TRANSGENDER BODIES – INTERSEX 16
TRANSGENDERBODIES – INTERSEX
TRANSGENDERBODIES – INTERSEX
Societyranks individuals based on how the constructed body appears, height,sex drive, intelligence and bodily dimensions along the conceptualnorm of ‘right body’ and ‘wrong body.’ As such disabledpeople are construed to fall short of the constructed normal body asother members of the society. The notion of ‘normal body’ orideal body is associated with the imagined and visualized ideal bodyparts of a living being with the ‘right body’ model this notionof visualizing the ideal body model of a living being is amythological fallacy, there is no such thing as an ideal ‘body’(Groveman, 1999).
BackgroundSynopsis of the Topic
Historyis full of incidences of cultural conflicts in regard to whatconstitute the ‘right body’ or normal body especially whenindividuals are born with certain characteristics that were notculturally considered ‘normal’. In the history of United States,it was not until 1970s that ugly laws prohibiting individuals with‘unusual body features from appearing in public were banned thistrend on social expectations of ‘bodies’ construed as normalbriefly sheds light on how society has traditionally perceivedindividuals with ‘wrong bodies’(Hines, 2007).
However,this notion is a fallacy, there is no such thing as the ‘right boy’or ‘wrong body’ it is just a mere mental obfuscation to reality,perception and social construction meant to justify modification andorientation of what is culturally ‘normal.’ This research paperattempts to critically assess and dissect transgender intersexualcases on the basis of socially constructed ‘right body’ and‘wrong body’ as an attempt to make justified conclusion.
Normal/Abnormalbodies in transgender/Intersexual
Thesociety we live in has an inverse conception and often uninformedperspective on what ideally constitute ideal or ‘normal body’different labels have been used to define bodies considered‘abnormal’ ‘wrong’ or subverted which does not conform tosocial expectations. As such, children born with features or aspectsthat fall short of social expectation by gender, bodily abnormalitiesand other ambiguous features are subjected to cultural, medical andreligious modifications in order to conform to the ‘acceptablebody’. Empirical evidence from history indicates that, thesemodifications are done against individuals consent which later leadsto social, psychological and personal conflicts as the ‘modified’body tries to understand and fit in the society this has contributedto many cases of individuals living with the ‘wrong body’(Serano, 2009).
Inthe modern age, little has changed in regard to society perception ofthe ‘right bodies’ and ‘wrong bodies’ transgender,intersexual, albino and other disabilities are still socially viewedas ‘wrong bodies’ with such individuals being subjected to socialprejudices and discrimination. Nothing exhibits these abnormal socialexpectations of ‘right body’ and ‘wrong bodies’ than theissue of intersex and transgender. It is not until recently thatindividuals with bodies constructed as transgendered began to voicetheir aggravations to these discrimination and oppressions (Carroll,2010).
Althoughthese cases of intersex and transgender has been in existence forlong, most people have little knowledge and contact with such casesthis explains the obnoxious notion associated with such people ashaving the ‘wrong body.’ Traditionally, society construed humanbeings as belonging to either male or female gender (Heath,2006).Intersex and transgender are misconstrued concepts that have a greatdifference, intersex refers to a biological condition of a person isbirth having both male and female features while transgender is aninternal experience or feeling towards particular gender identitycentrally to what one was socialized after birth. The societysocializes individuals into learning status, categorize and namebodies that do not conform to the norm of ‘right bodies’ at earlyage (Catherine & David 1998).
Accordingto Judith and Butler, 2011/1993,‘what qualifies as bodies that matter, ways of living that countas ‘life,’ lives worth protecting, lives worth saving, livesworth grieving’ iswhat could be constructed as ‘normal bodies.’ There exist greatdifference between the term ‘body’ and ‘embodiment’especially when referring to cases of intersexual or conjoinedindividuals. In the contemporary society, it is believed thatfundamentally, each person is either a male or a female, and that tobe otherwise is to be ‘wrong’ or having a body that is ‘wrong’and ‘abnormal’(Heath, 2006).
Asa result of this ambiguity the social understanding of intersexedbodies motivates the society to ‘correct’ such ‘deviance’ sothat they conform to the ‘culturally acceptable bodies’ as a wayof alleviating social stigma. In this light, individuals perceived ashaving intersexed or transgender attributes are subjected to medicalinterventions ‘sex assignment surgery’ to modify the ‘unusualbody.’ Towards mid 20thcentury, routine medical response was adopted to surgically alterinfant’s genitalia (by virilizing) even when the child health wasnot at risk. The response was driven by assumptions that gender is amatter of nurture and not nature and any child could be turned intoany gender. In addition, this medical modification was done for fearof child stigmatization by the society(Opjordsmoen et al. 2003).
