Recently, I’ve been thinking about what motivated me to be an intersex spokesperson and activist. For starters, there’s inspirational role models like the incredibly brilliant, badass Angela Davis. She took the racist establishment on head first, eloquently and bravely, jeopardizing her career as a university professor and spending 18 months in prison as a result. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh49nbTq268
I’m thrilled, and deeply honored, to know she’s on the committee that selected my organization OII (Organisation Intersex International) as finalists for the Global Prize for Collaborative Social Justice that I’ll be vying for this weekend. http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2013/04/kalamazoo_college_announces_15.html
But I was a budding activist way before I knew about Angela Davis. For example, I hated that the skinny, sickly looking girl with nerdy glasses in my elementary school got teased mercilessly. And in high school I joined the Mondale-Ferraro campaign committee because I was thrilled to see a woman running for vice president (Geraldine Ferraro, who, like me, lived in Queens), and I wanted to help her win.
Then came my political arrests, the first one in my freshman year in college to help bring down apartheid in South Africa. I was wearing a button that read “Militant Homosexual” when it happened (although you can’t make that out in the picture), and a hairstyle that looked a lot like Joey Ramone’s (R.I.P. Joey!). Yes, it seems crazy that apartheid was still going on when I went to college, but it was, and we were blocking off one of the admin. buildings to pressure my university into divesting their funds from apartheid practicing South Africa. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/05/03/nyregion/110-protesters-to-face-charges-at-wesleyan-u.html
But I’m kind of digressing, because the point is: why did I feel so strongly about this stuff? My parents certainly didn’t. They were of the upwardly mobile, upper middle class, recently immigrated professional variety, and they wanted nothing more than for me to assimilate completely and take over my father’s medical practice.
Today, they’re mortified that I talk about being intersex in public. After all, I was raised as a proper, well-to-do catholic schoolgirl, and they just don’t do that. The only thing I learned about social justice from my teachers is that not following the rules, no matter how wrong or stupid they may be, gets you in trouble. So how is it I strayed so far from all of my adult influences’ aspirations?
I blame Jesus. (Well, I should say I thank Jesus, because I love what I’m doing, but “blame” sounded funnier.) Jesus, who denounced classism and social hierarchy, and, as loving as he was, also ripped the moneylenders (read “bankers” for a modern equivalent) a new a**hole when they were using the temple to make money off others. Jesus, with his longhaired, hippie values and lifestyle. He even wore a sackcloth because, like the Buddha and Gandhi, he rejected the classist beliefs that value people with expensive bling more than others. I’m not gonna lie, I’m not quite ready to go there, but I sure respect the commitment.
As a side note, I don’t know if Jesus was actually intersex himself, but theologian Dr. Susannah Cornwall has pointed out that, with his lack of children, we can’t really prove that he wasn’t.
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/02/jesus-hermaphrodite-intersex-susannah-cornwall-bishop_n_1315630.html. Also, there’s a huge debate over whether or not Jesus was actually a living person or just a figure created to rally early Christians.
Whether fictional character or real person, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus would’ve never supported people in power attempting to eliminate a whole population group simply because they were deemed too different. I mean this is the guy who hung out with lepers, prostitutes, and basically everyone but the “beautiful people”, because he knew elitism was wrong. And as much as people who chop off kids’ genitals without their consent say they do it with the best of intentions, the reason they do it is because they’re judging intersex people as inferior by status quo ideals.
Jesus, on the other hand, rejected any social convention he felt was unethical, no matter how popular it was, and that’s the kind of behavior that inspired me as a child, and made me want to become an intersex activist. In fact, it was the only behavior of that kind that I learned about for years, and as a child I wondered why they taught us his story only to turn around afterwards and ask us to be non-analytical followers. What the hell was that about?
And btw, not only was Jesus politically radical, it’s also worth noting he wasn’t exactly Mr. Man with his long flowy hair and all. In fact, with his peaceful loving attitude, he reminds me of some of the beautiful intersex men I know. One might even hazard to call him androgynous. Hmmm….