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Naturalizing Transgender and Intersex Bodies

Transgender and intersex bodies are natural, yet they are regulated legally- and medically-based on policies and political figures that support the gender binary model. According to The New York Times article “‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration,” the Department of Health and Human Services plans on establishing a legal definition of “sex” under Title IX, which is the federal civil rights law that bans gender-based discrimination in education programs that receive government assistance, based on “a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable” in which sex refers to one’s “immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth” (Green 2018) This not only reverses inclusive civil protections, but disregards the legal and personal gender identity of a large fraction of the United States population, including intersex, transgender, nonbinary individuals, and those who may have already undergone a surgery and/or legal process that renders their sex assigned at birth null or obsolete. This biology-based determination of gender is discriminatory and unsupported by science, working at the expense of identity-based determination.

The U.S. legal system runs in binaries: Democratic vs Republican, black vs white, etc. Male and female is no exception to this. However, not all people fall into this category. In fact, many intersex people are forced into it without consent. (Fausto-Sterling 21). Even from as early as the end of the Middle Ages in Europe and in early religious doctrine, like the Talmud and Tosefta, the Jewish books of law, intersex people have been encaged by the menaces of the binary, restricting many from inheriting their fathers’ estates, being grouped with men, serving as witnesses or as priests (like women) and secluding themselves with women and shaving (like men) (23).

Fausto-Sterling declares that there are five sexes: men, women, and three (or more) cases of the medical term “intersex,” which are distinct in terms of genitalia, secondary sex characteristics that develop, and sexual function (20). The latter two groups are “pseudohermaphrodites” (either “merms” or “ferms”) due to the fact that they have external genitalia and secondary characteristics that do not match their chromosomes.

Intersex bodies continue to be erased from existence and public knowledge ironically as we learn more about the complexity of sexual systems. Hugh H. Young’s Abnormalities, Hermaphroditism

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