Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Herm Hugs!"

I've discussed previously why it is impossible for human intersex individuals to be biological hermaphrodites. Hermaphrodites are animals that possess both sets of fully functioning sex organs, either at the same time, or at different points during an animal's life cycle. Common hermaphroditic animals include various species of fish, amphibians, snails, and slugs. Humans do not possess both sets of fully functioning sex organs at any time, and thus do not meet the conditions to be referred to as "hermaphrodites."

However, my perception on never using this term, ever, has changed. After meeting Hida and Tricia, I was surprised to learn that the term "hermaphrodite" doesn't bother them. After sputtering a bit and invoking biological inaccuracies, I learned that some intersex individuals have reclaimed the term among themselves, and sometimes refer to one another as their "herms." I never knew this, seeing as I had never met another openly intersex person before in my life. (Although Tricia, similarly isolated, was somehow in the know about this. Hmmmm...)

After reflecting on reclaiming this term, I learned that I was comfortable using "herm" as a positive identifier among other intersex individuals. I was happy to receive what were affectionately called "herm hugs" from Hida and Tricia. I also got into referring to Tricia's flow-y hair as her "hermane," and after learning that some Biblical texts apparently allude angels being "hermaphrodites," I would loudly sing, "Hermangel, HERMANGEL!" to the tune of "Earth Angel," by The Penguins, from the movie Grease. (Okay, it was more screaming than singing, and Tricia's ears probably bled from it. Tricia - if you're reading, I got your medical bills covered on that.)

I don't advocate for bringing back the term hermaphrodite for use on a wide scale. Besides biological inaccuracy, "hermaphrodite" has a lot more stigma associated with it based on its historical use, whereas "intersex" doesn't have as much. But just because I identify as intersex doesn't mean I can't use this term affectionately and inclusively among other intersex individuals.

So, all of you intersex individuals that are out there reading - have a virtual herm hug, if you're so inclined! *herm hug*


  1. Of course I read your blog! Actually I thought it was kinda fun that you were so very against hermaphrodite the night before, but the next morning you were singing. And "hermane" -- I'm still giggling about that one.

    Yes, I am isolated so end up sifting through large amounts of information online. I have to be my own resource. Every now and then I'll run into someone's blog post that says something like, "My intersex friend said he actually identifies as a hermaphrodite."

    For me it was a bit different. You and I talked a bit about interesting things about my body, the most obvious being the crazy rate that hormones are changing me. I dealt with it a while back, but it's possible that I could fall in to that super-rare category of "true hermaphrodite." It bugged me for a bit, but after a while I just shrugged it off and thought, "Well, even if I don't meet the 'true' definition, I'm still some kind of hermaphrodite." I was cool with that.

    *herm hugs!*

  2. Hee-hee. Aw, Tricia! I miss you. How has it already been a few WEEKS since you were last flicking your hermane around my apartment?! NOT COOL.

    Yes, it is pretty fun to shed old ideas and replace them with other ones that are more inclusive, or positively change your perspective for the better. I have you & Hida to thank for helping me think about this!

    *herm hugs back atcha!*

  3. I miss you, too. I didn't want to leave. If somehow I could have just crashed on your airbed while I built a new life for myself, I would have. I liked us chatting ourselves to sleep.

    I'm not sure how it'll happen, but I've got a really strong feeling that we'll see each other again soon enough.

  4. Hey, you're welcome to crash on my couch anytime! I miss talking until we fell asleep too (and seeing just how incoherent I could get before zonking out). I hope we can see each other relatively soon! If you have any plans or sneaky ideas in the works, let me know! I'm all ears.