This year the EuroPride, i.e. the main LGBT* Pride event, took place in Riga (Latvia). On the 18th of June 2015, in the framework of the same EuroPride week, a workshop on inter-sex talented people was organized and led by Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad, family therapist, specialist in clinical sexology, professor of sexology at University of Agder (Norway) and author of the study “Gender Emotions”. When asked the reason of the word “inter-sex talented” at the beginning of the workshop, Esben Esther promptly replied: “Why not? Talented sounds so much nicer! I think it is much better speak about talents rather than making inter-sex people feel like walking disease by using the term syndrome”.
It is an acknowledged fact that unfortunately inter-sex issues are often marginalized in the wide agenda of LGBT* policies. Either for poor understanding of the subject or for accidental omission, inter-sex persons’ needs have not been considered for a very long time. Only in recent years, the topic started to capture some attention. However, the average focus on inter-sex people tends to be confined within diagnostic manuals. The existing knowledge on inter-sex people tends to be circumscribed to the scientific field and was recently expanded to the LGBT* sector too. Too often however, this knowledge does not belong to inter-sex persons themselves. If the number of people coming out as inter-sex people is extremely low, it is supposed that one of the reason behind this fact, is that many of the people who have these talents are not aware of being intersex-talented: the truth is often hidden behind hypothesis of hormonal conditions and medical and family secrets. Consequently, what often happens is that most of inter-sex persons have been taught to consider their talents as diseases or anomalies. In this case, drugs, hormones and medications occur to be prescribed without informed consent.
The inter-sex workshop by the Professor Benestad explored the definition of inter-sex itself, the different kind of talents defining inter-sex people and what could be considered as a life lecture in perceiving the reality of inter-sex persons. “What does actually take to be inter-sex? Self-evidency!” immediately declared Esben Esther, “In the endless complexity of creation, the uncommon is a self-evident as the common”.
But how would one define an inter-sex talented person? Esben Esther used three main definitions to get closer to the meaning of being inter-sex in order for somebody thus talented to justify that or to be perceived as such by others:
- Inter-sex is ordinarily linked to the body as it appears to our common senses, where those of us who have inter-sex talents, have bodies with traits from both gender majorities.
- Inter-sex is ordinarily linked to sex chromosomes (X and/or Y) or the production of and/or the sensitivity for sex hormones (i.e. estrogen, testosterone, Dihydrotestosterone).
- Inter-sex in this sense, is different from what in these days is described as “brain-intersex”, a description that is linked to gender incongruence
These definitions seem to put some order to the average supposition that the size and the location of genitalia define somebody as being inter-sex talented. Adopting one or all of these definitions, allows somehow to disregard parameters of quality (genitalia that are too big, too small, too large, too prominent, too narrow) and quantity (how much breast is needed in addition to penis/vagina?) to describe the talents of an inter-sex person.
If inter-sex people should not be described in medical terms, however, chromosomes variations often play a role in defining an inter-sex talent. During the course of the presentation, Esben Esther enlisted some of the most common chromosomes variations concerning inter-sex talented people, such as the Turner’s Phenomenon (XO), the Klinefelter’s phenomenon (XXY), or the so called “mosaics” cases (i.e. an individual having both XY and XX chromosomes configurations)… These, on their turn, are often linked to variations related to hormones such as the Imperato Mcginley phenomenon, the Androgen Insensitivity, the Andrenogenital syndrome and many others variations.
However, it needs to be noted that the terms “syndrome” and “phenomenon” are not supposed to be interchangeable. It would be preferred to use the term “syndrome” only in the case the individual needs to undergo medical treatments because of his/her/their inter-sex talents. That is the reason why Esben Esther prefers, whether this is possible, to use the term “phenomenon” instead of “syndrome” to describe the different variations related to hormones and chromosomes.
In conclusion, when an inter-sex talented person is healthy and not limited in his/her/their style of life, why should we still use the term syndrome? A syndrome is a collection of symptoms. Being an inter-sex person is not such a thing.
Written by Alice Michelini