Over the past several months, I have written posts about stereotypes associated with some of the major identities in the LGBTQ+ community; namely, stereotypes associated with identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.
When I started this series, I planned for it to coincide with a number of big events this calendar year, such as the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in June, but I had no idea quite how much this series would coincide with some other major events related to the LGBTQ+ community. For example, in July, Olympian Caster Semenya, an athlete born with intersex traits, was barred from defending her world title in the 800-meter race; that was part of why my post on intersex stereotypes weighed in on whether Semenya was being unfairly treated. I was also unaware that, before the end of this series, the United States Supreme Court would start yet another term where LGBTQ+ issues were up for consideration. There were probably other things that came up between the beginning of this series and now, but those two developments come to my mind.
If anything, these events show that understanding yet rejecting these stereotypes associated with different groups in the LGBTQ+ community is as important as ever. The rights, livelihoods, and lives of many people in the LGBTQ+ community depend on our rejecting such stereotypes.
As I said a few months ago, I will be doing a series
addressing stereotypes for LGBTQ+ people—talking about people who identify
themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, as well as people
who are intersex and asexual. I look forward to continuing through this series.
As I am going in order of the acronyms for LGBTQ (or
LGBTQIA), it is time for me to discuss stereotypes associated with being
intersex. But before going into details about those stereotypes, I should start
by talking about what it means to be intersex.
Intersex people are people who have variations in sex
characteristics (examples: sex hormones, genitals, chromosomes) that do not fit
the typical definition of a male or a female body. One example of an intersex
person is someone with external genitals that don’t appear to be clearly male
Now that we’ve talked about what it means to be intersex,
here are a few stereotypes associated with being intersex:
men and women were made; therefore, there are no intersex people. This is a
belief most commonly held by conservative Christian churches. My counter to
this is science—sometimes there are people who are born with both male and
female body characteristics, or body characteristics where it’s not clear if
the body is clearly male or female.
athletes are cheats. For this stereotype, look no further than the
treatment of Olympian Caster Semenya. She is ostracized, marginalized, and is
just about treated as the equivalent of a cheat for the simple reason that she
was born with intersex traits,
which in her case means that she was born with an abnormally high level of
testosterone. Some have come to her defense and argued that she’s successful
because of her skills and not her testosterone, but additionally, athletes
should not be punished for the way they were born.
people must be “made” into a man or a woman. If intersex people want to
undergo transition so that they are a man or a woman, that is up to them.
However, non-consensual surgery to make an intersex person into something they
don’t want to be is harmful mentally, not to mention the fact that such
surgeries can be physically harmful if not done properly.
if they don’t get surgery to be made into a man or a woman, intersex people
must be raised as a man or a woman and behave as a man or a woman. This seems
like a product of ideas about gender as a binary—the idea that someone must be
clearly a man or a woman. However, intersex people should have the freedom to
choose their own path as to whether their gender identity is as a man, as a
woman, or as somewhere outside of the gender binary.
These, of course, are just a few of the harmful stereotypes associated with being intersex. If there are other stereotypes about intersex people that should be discussed and/or if anyone wants to expand upon the intersex stereotypes mentioned here, please feel free to post a comment below!