Anotherassumption proposed for the need of medical intervention to correctthe ‘abnormal body’ was that, without the medial modifications onthe ambiguous sex organs or gender assignment, individuals would livelife full of despair and alienations. While this notion of medicalintervention has been supported by some, great debates has beenraised by critics and activists who see it as contravening the rightof individuals and self determination. Other critics have associatedthis act with negative outcomes such as involuntary sterilization,reducing erotic response, genital pain, source of shame andabnormality (Sharon & Preves, 2002).
Furthermore,activist opines that, ‘the corrective surgery, causes emotionalharm on individuals by legitimizing the fact that their bodies arenot ‘normal’ and thus the need for ‘fixing.’ According toSuzanne Kessler and Cheryl Chase (1998),‘Surgery does not result into ‘normal’ genitals rather itinflames the notion that ‘abnormal genitals are not acceptable.’In the right of these revelations, debate has been shifted on how andwhen medical intervention should be applied as the last result? OrOkayed if there are medical risks associated to the health of theindividual, whether gender determination should be flexible, based oninformed consent on the part of the victim or the surrogates (Heath,2006).
Anothercontroversy in this line has been, at what age and with whose bestinterests should infant corrective surgeries be applied forintersexual cases. While medical intervention is critical to amendthe pathological condition presented by the ambiguous sex organs,there are divine attributes that cannot be assumed ‘embodiment ofthe body.’ Embodiment refers to the complex self which cannot bedissected in the same way bodies could be dissected this is thedilemma that challenges modern day intersexual medical modification(Carroll, 2010).
Similarly,there are no details that exist on legislation or mandatory medicalintervention for intersexual cases, it is a socially constructeddogma aimed at ‘correcting deviation of bodies’ from what isculturally assumed to be ‘right body.’Treating intersexual bodies as passive objects that require medicalintervention demeans the essence of humanity and denies intersexualwith their own perspective to live as they wish. While hot debatesand contestation remains about this issue, the notion of ‘wrongbody’ remains in many accounts as a justification to modificationprocedures aimed at attaining the ‘right body’ congruent withtrue self (Serano, 2009).
Accordingto Petersen, 2007, a normal body is that which has particular shapeor is in a state of condition that conforms to the accepted notion ofpopular, common or social ideal. This is based on people perceptionand evaluation of the body, situation and circumstance that areculturally known. The society defines ‘normal’ or ‘abnormalbody’ in comparison to the commonly observable features of ‘normalperson.’ Based on these assumptions individuals who exhibit bodilyfeatures that are seen as otherwise are thus categorized as‘abnormal’. It is based on these precincts that intersexual and‘transgender bodies’ are construed as ‘abnormal’ or ‘wrongbodies.’ Bodies that have male and female attributes within thesame anatomy are thus seen having been born with ‘wrong body’(Dreger, & Domurat, 1995).
Acrossall societies, people, medical practitioners, religious and evenscientist hold a common assumption that, an ideal ‘normal body’is distinguished as either male or female based on the biologicalfeatures genitalia, breast and hips. Any deviation from this statusquo is regarded as nature in reverse or ‘wrong bodies’ whichunder all circumstances require medical modifications to align italong the acceptable features of the ‘right body.’ The sex typeof an individual is determined on the observable feature of thegenitalia while gender is a socially constructed attributesexpectations of an individual. In most scenarios, an individual’ssex correspond gender roles assignments, although there arevariations from society to society(Shildrick, 1999).
However,there is a distinguishable difference associated between male andfemale, and therefore, the issue of intersexual or transgenderelicits dilemma in profiling such individuals’ along socialstanding (feminine or masculine). The conflation of sex and genderterms is prevalent in the medical fraternity as obfuscation to thephysiology of sexual ambiguity. The resultant effect is labelingintersexual individuals as having ‘abnormal bodies and wrongbodies’ which does not conform to the normalcy in the society(Carroll, 2010). Ideally, in normal circumstances individualsperceived to have ‘wrong bodies’ would not feel as such if thesociety could see them as normal human beings many trans people lovetheir bodies. The society should therefore desist from definingindividuals as having wrong or right bodies, as doing so exacerbatesthe victims’ hatred for their bodies (Sharon & Preves, 2002).
Thenotion of ‘wrong bodies’ is seen from the perspective of sociallydeviant and somatically different from the ‘right bodies.’ Inmost cases the normative inference of ‘normal body is made inrelation to the statistics of the population’ this divides thesociety into sub populations transgender and intersexual casesbecomes the subpopulation excluded from the society on the basis ofhaving the ‘wrong body.’Shildrick 1999 observes that, what is constructed as the ‘rightbody’ is a matter of personal shapes that are culturally expectedby then society around he’s or her. As such, at individual levelthe normalcy of having the body constructed as the right body’creates a sense of achievement as individual feels that they havebodies that conform to the culturally acceptable forms, and that allparts are in perfect order. This way of modelling bodies based on theperceived norms of the society, therefore sets pace for the prejudicethat begets the transgender and intersexual subgroups in the society(Heath, 2006).
