How can homophobia and transphobia affect intersex people?
Although I have never identified with any of the letters in the LGBT acronym, I feel deep empathy and love for this community. I understand the problems and discrimination they face, since every day I face those same problems and discrimination.
I was born in a small rural community in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. I was born at home and I was assigned female without many questions. When I reached puberty, my body developed characteristics considered male, such as body hair considered excessive for a woman, a beard, broad shoulders, my hips and breast didn’t develop, etc. In other words, I was born with an intersex body, one with congenital sex characteristics that don’t seem to fit the typical definitions of male or female, and my appearance is androgynous.
Some people perceive me as a man, some as a woman, and some people feel confused about my gender. It all depends on people’s prejudices. But the problem is not how they perceive me, the real problem is how these people act on their perceptions and prejudices. Allow me to share some examples.
When I was a teenager, I was criticised for my tone of voice (considered male at the time) and for my way of being and physical appearance, which was considered “masculine”. Often the criticisms came from my siblings and my mother.
At 18, when my body had fully developed, I had a lot of beard and body hair. I had to shave all the time. At that time, I used long hair, makeup and clothes considered feminine. People discriminated against me because they perceived me as a trans woman—there is nothing wrong with being a trans woman—but society is cruel to people who don’t fit their ideas of what a woman should be. I received a lot of psychological violence, some people harassed and bothered me, but the worst violence I suffered was from some boyfriends I had at the time who frequently made derogatory comments about my appearance.
Due to these and other situations, at 25 I decided to cut my hair. I cut it on impulse until it was very short. I stopped using makeup and started wearing unisex clothes. Then, I began to receive another kind of discrimination, since some people perceived me as a lesbian (although I have never identified myself like this) and other people perceived me as a gay man and made many homophobic comments. If some heterosexual woman or gay man felt attracted to me and then realised I wasn’t a man, sometimes they reacted with violence.
Sometimes, when I let my beard grow a little, people asked me: “Are you a trans man?” or “If you are a woman, why do you have a beard?” At that time, I lived in a city that was a bit more tolerant with diversity and I lied, saying that I was under hormonal treatment with testosterone, because I didn’t want people know that I had a natural beard. I felt more confident saying that I had decided to have a beard.
Almost all the doctors I have consulted because of health problems that had nothing to do with my sex characteristics have sought to “help me” by offering hormonal treatments that I have not requested, or they have referred me to an endocrinologist who, according to them, will “help me discover” what will happen to my body if they give me hormonal treatment which will make me look more feminine. I have always refused this kind of “help”. Some doctors have been invasive and insistent, and I have made it clear that I’m not interested in their treatments. On the other hand, there are other doctors who apparently have a sincere intention to help, but they simply don’t know that variations in sex characteristics are not a pathology, and they get carried away by what they learned in medical school.
In the course of my life I have experienced psychological violence and sometimes physical violence, all as a result of the misperception about my gender identity or sexual orientation, and because of the social prejudices that exist against every person perceived as non-heterosexual or non-cisgender.
Although I don’t belong to the LGBT community, I feel empathy for the people of this community, because I know that all forms of discrimination and violence are horrible, since I have had to live this in my own flesh.
I face all these situations in the way I consider most appropriate. I try never to put myself at risk and I don’t harm or hate those who attack me. It’s an internal struggle that sometimes takes away my energy and doesn’t allow me to focus on my daily tasks, such as at work or school.
However, because I was born with a body that is not typical, I had the opportunity to meet a beautiful being. I talk about my girlfriend who is also an intersex person, and I have also met other intersex people who are admirable, strong, brave. All of them inspire me to keep going day by day. They are my true family.
Since I met the intersex community my life changed completely. Now I’m a more emotionally stable person, and I feel happy and satisfied with my life. My girlfriend has helped me a lot with this.
Sometimes I forget what my life was before I found this beautiful community. I forget how alone I felt and I begin to sabotage myself with negative thoughts—but then I remember the past and stop my inner dialogue; I go back to concentrate on the present and enjoy what I now have and never thought to have: a true family.