I have been thinking about some interesting things regarding identity. Principally, how interconnected our various identities are. Each of our identities don’t exist in a vacuum, completely independent from all the others; in fact, many of our identities are built upon each other, so that it is not necessarily intuitive to describe yourself in one way while simultaneously claiming another identity that contradicts the first.
Let me explain.
Tricia, intersex activist and blogger of Intersex Unicorn, had a great post describing her sexual orientation after a reader inquired how an intersex person determines their sexual orientation. Her sexual orientation is, “I like girls.” Tricia explained her multiword identity by reminding us that since she identifies her sex as intersex, the use of standard terms out there wouldn’t be authentic to her. For example, lesbian didn’t feel right since it more strictly refers to a woman-identified person that is attracted to other women; Tricia didn’t feel her intersex identity matched up with this definition. Because of this, she chose to express her sexual orientation as, “I like girls.”
I've read accounts from intersex individuals, or in books about intersex, that indicate that one’s perception of your identities may change after learning about your intersex. For instance, a casual conversation about being athletic a few moments before may take on new meaning after learning about one's intersex. A doctor that learned this information from a patient getting her yearly check-up would likely have read her as a woman who happens to like to play sports, or maybe a tomboy. After learning about her intersex, this girl's love of sports meant something different. Confirming her love of sports would simply reinforce her intersex identity to this doctor. She would not be both an intersex person and a person who was athletic, separately – she'd be an an individual who was athletic as a RESULT of being intersex. This individual's sex identity is linked to her love of sports.
Identity is extremely complex, and I don’t feel that an individual’s many identities have to match up in a way that’s seen as intuitive or “normal” according to a culture’s mainstream views and attitudes – one’s identities just need to be authentic to that individual. That being said, it is worth noting how consideration of one’s intersex shifts how that person’s other identities are constructed, described, and read by others. Many standard terms for identities are based upon the assumption of one’s biological sex as male or female, and for some of us, those assumptions simply can’t be made. How will we go about creating identities for ourselves that fit comfortably and feel authentic by accounting for our intersex? I don’t think that any such identities would need to be standardized since identity is so personal, although it’s interesting to consider that some terms could hypothetically catch on and be used in a (more-or-less) standardized way.
Although finding new ways to describe oneself can be a frustrating venture, in some ways, this could get downright fun. Let me know if you have created any identities accounting for intersex that you particularly like!