The often assumed belief that addressing gender pronouns is a desired end game for addressing intersex activist’s concerns needs to be repeatedly challenged, especially so when articles are published in press that fail to acknowledge the continuing human rights abuses of intersex infants and young children.
There is little comfort in later being able to choose for oneself a publicly declared gender marker and title, if it is only after the unavoidable fact that others have already decided your life’s trajectory for you, and made that decision abundantly clear by the efforts they are willing to pursue through the use of surgical and hormonal interventions to enforce that decision.
It is at this point I should declare an interest in all this. I was christened with a unisex name.
It is fascinating to read the recent flurry of articles in press that address the notion of the binary hegemony. The latest batch of articles are taking a good look at what children are called, the names they are known by, and in one article co-opts well known, and media-friendly names from film and media. It’s a fascinating insight into how the people who have never had to question the boundaries of their very being seek to address how the binary *rules*, and they certainly are rules, bind us to expectations of behaviour and conduct throughout our lives.
Elsewhere it has been possible to read of a private school that has now adopted a flexible uniform policy to allow children in it’s care to find acceptance outside the narrow boundaries that uniforms dictate. But it’s still a uniform. And a uniform that denotes many signals far beyond those of gender. It’s also indicative of wealth, privilege, and influence.
How many pause to ask, why is it necessary to flag up to strangers the knowledge that an infant child is a girl, and the proud possessor of a vagina, not a penis, by signaling their identity with the societally accepted colour pink? In Victorian and Edwardian eras infants and young children were dressed in pinafore smocks that completely obscured their sex to viewers. Being permitted to wear trousers was a right of passage. Wearing trousers is still regarded as socially transgressive in many societies.
Clothing and names are a projection of societal and parental expectations of who and how an infant will grow up. It tells everyone far more about the parents than it does about the child.
Missing in this dialogue is any acknowledgement of the coercive protocols applied to people who fall outside the boundaries of acceptance – people who are born intersex: people who are forcibly made to fit the narrow boundaries of embodiment that are currently defined by the lately acquired belief that all women are XX, and all men are Xy. A belief that is demonstrably untrue, but maintained by the almost mystical power of received wisdom – that adumbration of accumulated ignorance that medical authority singularly fails to dispel the better able to maintain it’s own hegemonic advantage of knowledge.
In the realm of intersex variation, medicine continues to enforce with muscular determination it’s own self referential, clinically approved protocols with no basis in anything more than expectation, and hypothesis.
Naming a child is a signal.
There are plenty enough Kylies in the world to show how cultural exigencies influence parental ideas, but far less evidence that these influences actually benefit the child, and the adult they become when they have so little say in what is said and done.
First named Zowie Bowie by his parents, these days the film maker is quite happily known as Duncan Bowie.
Gender free pronouns and names is only a first step toward acknowledging the fluidity and spectrum of human embodiment, expression, and identity. It must never be seen as an end in itself if the dialogue surrounding their use never challenges the lack of autonomy and bodily integrity that are a fundamental part of the protocols that are enacted on intersex infants.