Inter/Act member, Ali, recently witnessed Fox News’ unprofessional and intersex-phobic response to Facebook’s new gender options. She, along with other members, wrote an open letter to the news organization. Weeks later, Fox New’s host Clayton Morris issued an apology for his rude commentary. This blog post by Alex is her personal reflection on Fox’s insensitive coverage.
When confronted with standardized tests, applications at doctors’ offices, or recently social media profiles—there are almost always only two gender boxes to fill in. We’ve grown up in a world culturally embedded with symbols of sex and gender divisions everywhere: restrooms, lockers, competitive sports, department store aisles, and toy sections. A few weeks ago Facebook revealed a progressive move to test gender norms by enabling its 1.19 billion members to choose a sexual identity and gender presentation from over 50 options. For instance, one can now choose to be labeled as intersex (sex) and genderqueer (gender presentation) if they desire.
When I heard of this news, I felt moments of relief, pride, and joy for those possessing alternative gender identities. Specifically, I was overwhelmed for the intersex community that I embrace and call home. I’m an intersex, infertile woman and I’m perfectly okay with that. My chromosomal sex is XY, and I came into the world without functioning gonads. Like all groups of people, intersex takes on a very subjective meaning for those who experience their varying sex ambiguity as part of their daily lives. We deserve the freedom to identify and express our true identity.
Society has long stigmatized, mythicized, and sensationalized sexualities, identities, and bodies that aren’t perfectly aligned with the binary model. Facebook’s change created a path towards increased awareness of sex/gender fluidity. These new options allow for many individuals to feel comfortable embracing their minds, bodies, desires, and beliefs however they may (or may not) line up.
Unfortunately, oblivious hosts from Fox News covered the story with ignorant remarks that displayed their illiteracy of sexual variability by mocking our existence on national television. Tucker Carlson referred to intersex as “whatever that is” while Todd Starnes casually remarked, “what if you identify as a pine cone?” At first, I felt infuriated. Though, looking back I’ve realized that hearing and reading the word intersex in the media made my life experience visible to a group of people that might not have encountered the word otherwise. I’m hopeful that Fox’s mockery, and recently, their apology have challenged viewers to uncover their own biased and limited understanding of sex variation.
So now that I finally have the chance to fill in the intersex bubble on Facebook, I’m ambivalent to do so and reveal this personal information to my social media peers. Clearly such a move would foster visibility for an otherwise invisible part of my innermost self. Yet, I feel afraid and exposed putting that part of me out there in the open. However, I am working to let go of the notion that I have power over other people’s perception of me. All I can control is how I treat and love myself and others.
At least for now, I’m keeping my intersex bubble visible only to me. I accept myself as an amazing companion, lover, friend, employee, and daughter—though, I’m no pinecone. I’m just one person, but together, Inter/Act is already seeing positive changes.