As someone who is intersex by birth and who has gender transitioned, I object to the framing of trans identity as an intersex condition. Hoping to diffuse transphobia, some trans people today are looking for a brain structure housing gender identity. They argue that people are born with a “brain sex,” and that if this “brain sex” differs from the individual’s genital sex, they suffer from an intersex condition that must be treated via gender transition.
The difficulties faced by intersex people can indeed relate to gender identity, since children born intersex today are forcibly assigned a dyadic sex at birth, and often subjected to sex reassignment surgery to which they cannot consent. If the child grows up not to identify with the sex to which ze was coercively assigned, gender dysphoria results. But no test has ever been developed that can determine what the eventual gender identity of an intersex person will be—not in the brain, the chromosomes, the gonads or the genitals. And the issues intersex people face center on forced sex assignment in childhood—something which advocates of the intersex brain thesis tacitly support when they argue that since trans status arises from an intersex brain, it “must” be treated medically. Like many intersex people, I boggle resentfully at the idea held by some trans people that intersex people are “lucky,” have a privileged relationship to the medical community, or are free from stigma in our lives. The belief that being categorized as intersex would lead to advantages, which causes trans people to frame trans identity as an intersex condition, is deeply flawed.
In any case, trying to find the cerebral structure that “houses” gender identity is as silly as Descartes’ claim in the 17th century to have found that the soul was located in the pineal gland of the brain. It’s not that simple.
Trans people will win our rights though political activism, not neurology.