Monday, August 17, 2009

Queers United Blog Comments On Its Controversial Lady Gaga Post

Hello, Queers United! Thank you for commenting on my last post, since it was largely about your portrayal of Lady Gaga. I have decided to comment in a new blog, because I think it’s important that readers see where you were coming from, and also how some members of the intersex community may feel about your motivations.

The following comment you provided is below:

I did say it was uncomfirmed and that the quote was rumor until we could find a source. I put a question mark on the post because until Lady Gaga announces it we are all speculating. It would be great for the intersex community if she were a visible spokesperson. I suspect she isn't intersex because she used twitter to say "suck my hermy dick" which she is probably just capitalizing on the fame on not actually IS. I hope to do more intersex coverage that is positive, this article wasn't a good one, please look to my numerous others. Do you have any suggestions on how I can be a better advocate for intersex?

I understand that your title, “Lady Gaga Comes Out as Intersexed?” has a question mark at the end. However, your first sentence follows up that question mark with the following: “Pop star sensation Lady Gaga surprised her millions of fans by parading on stage without an [sic] underwear showing that she is intersex and has male and female genitalia.” Emphasis mine. Later, you state, “If indeed Lady Gaga is intersexed and this is not a rumor…” (emphasis mine). Huh? I thought you already stated she was intersex. In short, your title and your text contradicts one another, and serves only to confuse the reader. If you want readers to keep an open mind and assume that you haven’t agreed with unconfirmed quotes and statements, that needs to be made clear.

No, it would not be great for the intersex community if Lady Gaga was a spokesperson. The reason for that is because there is no evidence that she “came out.” Coming out is a willful, intentioned choice made by a person when they are ready to do so. Pulling down the skirt that accidentally rode up during a performance, and then suffering an onslaught of media speculation as to Gaga’s sex and gender identity is THE FARTHEST THING FROM COMING OUT POSSIBLE. This incident should be called what it is – not a coming out – but an exploitation and sensationalization of intersex and transgender individuals.

Now, if Lady Gaga were to have decided to TRULY come out – to make a formal statement that she was, in fact, intersex, transgender, etc. – and she was proud of who she was despite historical discrimination against people whose bodies and/or identities fall outside the standard-accepted norm, then I think she would be a great spokesperson. Rock on, Lady Gaga! Great for you! But since she has clearly not done so, it is extremely misguided and dangerous to expect that it is now Lady Gaga’s due to represent the respective group of people to which she may or may not identify. It is unclear why Queers United would assume Lady Gaga would want to be “the face of intersexed” in the first place. With her “quote” rampant over the internet and her video posted just alongside it, I’d say that Lady Gaga’s own wishes and desires are clearly not being taken into account.

I would have to agree that she likely isn’t intersex not because of her apparent Tweet (assuming she, in fact, wrote that as well!) because her supposed quote is completely biologically inaccurate. I refer you back to my original post as to why her stated morphology isn’t humanly possible. If she were truly an intersex person (or even a person who is intersex-aware), she would never have made such a cleary untrue statement.

To further discuss her Tweet, do you really believe that “suck my hermy dick” is a blatant attention-catching phrase screaming, “LOOK AT ME! I’LL SAY ANYTHING FOR SOME ATTENTION, EVEN IF I HAVE TO LIE!”? Have you, perhaps, considered that Lady Gaga is possibly feeling outraged and violated? (And reasonably so.) Lady Gaga is already famous. Does someone already with “millions of fans,” in no danger of losing them at the moment, need to pull a publicity stunt that would sensationalize themselves and implicate the morbidly-fascinated gazes of millions more? This is victim-blaming at its finest. Lady Gaga’s personal life, which NO ONE has the right to comment on or announce, has been made into a circus show without her consent, and somehow this is of her own doing? If she wanted to announce herself as intersex/trans for the sake of attention and not awareness, one would imagine she would simply flaunt her genitals, karyotype and hormone level readouts, body hair, etc. for all to see. Lady Gaga’s skirt rode up. She pulled it down in a seemingly quite quick and discreet manner, and has not referenced that moment throughout the rest of her performance or afterward, perhaps until her Tweet. Those are not actions of an attention-seeker. Stop victim-blaming Lady Gaga.