Otherarguments abound that, normalcy is regarded in the same measure as‘whiteness,’ along which other forms are measured or evaluated.In addition, ‘normalcy’ is seen as ‘wholeness’ of bodiescompared to ‘disabled’ ‘non-normal’ people (Dreger,& Domurat, 1995).
Justificationsfor the ‘wrong body’ modifications
Beingborn with an ambiguous sex organs brings problems of understandingsex or gender of an individual, however, majority of these bodies donot need medical modifications to change their anomaly. Transgenderpeople who with their own consent want transition would still livetheir lives the way they like (Carroll, 2010). Medical justificationsgiven for intervention are based on assumptions that any sense ofambiguity should be removed in the shortest time possible, the genderof an individual does not matter as it depends on the nurturingprocedure as opposed to nature and that medical intervention helps toforestall social discrimination and stigma an individual would facefrom the society(Urla & Terry, 1995).
However,critics and social activities are opposed to these justifications formodifying the ‘wrong bodies’. Specifically, critics observe thatmedical intervention infringes on individuals rights, createsdiscomfort, victims’ losses their erotic ability and in some casesindividuals undergoes psychological trauma. Therefore, individualsshould be left to decide the cause of their lives and not what issocially acceptable. If the individual is comfortable with the statusof intersexual, no pushing or social labeling should be applied tochastise them to change their conditions(Petersen, 2007).
Thepersistent of pejorative constructions assigned to the differencethat exists on intersexual only serves to stress the abnormality ofintersexual as such the ‘problem’ of trans bodies is not theindividuals, rather the ‘problem’ is the way normalcy is createdin comparison to ‘wrong bodies’ or the intersexual. Therefore,when associating ‘wrong bodies’ with ‘deviance’ the societyneed to understand ‘normalcy’ in order to understand what is‘normal’ or not (Davis, 1995) .
Transgenderbodies’ presents a more appalling condition than intersexual caseswhen it comes to the definition of hes/her ‘wrong’ and ‘rightbody’. The society sees these individuals as been ‘abnormal’and do not fit in the socially acceptable gender scale of famine andmasculine. As such, transgender falls below the ‘normalcy’ lineconstructed by the society transgender is seen as ‘wrong body’which could only be ‘corrected’ by medical modifications in orderto be re-assigned in the socially acceptable gender roles. Assessedcritically, this is a fallacy that limits individuals options intheir lives it is possible individuals would change their mindslater in life as has happened in many historical medical cases. Thisbrings forward the essence of informed consent and the principle ofindividual decision making.
Basically,this condition (transgender) presents the individual concerned with adilemma of their true identity individual’s experiences genderfeelings that do not match their culturally assigned gender identity.As such transgender people do not conform to the conventionaldimensions of the male or female roles but alternates between the tworoles. These individuals are assigned particular gender roles atbirth but later feel different along the course of their lives. Thespecific age at which transgender individuals begin to experiencesuch gender crisis varies from individual to individual for somegender crisis begins early age, others at puberty, middle age.
Ideally,it is difficult to discern that hes/her is a transgender both thesociety and the individual concerned. While those who realize earlymight take modification process, others who realize their conditionat later stages opts to remain with the ‘wrong bodies’ than facesocial stigmatization or shame. In some cases, many seek privatesurgical procedures or revert to taking medicated hormonal drugs to‘correct’ the anomaly in their bodies. These groups oftransgender have hard times incorporating in the society. It is notalways that transgendered people hate their ‘wrong bodies,’ inmost scenarios the victims would live comfortable and fulfillinglivings even with the ‘offending organs’ that alienate them to‘wrong gender.’
Itis the society which exacerbates funs their hatred for their bodiesconsequently leading many to seek body mutilation procedures in orderto conform to the socially acceptable form. However, theseindividuals could live normal lives if they wish and are not ‘pushed’by the society into conforming to the socially expected genderidentity (Dreger,& Domurat, 1995). Individuals who opt to live with their ‘wrong gendered body’ doso with great sacrifice and love it does not happen naturally, greatsacrifice, time, therapy and disentangling efforts are applied tocounter negative perception and attitude from the society.Transgender people who wish to change their condition would stillchange their condition regardless of the societal prodding andinfluence even if we live in a ‘perfect’ world where suchindividuals are accorded social recognition and respects.
