Why The Letter "I" Should Always Be Included in the LGBT Acronym
A few months after my suicide attempt at twenty-one I moved home with my family in a misguided attempt to recuperate. Home had moved from a tiny town in Utah full to the brim with bigoted Mormons to Lahaina, Hawaii. I had tried to end my life due to debilitating depression surrounded by the rejection by my family and friends for being gay, and the idea of going home to them in an island paradise at first seemed like a good idea. I was beyond disheartened to arrive and find my parents even more bigoted and abusive than before. Worse, my younger siblings, whom I loved so much, had been indoctrinated to consider me an outsider, a deviant, a disappointment, and were now old enough to wield these viewpoints against me. I never in a million years would have thought someone could be so alone under the blistering Hawaiian sun. My shame around being homosexual increased, and my isolation from the only people in the world that I loved was even more acute up close. I did not think I would last much longer on the earth.
One day while alone in the house watching PBS, possibly the most serendipitous event in my life occurred as a NOVA program on the topic of intersex began to play. Intersex was a term I had heard only rarely, and was more familiar with the now-outdated identification hermaphroditic. I had not ever really comprehended that intersex people actually existed. Heretofore the word hermaphrodite was a term used derisively by South Park, bullies, and jokesters. But on the television before my very eyes were people talking about being born with different combinations of both male and female genitalia. It was a revelation and my salvation, knowing that who I was as a homosexual was obviously not a defect in me anymore than were these people who were born intersex. God did not make only man and woman. The proof was in his work, though it’s conveniently and abhorrently dismissed by his congregants. For the first time in my life I realized I was not a mistake, or damaged (at least not by my sexuality), or less valuable. Though it would be many years before I could resolve my depression, which is an issue of hormone health, I found in that moment a reason for my own existence in the experience of others.
The term hermaphrodite is derived from the name of the Greek God, Hermaphroditus, who was the mythical child of Hermes and Aphrodite, and was themselves intersex. The phenomenon of nonbinary human sexuality has been known about since the dawn of man, because it occurs everywhere during every time and in every population of humans. Greeks and Romans and Native Americans are all people who knew about intersexism, homosexuality, and all the variations which occur in human sexuality and sexual development, and Greeks and Romans considered it so beautiful and amazing that they represented those who did not fit the typical male/female genital and behavioral definitions as the result of sexual union between the Goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, and the God of Athleticism, Hermes. Native Americans referred to all of us as “two-spirit people.”
But today those who are intersex often endure more harrowing trials than those who are represented by the other acronyms in the non-heteronormative experiences, such as this article in the Salt Lake Tribute deftly illustrates. Born into a world which demands conformity their genitals are often mutilated by overzealous surgeons who demand that parents pick a gender. Some intersex people lose the function of their reproductive organs because of these surgeries, and are left maimed for their entire lives in the name of asinine and harmful ideas about human sexual development. Chromosomes are used as the excuse of this practice, which is absolutely idiotic since their biology has also manifest traits which are as real and immutable as the chromosomes itself, and considering that there are no genes for male or female it is even more inane that people who claim to be studied medical professionals recommend and encourage the carving up of a baby’s God-given private parts. The crazy thing about people who are intersex is the sheer number of them which exist, which by their marginalization gives the mistaken impression to be much smaller than the estimated 1 in 60 people! If you know or have met more than 60 people in your lifetime, odds are you have come into contact with at least one person who was born intersex, if not more. And yet because of the way our society regards them they are more marginalized than most of us, but because of the more physical manifestation of their unique identity they are thus more likely to have suffered or continue to suffer at the hands of others.
Traditionally, the Q in LGBTQ covers everyone else who isn’t explicitly defined by the first four letters, which represent Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, although the term Queer includes all of us and even straight people who don’t fit within the typical binary, heterosexual patriarchy system, and there are more sexual identities which can be included as well, such as A for asexual, which is for people who don’t feel aroused by sexual contact, or for those who are aromantic, which are those who cannot easily feel romantic love, or P for pansexual which describes those who feel attraction for who a person is on the inside regardless of their physical attributes. But people who are intersex are more marginalized than us because of their physical manifestation and lack of immediate inclusion in our advocacy and public representation. That intersex babies continue to be mutilated at birth even in progressive states like California is nothing short of medical malpractice, harm to those who cannot protect themselves, and an assault on those who are part of the intersex community. Thankfully the issue is gaining more visibility with some lawmakers becoming aware of the issue, but this practice of “correcting” God’s work in the name of conformity must stop and it must stop now. Directly including our intersex siblings in our methods of identification and community is a small but important step in accomplishing this and protecting those who cannot protect themselves. This is not a call to harass people who do not use the acronym correctly—that kind of behavior is petty and defeats the purpose of inclusion for which the acronym is intended. The acronym also includes straight people who wish to associate with us, and nobody should ever be excluded from fellowship with us because of trivial acronyms. But making the effort yourself to include the I and speak up for those who are intersex will do as much good for them as doing so has done for the rest of us.