I, too, would be thrilled if Queers United covered intersex issues in a positive way, that reflected both the biological realities of intersex individuals and respect and concern for intersex individuals’ experiences – both of which your post failed to do. I have several suggestions as to how Queers United can be better intersex advocates:

1) Read some literature to understand what intersex anatomy and physiology is. I included a few links in my previous post, and have many more links prepared for my next two posts, but if you would like some pointers as to where to go, I would be more than happy to do this for you. (There’s far too many essentials to list right here.)

2) Do not confuse intersex individuals with hermaphrodites. While some animals qualify as hermaphrodites, humans do not.

3) Read more literature about intersex experiences, health concerns, etc. There is a lot of shame many intersex people feel from families, physicians, etc. because they do not feel as though they belong. You cannot understand how hurtful media coverage like this is unless you have a glimpse into the deeply-entrenched, long-standing shame and confusion intersex individuals often feel about themselves, how they relate to their world, and what their place is in it. Testimonials are your friend.

4) Read about clinical issues faced by intersex individuals. It’s not a simple “identity crisis” problem – that’s completely reductionist. The fact is that unnecessary genital surgeries (“gender assignment surgeries”) both for “cosmetic reasons” and to ensure “a normal sex life” are being performed often without consent by the intersex individuals or their families and/or with lack of information as to why the surgeries are performed and what purpose they serve. In truth, many of these surgeries seek to “normalize” external genitalia, but the results often don’t closely resemble un-surgeried “normal” genitals anyway. Additionally, such normalization often includes removing the enlarged clitoris/small penis, which also removes nerves necessary for orgasm. How normal can sex be if orgasm is an impossibility? Urging one to undergo surgery on the internal portions of genitalia also assume heterosexual intercourse; intersex individuals that choose not to have penetrative sex have had surgery, then, for naught. There are many issues about genital surgeries that I will discuss in future posts, but it is necessary to understand. (And surgeries aside, there may be problems with bone health as age progresses, as well as other tentative health concerns that have not been well-researched as of yet.)

5) Engage with other intersex individuals, and invite more of them to contribute to Queers United. I suspect that you must not have many, if any, intersex people actively working on blog posts, because I cannot imagine that any intersex individual on Queers United would have allowed that post to be published.

6) Do not blame victims that clearly didn’t bring undue and scandalous media attention on themselves. Do not try to justify it. It is simply not justifiable.

7) Write articles that do not exploit intersex individuals. You assert you’ve written “numerous other” articles that were not discriminatory against intersex individuals, but as activists and advocates, it is unacceptable to write ANY discriminatory article. You may have written the most fair and nuanced awareness pieces to have ever been written about intersex people, but that does not mean that you are above criticism when your posts undo the good work your blog tries to accomplish. You are not entitled to write shitty, unfair articles just because you feel you have some good ones in your crown.

Thank you again for reading, Queers United. I hope that this was helpful, and that we won’t see any more posts of this nature from you in the future. Lady Gaga, your readers, and transgender and intersex individuals everywhere deserve an apology.


  1. I have read a lot about intersex and I'd encourage you to check out my other posts on it, I have made a sincere effort to educate about IS issues. I am sorry for the Lady Gaga post, it was not my intention for the backlash, I really thought it was a positive opportunity but now realize how it was wrong on multiple levels. I know there is no such thing as hermaphrodite, I make an effort to teach people that through my blog. I'd encourage you to read some of my other posts to see that intersex issues are important to me. Thanks for your constructive criticism and I hope to do better in the future.

  2. I'm more than a little unsure how you could educate others about intersexed issues without knowing the basics such as the range of variability in intersexed anatomy, the fact that they're NOT HERMAPHRODITES, etc. I am, however, happy if you are sincere in your assertation to educate yourself/ves before educating others, and doing so in a constructive, non-exploitative way.

    I strongly feel, though, that a public apology on your OWN SITE would speak volumes more than publishing on a very-new blog that very likely doesn't include the breadth of your own readers who might've been (very reasonably) offended by your post.