Monday, September 10, 2007

DSD - Is there really a consensus?

by Curtis E. Hinkle

We in OII have been interested in the new term which those who feel they speak for us are now imposing on us. Just as our sex was imposed on us without our consent, now the experts and DSD activists are imposing pejorative terminology on us as our new identity. Was there really any consultation of those directly affected by this new pejorative identity label? It appears there was not. Most of us do not identify as disordered nor do we feel that our sex is disordered.

On the following site, those interested were invited to respond to an article on Disorders of Sex Development. You will notice that there are almost no intersex adults in favor of this. The main proponents are doctors and in one case, a woman who is both a parent and a doctor (Arlene B. Baratz, MD).

Scroll down to read letters from intersex activists about DSD on the following site:

The Organisation Intersex International did a survey:
DSD Survey results thus far:

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Eric Vilain, J Michael Bailey and DSD

by Curtis E. Hinkle
Founder, OII
(Note: I am personally biased against DSD terminology and the quest for finding a true sex for an individual, whether that be based on "brain sex" or any other genetic or biological marker. If I want to know the "true" sex of an individual, I simply let them tell me.)

I read an article this morning entitled:
Going beyond X and Y (c) 1996-2007 Scientific American, Inc. All rights reserved.

In this article Dr. Eric Vilain states that the term "intersex" is hurtful. OII did a survey which indicated that just the opposite is true among intersex adults. The overwhelming majority of those directly affected by this terminology and the subsequent protocols derived from it felt that "DSD" was hurtful. Three of the very few intersex participants in the DSD guidelines requested to have their objections to the terminology formally recognized within the publications.

Some background:
Dr. Eric Vilain is a member of the NICHD Network on Psychosexual Differentiation. The NICHD is a United States Federal Agency. The acronym stands for: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "The NICHD was initially established to investigate the broad aspects of human development as a means of understanding developmental disabilities, including mental retardation, and the events that occur during pregnancy. Today, the Institute conducts and supports research on all stages of human development, from preconception to adulthood, to better understand the health of children, adults, families, and communities." [1] "Since the NICHD was founded, one of its main focuses has been on understanding the causes of birth defects, and on their treatments and prevention." [2]

What concerns me with Dr. Vilain is that with his intense interest in brain sex and in discovering the causes of homosexuality, he seems to have no qualms in being closely associated with J Michael Bailey who is a colleague of his in the NICHD Network on Psychosexual Differentiation and also one of the members of that group who started introducing the use of DSD. Vilain is not interested in just the sex of an individual but the development throughout the life of an individual which involves gender identity and sexual orientation as well. I am not qualified to judge Dr. Vilain's science but I do feel obligated to express my opinions on the possible uses of that research. I have great problems with associating "birth defect" research with someone who has written a legal argument for aborting homosexual fetuses and this person is involved in the research with Dr. Vilain, namely: J Michael Bailey, who has written the following:
Parental Selection of Children’s Sexual Orientation

There are serious implications with J Michael Bailey being part of this network. He is also working closely with Berenbaum on the Tomboy project which is studying girls who are tomboys. Having the man who wrote The Man Who Would Be Queen involved with intersex researchers like Berenbaum to study tomboys is not an encouraging step forward in my opinion. J Michael Bailey is very interested in intersex research and I am very concerned that scientists of the caliber of Vilain would be associated at all with someone who has the academic track record of Bailey and who is one of the main members of the network and one of the original presenters at their early meetings. It is clear from the aims of the network what the focus is on:

“Develop or refine animal paradigms that model and help to explain the genetic, neuroendocrine, and social processes underlying both normal sex-typed behaviors and pathological behaviors observed in individuals with intersex conditions or gender-atypical behavior.”

Many people who visit our site most likely do not fit into what the NICHD would define as individuals with “normal sex-typed behaviors”. So beware. As intersex people are used to determine "normal sex-typed behaviors" and their origins, more and more of the population will be affected by the findings of this research which is being conducted by Vilain, Bailey and others. I would suggest that the science behind this cannot be separated from the surrounding sexist culture which finances it. Substitute the word "race" for the words "sex", "sexual" and "gender" as used in this research and it will be apparent just how sexist this research is and that the basic political and social assumptions which make these issues "important" to the scientific community are rooted in the political need to justify social norms for men and woman based on genetic findings.

