She didn’t have to wait very long.“There was a lot of dehumanizing language tossed around about Semenya,” Caitlin says. that our genitals are not placed on our foreheads.”Caitlin is a 26-year-old community organizer from Atlanta, a brunette with a wide smile and a confident voice.
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Despite the fact that intersexuality is much more common than generally reported, however, except for brief news sensations like Semenya—and recent speculation about singer Lady Gaga—hardly ever does anyone think about intersex people.
But now, perhaps for the first time ever, an intersex person is making the evening news, and intersex activists think this just might be a defining moment for their movement. “Intersex bodies should not be treated as though they are a sickness that needs to be cured, nor should [Semenya] face social stigmatization for the narrow-mindedness of some,” read one typical blog post.
Navigating the issue with her parents was another story.“Her initial emotional reaction was, ‘Oh, did I do something to cause this thing to happen?
’” Caitlin says of her mother, who she’s very close to.
Particularly for parents of a newborn who hear that word for the first time, it’s so alarming.
People just don’t know what to do with that.”Caitlin, who was diagnosed with a DSD at age 15 (as if adolescence isn’t fraught enough), was old enough to have a say in how the medical establishment treated her, and successfully fought against being subjected to any sort of surgery.“Even for me, I was older, but I was still pushed to do a surgery, but I resisted that and I feel very lucky to do that.”Janet Green, who more readily identifies with the term DSD, works with Accord Alliance, an organization of health-care professionals and advocates that launched last March with the goal of promoting a new standard of care for people with DSD. It’s a wonderful thing for everyone’s self-perceived inadequacies or differences that our genitals are not placed on our foreheads!Janet says most intersex people—at least those that aren’t world-class runners—live pedestrian lives. ”The intersex-rights movement seeks the same things most civil-rights struggles seek: mainstream acceptance, equality under the law, the right to safely be “out.” And, oh yeah: They don’t want to be called “hermaphrodites.”“The term ‘hermaphrodite’ is stigmatizing and confusing,” says Alice Domurat Dreger, a professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University who is cited regularly by intersex individuals and advocates.1 goal of the intersex-rights movement is literally the right to exist.Every day in hospital maternity wards, intersex babies are born to freaked-out parents who’ve never even heard of such a thing, parents in a highly emotional state who are offered the immediate opportunity to surgically alter their child.“But she realized pretty quickly that that was about her and not about me.