I saw your response to my open letter on Twitter. It’s a shame you didn’t feel you could respond directly, so that we could have a conversation. Nonetheless, I thank you for at least reading my blog and I’d like to respond to you here. For the benefit of others, who may not have seen your replies, I’m going to take the liberty of posting them here to give others some context to what I’m saying.
I’m unclear what you find “odd” or “extraordinary” about what I said in my first letter. You have reportedly stated, on Twitter, that sex is not binary. Here are some examples…
This, to me, is the extraordinary claim, especially from someone who is medically qualified. Others have found it extraordinary too, and have asked you, in the past, to explain what you mean. In response, you have offered a few pieces. First of all, I’d like to address this one.
This is based on an article from Nature magazine that has been debunked many times for misrepresenting the reality of DSDs. I’ve even had a go myself but I’m going to leave it to the actual author to explain to you that the headline is misleading and the article itself is not meant to suggest that human sex is not binary.
I think that probably clears that up, so we’ll move on. You have also repeatedly referenced the work of Anne Fausto-Sterling. Again, here are some screenshots.
I’m going to pull out some relevant quotes from the first piece for us to look at. Firstly this, “…relying heavily on Money’s ideas, medical experts combined surgery with child-rearing advice to shoehorn into boxes labeled male or female those bodies which did not fit either.” This clearly states a belief that infants with DSDs, who were subjected to surgery under John Money’s ‘Optimum Gender’ regime, are neither male nor female. This is simply untrue.
As I explained in my first letter, the practice of the assignment of sex involves the removal of a boy’s penis and then the child being raised as female, with their actual sex concealed from them. Other surgeries have included the complete removal of the clitorises of virilised infant girls. Not because their bodies were not female but because their bodies were deemed “unacceptable” for not fitting a platonic ideal. I am unclear where yourself, or Anne Fausto-Sterling, got this idea from, that John Money did not understand exactly what he was doing. It seems odd to be basing your “progressive” politics on a man whose practices are not only considered outdated, but harmful, these days.
And this from the BJGP.
As a public educator of science in the UK, surely these peer reviewed, respected, scientific, medical journals are the publications you should be referring too, rather than a philosophical piece, written by a professor of gender studies in the US.
I’m also going to point out that the paper you shared continually conflates sex and gender, until the whole thing nearly becomes meaningless. Such as this passage here…
Here, again, we can see intersex being labelled as something other than male or female. As we have been over, this is not true. I cannot speak on behalf of trans people, but I’m not sure all would agree with themselves being listed as “neither male nor female” either. Isn’t the point you’re trying to make that trans women are women, and therefore female? This would seem to contradict your claims. As you can see, from the last part of this extract, it then goes on to state sex is an “inner feeling”, but lists gendered attributes to back this up. I’m surprised that someone in your position was unable to see the contradiction and problems with this. Sex and gender are not the same thing. This is clearly stated by respected scientific and medical orgs, such as the WHO. I’m unclear how this has passed you by.
It’s also worth noting that every single intersex org has been clear that intersex is nothing to do with gender nor identity. For example, these statements from the IHRA, Accord Alliance, the ISNA and dsdfamilies.
Being intersex is not the same as being trans. The constant conflation of the two issues leads to the loss of intersex voices and loss of funding to support groups like DSDFamilies. Intersex groups have tried to get away from the idea that our experiences are inevitably to do with gender identities, although this is being increasingly imposed upon us by even well-meaning activists. We have frequently lived lives that have involved multiple medical procedures, secrecy, shame and stigma. We should at least be able to describe our own experiences in our own language and not be forced to view our existence through the lens of gender identities.
We may be an interesting talking point for biologists – and if you had hundreds of experts from the biological sciences all in one room, you could probably have a very interesting discussion about the nature of sex and gender with many different opinions. However, we are also real people with real lives and not just interesting anecdotes to throw into debates about trans identities, without any empathy, understanding and as you like to claim as important ‘kindness’ to our lived experiences.
Your response to my letter, and the fact this has all passed you by, leads me to one of three conclusions, none of which are favourable. Either, a) you did not read what you shared to back up your claims. Which begs the question if this is acceptable for someone in a role with the responsibilities yours entails, b) you did read it and didn’t understand it. Which, again, begs the question of if your role as a “public educator” is an appropriate one, c) you did read it and understand it and are now being dismissive and disingenuous, as you are uncomfortable when confronted with the reality of it and the harm it does to people with DSDs.
I’m unsure what more I can do to explain this to you. As before, I remain open to a conversation, as do the other people with DSDs, or who are advocates for children with DSDs, some of whom I know have also tried to engage with you on Twitter to no avail, who have asked to sign this follow up letter. It’s extraordinary that a public educator, who talks about the importance of lived experience, and who should be engaged in the pursuit and dissemination of accurate information, is unable to engage with those she is weaponising and is closed to improving her own understanding.
Please do get in touch, so we can help you to understand and so people with DSDs can reclaim our own voices and know that, at least in the UK, we are accurately represented and these stigmas addressed and abolished. Or, if you still feel I am unfairly representing what you are saying, to clarify what you mean. Either way, the comments on this blog are open.