However,because such world never exists and the society is full of ‘normativeexpectations’ transgender have no option but to change their ‘wrongbodies’ to the ‘correct gender.’ If conditions were otherwise,and the transgender were allowed to accept their body as they wishand assign their body the gender choice of their preference, thiswould ease many trauma and the costs of seeking modificationprocedures. Therefore, individuals should be allowed to makeindividual decisions about their body feelings because it is only anindividual decision that would make them comfortable (Sharon& Preves, 2002).
Inmedical, political, social and economic angles transgenderindividuals are viewed as ‘abnormal people’ withheteronormativity. They are therefore subjected to medical discourseto modify their odd body anomaly to assign them the correct genderthis is in effect to recover their normalcy as accepted by thesociety. According to Opjordsmoenet al, 2003, the cultural determination of gender goes againsttransgender people and creates many controversies andmisunderstanding on transgender status. In addition, the culturaldefinition of transgender people do not relate to the medical view.
However,the medics’ advocates for swift medical intervention in rectifyingthe situation to avert more cultural prejudices associated withstigmatizations, rejection and trauma. As such the ‘abnormalcy’in transgender condition has come to be understood as a medicalproblem that requires medicalized attention. According to CatherineMyser et al, they emphasises on medical process despite risksinvolved, however, this perspective brings the paradox of distinctionbetween the ‘mental and the bodily realism’
Responsefrom Transgender people
Transgenderpersons have been vocal in blurring, traversing the genderexpressions assigned at birth and bridging the categorization of suchpeople along the gender and sexual attraction. In this way, manytransgendered individuals have been involved in mobilizing peopleinto social movements to advocate for their rights and change selfand societal conceptions of transgender this is done in the attemptto quell societal forces of compelling individuals to adapt andconform to normative expectations as such transgender persons aremoving towards normalizing transgenderism. In the recent movements,transgender people seeks to question the rationality and morality ofsurgical/ hormonal intervention and the impetus associated withchanging ones genitalia.
Inbroader sense, these political movements of transgender people haveawakened to negotiate their identity and social expectations fromthem rather than being subjected to ‘spoiled identities’occasioned by stigmatization. In addition, transgendered people arecriticizing the ethical basis of medical intervention in cases oftransgender. As a result new challenges are emerging in the medicalfraternity physicians are taught to improve lives of people but suchinterventions on intersex or transgendered people is provingineffective on ethical grounds.
Transgenderpeople look back at the culture as the determinant of their state asthey are. This is because the culture determines the basis ofdefining male or female gender by identifying these as the maingender for normal people. At the same time, culture is created bywhat is deemed to be normal. This exists since the essence ofnormalcy becomes the main constituent of defining the norms of aculture. This is because the culture creates a list of normal thingsat all perspectives of life, which includes the existence of genderand transgender as abnormal. Besides, there can be a third genderidentification as transgender(Catherine & David 1998).
Thenotion of ‘normal body’ or ideal body is associated with imaginedand visualized ideal body parts of a living being with the ‘rightbody’ model this notion of visualizing the ideal body model of aliving being is a mythological fallacy, there is no such thing as ideal body. The society we live in has an inverse conception andoften misinformed perspective on what ideally constitute ideal ornormal body different labels have being used to define bodiesconsidered ‘abnormal,’ ‘wrong’ or subverted and does notconform to the social expectations. Traditionally, society construedhuman beings as belonging to either the male or the female gender.
Thesociety socializes individuals into learning identity, categorize andname bodies that do not conform to the norm of ‘right bodies.’this ambiguity social understanding of the intersexed bodies hasdriven the society to control and ‘correct’ such ‘intersexualdeviance’ so that they conform to the ‘culturally intelligible’bodies as a way of alleviating social stigma. This ambiguity socialunderstanding of the intersexed bodies has driven the society tocontrol and ‘correct’ such ‘intersexual deviance’ so thatthey conform to the ‘culturally intelligible’ bodies as a way ofalleviating social stigma. Medical justifications given forintervention are based on assumptions that any sense of ambiguityshould be removed in the shortest time possible, the gender of anindividual does not matter as it depends on the nurturing procedureas opposed to nature and that medical intervention helps to forestallsocial discrimination and stigma an individual would face from the society.
However,thereare no details that exist on legislation or mandatory medicalintervention for intersexual cases, it is a socially constructeddogma aimed at ‘correcting deviation of bodies’ from what isculturally assumed to be the ‘right body.’ Transgender persons have been vocal in blurring, traversing thegender expressions assigned at birth and bridging the categorizationof such people along the gender and sexual attraction. Transgenderedpeople are criticizing the ethical basis of medical intervention incases of transgender. The society defines ‘normal’ or ‘abnormalbody’ in comparison to the commonly observable features of ‘normalperson,’ and therefore, there is no such thing as the ‘right boy’or ‘wrong body’ it is just a mere mental obfuscation to reality,perception and social construction meant to justify modification andorientation to what is culturally ‘normal.’
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