The following article deals with Bailey’s research on Tomboys along with intersex researcher Sheri A. Berenbaum
Who Are Tomboys and Why Should We Study Them?
Journal Archives of Sexual Behavior
J. Michael Bailey, Kathleen T. Bechtold and Sheri A. Berenbaum
Issue Volume 31, Number 4 / August, 2002, Pages 333-341

It is also interesting that Anne Lawrence is on the APA Task Force on Gender Identity, Gender Variance, and Intersex Conditions. Everywhere I look, I see Bailey or close associates of his involved with intersex. I have no idea why Anne Lawrence would be on the APA committee for intersex. She has no connection whatsoever with the intersex community that I have ever heard of, nor does she have any scientific training in the field. Many intersexed people have told me that having anyone like Anne Lawrence associated even remotely with intersex issues is not only disturbing but extremely offensive because she has elaborated a theory for explaining a sexual fetish for feminizing surgeries that she has which she uses to explain her particular experience and her desire for feminizing surgery and many intersexed people feel that their own feminizing surgeries in childhood could be sexualized and misunderstood by people such as Anne Lawrence studying their gender variance. No one we are aware of in the intersex community is questioning her sexual desire for feminizing surgery as a reason for her sex change. We just don't feel it has any place in the discussion of intersex people who are gender variant. Also, many intersex adults are disturbed that intersex activist Alice Dreger would recommend such a person as a speaker or that Alice Dreger would defend such a position since most of us thought that Dreger was more interested in intersex than ideological battles within the trans community. However, we have found this not to be the case. Dreger has made it clear that she has taken a very specific side in this debate: pro-Bailey and therefore pro-Lawrence. (See footnote)

I would like to point out a dangerous trend in the intersex community that has been evident to many of us over the years and that is some intersex activists insist on marginalizing those who do not agree with them as genderqueer or third gender and therefore not representative of the community or they simply label them transgender. OII has been repeatedly referred to as a transgender organization despite the fact that most of the board members have never rejected their assigned sex. Also, it comes across to many of us that the way some intersex activists have made these allegations that they think that transgender is something bad. OII-Spokeswoman for the United Kingdom stated:

"The problem I have at present is the confusion around how people who rejected their original assignment are defined. On the one hand we are defined as "Transgendered" but this somehow implies that the original assignation was "Correct" and objecting to it was "Going against what someone is supposed to be". When someone calls me "Transgendered", I usually take it to mean that they justify the surgery I was subjected to as a child.

This is in my view where people like Bailey and Lawrence seem to appear, and to some extent Alice Dreger. It sort of feels like if you do object to the original assignation, for whatever reason (It is not always issues of gender identity or sexuality either; it is more complex than that. In my case it was in part a reaction to being brutalized as a part of the "socialization" and in part a reaction against the surgery itself.), you are sort of "handed over" to the Bailey/Lawrence department of being mocked and lied to basically, in the same way both of them indeed mock transsexuals."

Unfortunately many influential people in the intersex community are closely associated with J Michael Bailey and the transphobia that infected many intersex groups may very well be the reason. For more documentation on DSD and connections with Bailey:

In conclusion, OII was not well-informed about the Bailey controversy in the trans community until it became apparent that he was so close to a lot of the research on intersex. As a result, OII feels obligated to make it clear that we do not want to be associated with Bailey or seen as endorsing any of his ideas or theories. As far as recommending people in the trans community as speakers or other representatives, we see no need to do this. It appears to us that the trans community at large has been able to make their views clear and need no help from us. Our objections to Bailey are based on his own record of poor scholarship, use of intersex to find causes of gender identity and sexual orientation and his extreme binary male/female identity politics which exclude us totally from the debate.

The following is from Alice Dreger's blog:
P.S. Several readers have asked me who I would recommend if they were interested in inviting a transgender activist/advocate to their campus to speak. Lots of great folks spring to mind, but let me here recommend four: (3) clinician and scholar Anne Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D. whose work has focused on improving healthcare for transgender women like herself;

The following is an e-mail that Alice Dreger circulated on the internet to certain intersex activists in which she alleges that the writer of this article, Curtis E. Hinkle, is working with Andrea James to destroy the intersex community. Not only am I not guilty by association, I am not associated with Andrea James. Such smear tactics have a long history in Alice Dreger's approach to intersex activism and her silencing of a large segment of the intersex community who do not agree with her views on gender.

Letters from intersex activists around the world who have been silenced and marginalized by Alice Dreger.