Hello, my name is Mohammed and I’m a 23 year old muslim from Bangalore. I also identify as intersex, and this is my story.
Realizing and understanding what I am:
A lot of intersex people do not know they are intersex. Some of them are born with intersex variations that usually are considered as body errors. On such individuals IGM is performed; IGM is intersex Genital Mutilation. This is any unnecessary medical procedure usually performed on intersex children and babies. Some intersex people realize it when they go for testing for fertility etc. Some don’t even know they are intersex until they die; and an autopsy performed on them shows that they lived their lives as an intersex person. I underwent karyotyping in 2016, which showed that my genetic pattern is that of an Intersex person.
I started normalizing the term in my everyday life. Whenever someone would ask what my sex/gender identity is I would shyly say its intersex. It took me almost an year to come to terms with it . Today I can say this with firm confidence that yes, I am Intersex.
The term ‘intersex’:
In India the male/female binary is a common norm and there is a lot of negative attitude that is attached towards non conforming identities. This is towards even babies, children and adolescents who are intersex. Intersex people are born either with chromosomal pattern or different physical characteristics; that do not clearly fall on one or the other side of a male/female binary line. Hence, intersex people cannot be classified as ‘Male’ or ‘Female’ based on their chromosomal, gonadal or anatomical sex.
Also sex is biological – which means it’s either assigned male at birth or assigned female at birth or Intersex. This again consists of 40 variations beyond the AMAB/AFAB binary. But it’s important to note that Gender is a social construct to associate and normalize gender roles. Gender connotes how people act, interact or feel about themselves. This varies across cultures and its changeable.
Going through puberty:
I remember in 7th grade all my classmates started developing thin beards and moustaches. For the most part, I did not have a single beard or hair around my face. As toxic as masculinity is, I was shamed for it. It was a difficult time because I would literally beg my hormones to do their thing of giving me facial hair so I can fit in this crowd. I was body shamed and also shamed for not being able to undergo puberty as on the expected times. My parents counselled me that it’s different for everyone and hence I was calm. If only our textbooks also told us the same sigh!
Health issues that intersex people face:
Intersex people are classified as chromosomal abnormalities/aberrations in medical textbooks. Yes they do suffer from various forms of diseases but at the same time, some of them don’t. Some of them face with diabetes, cancer, weakening of bones, infertility to name a few. But again Intersex is a big spectrum and a lot of this varies from person to person and their genetic makeup.
Islam and intersex:
When I look back on growing up as queer and muslim, I commend myself on doing a good job because I found peace with them. While there was slight swaying of thinking it “might” be a phase; but I never confined in thinking it is as one. The unlearning I did came from the various internet resources and my online queer Muslim friends that I met via chat websites and Club penguin.
Difficulty arises when you know that your parents or siblings haven’t unlearnt Patriarchy/Misogyny as you have. It’s also very painful because you want to spread or teach them but can’t. Because it also means you are putting yourself in danger of accidentally outing yourself.
The day I started unlearning and went on a rediscovery of my own religion in the terms of learning it in from a perspective of a queer muslim, is the day I found a balance between God and my sexuality.
The problems I faced because of who I am:
As a religious queer person I am a minority within the minority. I face a lot of rampant homophobia and Islamophobia. Also, I constantly get reminded by many folks that I must choose sides because I cannot be both queer and religious. Furthermore a lot of bodyshamming in the community is something that I really would like to see go very soon please! I have made my peace with the struggles that I might have to go through. But it will definitely not hinder me from saying : I am here to stay and slay.
The ‘I’ in LGBTQIA+:
I remember a friend who told me ‘I’ in the LGBTQIA+ stands for ice cream; another one said it is intersectionality That’s when I went deep into understanding that Intersex erasure is real. Because there is no “true” way of being intersex and textbook examples can be very deceiving. It imposes very wrong narratives about how intersex people appear as. Intersex issues are often also associated and mixed with trans issues which again leads to the erasure of Intersex folks.
This erasure could be avoided, by educating yourself with what is intersex. Don’t expect intersex people to educate you; no they are not obliged to teach you this is Intersex. Society of North America is a really great resource for beginners to learn about Intersex people. In India, Solidarity Foundation Bangalore also has fellowships for Intersex people. after education comes normalization of the terminology and it’s existence.
Top five misconceptions of the world about intersex people:
1) intersex people are half Male and Female.
2) Intersex people are born with both the organs.
3) Intersex people do not menstruate.
4) Intersex people are Transgender people. (however intersex people free to set what they identify themselves as)
5) Intersex people are very rare.
The three misconceptions that muslims tend to believe about the LGBTQ community:
1) They are responsible for diseases like HIV and AIDS.
2) They are an disorder and needs to be correcting.
3) Only White people are LGBTQIA+ and it’s a norm in the West.
My advice to intersex people struggling to accept themselves:
Take it slow, understand that you are not obliged to come out. Don’t pressure yourself into taking up labels or imposing them on yourself. Do not rush into pushing your comfort into identifying yourself in any particular way. Come out at your own pace.
I am sure you will do great and you are amazing and so valid. Already I am so proud of the journey you are seeing everyday, in hoping to come out.
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