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The Intersex Roadshow Reports

A Tumblr Companion to the Intersex Roadshow Blog
(http://intersexroadshow.blogspot.com)
Jul 28 '12
I understand that intersex communities could use a logo.  Intersex people are erased in so many ways, and the visibility we do have is highly problematic.  Just do a Google Image Search, and what you see are crotch shots of unconsenting children, stills from porn videos, circus slideshow photos, and images of genital surgery.  It would be great to have visibility for our communities—visibility that does not involve prurient displays of our genitals for gawkers and chasers.
So well-meaning people create logos.  I don’t want to dump on whomever created this one that’s been circulating for a while, but this image just doesn’t work for me.  Yes, I see how it visually represents that the two stick-figure sex icons that get pasted up on bathroom doors are joined by additional stick figures.  Instead of two sexes, we get five (à la Fausto-Sterling’s classic article).  Except… these are not representations of sexes.  They’re representations of gender norms—boys wear pants, girls wear skirts, and now, apparently, intersex people wear… skorts.  Boys like blue, girls like pink, and intersex people like purple.  OK, it’s true that I do like purple, but this is reproducing reductive gender stereotypes, and perpetrating the idea that people born with an intermediate sex must thereby have an intermediate gender identity, and look androgynous in their gender expression.
I can’t tell you how many uncomfortable situations I’ve been in where some (nonintersex) person has expressed disappointment at the banal appearance of an intersex person.  ”There was this intersex speaker who came to my university, but she just looked like a woman.”
Intersex folks are growing up in the same society as everyone else, which means we’re raised under a binary gender system, and plenty of us identify with a binary gender.  Lots of us are genderconforming in our self-presentation.  Yes, just like people who are not intersex, plenty of us identify with a gender but don’t conform to gender expectations (we identify as men and love pink, or we identify as women and are engineers).  Yes, some of us identify as intermediately gendered.  But we’re not “less intersex” if we look and act like suburban moms in sundresses or average joes who like macrobrewed beer.  We’re not here to entertain others with our gender performances.
The fact is, knowing someone is intersex tells you nothing about their gender identity or gender expression.  We may be born with bodies that get labelled atypical, but we are totally not born wearing culottes.
So I’d say we need a logo that doesn’t frame our status through the lens of gender performance.

I understand that intersex communities could use a logo.  Intersex people are erased in so many ways, and the visibility we do have is highly problematic.  Just do a Google Image Search, and what you see are crotch shots of unconsenting children, stills from porn videos, circus slideshow photos, and images of genital surgery.  It would be great to have visibility for our communities—visibility that does not involve prurient displays of our genitals for gawkers and chasers.

So well-meaning people create logos.  I don’t want to dump on whomever created this one that’s been circulating for a while, but this image just doesn’t work for me.  Yes, I see how it visually represents that the two stick-figure sex icons that get pasted up on bathroom doors are joined by additional stick figures.  Instead of two sexes, we get five (à la Fausto-Sterling’s classic article).  Except… these are not representations of sexes.  They’re representations of gender norms—boys wear pants, girls wear skirts, and now, apparently, intersex people wear… skorts.  Boys like blue, girls like pink, and intersex people like purple.  OK, it’s true that I do like purple, but this is reproducing reductive gender stereotypes, and perpetrating the idea that people born with an intermediate sex must thereby have an intermediate gender identity, and look androgynous in their gender expression.

I can’t tell you how many uncomfortable situations I’ve been in where some (nonintersex) person has expressed disappointment at the banal appearance of an intersex person.  ”There was this intersex speaker who came to my university, but she just looked like a woman.”

Intersex folks are growing up in the same society as everyone else, which means we’re raised under a binary gender system, and plenty of us identify with a binary gender.  Lots of us are genderconforming in our self-presentation.  Yes, just like people who are not intersex, plenty of us identify with a gender but don’t conform to gender expectations (we identify as men and love pink, or we identify as women and are engineers).  Yes, some of us identify as intermediately gendered.  But we’re not “less intersex” if we look and act like suburban moms in sundresses or average joes who like macrobrewed beer.  We’re not here to entertain others with our gender performances.

The fact is, knowing someone is intersex tells you nothing about their gender identity or gender expression.  We may be born with bodies that get labelled atypical, but we are totally not born wearing culottes.

So I’d say we need a logo that doesn’t frame our status through the lens of gender performance.