By Mauro ï Cabral (1)
1. Each year, during this week, I write a text that can be short or long, as well as more or less similar to or different from what I had written the year before. The occasion is always the same: February 6th is the International Day of Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation, a day of struggle against all forms of genital mutilation, including the forms against which I speak out.
Thousands and thousands of people who are born with sexed bodies that do not coincide with what is considered female and male normal bodies have been subjected to biomedical procedures aimed at body “normalization” – usually surgeries. I am one of these people, and like so many others among these thousands and thousands, I define these procedures as culturally accepted, promoted and celebrated form of genital mutilation and denounce them.
The compulsive practice of surgical intervention on intersex genitals in order to “normalize” them is supported by medical, bioethical and legal devices, which must be analyzed, understood and dismantled. (We can never forget that these devices are an integral part of the cultural framework in which we exist, the same framework that leads a variety of bodies to be perceived as repulsive or abject.) We, intersex activists, are dedicated to the difficult task of opening spaces up to variant bodies and to ensuring that these bodies can be born into a different world. We are (and hope to be) the unrepeatable past of their future.
2. Something is changing. Intersexuality is no longer one of the best kept secrets – and major shames – of Western culture. Here and there, biomedicine has started to examine itself (even if laterally) – its assumptions, practices and the resulting violence. The scientific arguments based in blind assumptions about the benefits of genital “normalization” now face contradictory scientific evidence. Support groups multiply, and patients and ex-patients organize, protest, testify, and make demands. There are now photographs, books, documentaries, films; workshops, seminars, conferences; there are now desires pronouncing all the Xs, there are now hand and tongues exploring step by step the intersex extension of all its members.
This seems to be the time when certainties are over. Even the convictions that mobilized struggles against the medicalization of the intersexuality are being revised. Today, many older intersex advocates use the vocabulary of “sex development disorders” to ground their fight against biomedical violence. At the same, many of us insist on the need to de-pathologize body diversity. This crossroads is, without a doubt, the opportunity of today. (2)
3. One of these days, intersexuality will no longer exist. Perhaps humanity will disappear – victim of fire and water, of plagues, of stupidity, of a passing comet or a dying sun. Perhaps the opportunity will be gone of coming into the world without a previous design or genetic manipulation. Perhaps the possibility of embodying a different body – meaning a “disadvantaged” body – will disappear. Perhaps a natural or technological disaster will take us back to ancient times and we will start dying again, without limits, being sacrificed on altars at the moment we are born or thrown without delay to the desert. Perhaps we will once again become sea creatures, gods, angels, evil creatures, mere stories – nothing.
But perhaps we will win. Perhaps we will succeed in ensuring that no one else, anywhere, is subjected to the savage practice of the compulsory inscription of masculinity or femininity onto bodies ever again. Further yet, maybe we will be able to re-open the way in which world history is written in order to record our stories and to ensure that some justice can be projected over the unhealed memory of so many bleeding years. Who knows? Perhaps this will be – as I hope – the triumphant future of our past.
* This article was published in the session “Soy”, in the newspaper “Página 12”
(1) Member of the Global Advocates for Trans Equality (GATE) and the Mulabi – Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos.
(2) In the Spanish original this section of the text implies a game of words that is not translatable, as “presente” means both gift and present.