For every two thousand births easily defined, one intersex baby is born. In this binary-gendered world, having ambiguous genitalia or something other than XX-female or XY-male chromosomes can bring immense social pressure and stigma. Intersex activist Mani Bruce Mitchell seeks out his/her peers to find community, healing, and a wider view of intersex life: “it doesn't suck to be intersex; it sucks to be persecuted.”
Since the 1950s, the views of Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins University have led the medical protocol for intersex babies. Doctors have prioritized gender-normative outward appearance over self-created identity; not waiting for the children’s natural inclinations to emerge. Immediate and repeated surgical and hormonal interventions were foisted on children to “correct” their physical ambiguities and “ensure” their happiness. Touting nurture over nature, doctors advised parents to raise their children with clinically assigned genders, surrounded by secrecy and shame.
Mani and his/her intersex friends break the silence about the great suffering imposed by interventions that often backfired. Intersex adults recount shame and isolation, mistrust of their families, and being targeted by bullies and predators. Yet a few intersex people are simply raised as-is by accepting families, pointing to greater possibilities for self-creation and belonging in this vital emerging community.
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