for today realizing it is! We’re thrilled that the new edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves includes a section on intersex written by members of ISNA. It even includes a note about ISNA’s mission and how to find our website.
We’re especially impressed that the editors included an excerpt from the autobiography of our Board Chair, Angela Moreno Lippert as previously published in full in Intersex in the Age of Ethics. Angela’s story is shocking and moving, and will help reach out to those Our Bodies readers who have suffered similarly—and will reach out to those who are committed to helping us push for progressive care for people with intersex. And it will be quite a reach since Our Bodies has sold more than four million copies!
This just in from ISNA Board Member Thea Hillman:
On Sunday, October 12, I was a panelist at a Times Talk event entitled, "I Do, I Don't: Queers on Marriage", a panel discussion and Q&A with me, Patrick Califia, Michelle Darné, Carol Queen, Patricia Nell Warren, and Greg Wharton, moderated by Bill Goldstein, NYTimes.com/books founding editor. The event took place at the Koret Auditorium at The San Francisco Public Library.
My statements and responses to questions about marriage and queer culture centered on the failure of language around so-called "gay marriage" or "same-sex marriage." I talked about how these terms deny my experiences and the experiences of my community, which is made up of many sex and gender variant folks, namely transgender and intersex people. I spoke about attempts to legislate marriage based on current definitions of male and female fall apart when real human beings are put into the equation.
Thanks to all the hostility to gay marriage, it’s looking like judges in the U.S. are about to start on a learning curve now familiar to the International Olympic Committee. That’s because, to categorize people strictly into men and women—as both gay marriage prohibitions and sex-segregated sports require—you have to figure out for sure what makes a man and what makes a woman. And that ain’t simple.
In fact, the IOC has given up on what was once called “gender verification.” They’ve given up because they figured out what the U.S. courts apparently soon will: There isn’t any rational way to decide, in many cases, whether a person should count as a male or a female.
May 28, 2003
ISNA’s new documentary film, First, Do No Harm: Total Patient Care for Intersex, has been selected for the 27th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival! The film features a group of experts—including Cheryl Chase, ISNA Board member Debora Rode Hartman, and several health care professionals—talking about the trauma and shame associated with “normalizing” practices for intersex. Critiquing the current medical paradigm and exploring a more ethical and humane approach to treating intersex, “First Do No Harm” is compelling, hard-hitting, and deeply moving. It is an ideal teaching tool for students of medicine, psychology, social work, health policy, and gender studies.