Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 11, September 19, 2008


Intersex (for lack of a better word)

By Thea Hillman

Manic D Press, 2008, 155 pages, $11.21 on Amazon

Review by David S. Hall

Click on cover to buy this book from Amazon.com

As a sexuality educator, I have some familiarity with the world of Intersex people. I have loved them, cried with them, rejoiced with them, mourned their death, and heard many of their deepest stories. When I read this book, my heart cried, and I learned a lot more than my text books tell me about gender identity.

I probably met Thea Hillman in San Francisco in the early 90's, we seem to have attended a few of the same events, but I have no specific recollection of her. Now I feel I know her well. She bares her soul in the many chapters of this (sort of) diary. She speaks of her experiences as a young child, being diagnosed with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, and what that experience meant to a four year old girl who was growing pubic hairs, a child who was poked and examined by many doctors, and had a total lack of personal privacy of her body. She comes back to this experience many times in the stories she tells of her life as a person who does not really know what gender she is. She speaks about her "outwardly simple though visually misleading, internally complicated gender." She speaks of her mother's prayers that she would be normal. She speaks of normal this way:

"I take the war on terror personally because the war on terror is really a war on difference, because my body strikes terror in the hearts of other Americans.

"My body and the bodies of the people I love are the most intimate sites of American imperialism. Because our sex anatomy isn't normal, they operate on us without our consent. Because who we have sex with isn't normal, they won't let us get married. Because our gender isn't normal, they don't give us jobs, health care, or housing. We work, we pay rent, we pay taxes, but because we're not normal, we don't get the same freedoms other Americans enjoy, the same freedoms American soldiers are murdering to protect.

"Normal is a weapon of mass destruction. It's just as deadly, and just like those weapons, it'll never be found"

Thea has served on the Board of Mills College and as the Board Chair of the Intersex Society of North America and been a spokesperson for the Intersex community, yet she says:

"When it comes to talking about trans and queer community, there are a whole bunch of things I can't say. In fact, it's much easier to think about what I can't say than what I want to say. Things I can't say because I will piss someone off: no generalizations, of course, about anything, but specifically, and most dangerously, no generalizations about transmen, transwomen, butches, femmes, genderqueers, or intersex people.

"I fear that regardless of the fact that I've been hormonally altered since age six in order to achieve and maintain a mythical gender ideal, I can't safely talk about my concerns about hormones and surgery in our community for fear of being seen as anti-trans and anti-surgery"

Thankfully, she manages to cover all these areas in her many short chapters, mostly from a very intensely personal perspective, using the "I" voice. She talks frankly and specifically about sex, her feelings and her behavior. She speaks of lovers and hot partners and really interesting parties, but all from the perspective of one who does not clearly know what she/he is all about internally. The gender identity confusion comes through in many ways. She is also able to share with us some of the experiences of people in her life. We become, if we choose, one of her intimate friends.

This is the book for anyone who is interested in Intersex as an educational or therapeutic topic, is gender curious, is gender confused or just likes to see what a talented writer can do with such a personal subject. The far right calls her a radical who promotes the "homosexual revolution." I call her courageous.

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