Where is my place in society?
I am honoured to able to speak at this year´s AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference.
I am going to start this speech by asking you a question;
When you hear the word ´intersex´, what is the first question that pops up in your mind?
Let me answer that, the first question is probably “what is intersex?”. In general term ´intersex´ is used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with sexual anatomy which doesn´t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person could be born with male-typical anatomy on the inside but on the outside, appear to be female. When we talk about intersex, we talk about an inborn condition, however intersex anatomy isn´t always notable at birth.
This the medical explanation of what intersex is, so now that you know what it is, I can continue.
A vast majority of people born as an intersex, usually live normal lives as a woman or a man. Intersex is as common as red hair, yet we hardly talk about it.
We hardly talk about the harassing intersex people go through.
We do not talk about how doctors decide what sex a child is or that parents decide what sex their child is.
We do not talk about how children born with an intersex condition are victims of experiments, harassment and molestation.
We do not talk about how intersex patients are routinely lied to by doctors.
Intersex people are being subjected to medical practices that can inflict irreversible physical and psychological harm on them, staring the day they are born. This is harm that can last throughout their lives. The results are often catastrophic.
Let me tell you a story about a woman in her 70s, who at 50 found out the truth about who she really was and why she had a big surgery at 16.
Jeanette, a woman in her 70s, had a huge operation at the age of 16 to remove her hidden testes. She was born with CAIS, which is a genetic disorder. When she was just 12 years old, the doctors told her mother that Jeanette would not be able to have a child or develop like other girls.
At 14, she realised that something was not right with her body, she never had periods. Then two years later, when she was just 16, she was brought into the hospital and operated on, still unaware of her diagnosis.
She was told nothing. After the operation, the doctors did not tell her why. She said: “I was feeling perfectly healthy and I can remember sitting up in up in bed, thinking, 'What the hell am I doing here?”[footnoteRef:1] [1: Kirkland, D. (2017). Intersex patients 'routinely lied to by doctors'. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-39979186 [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
After the operation, life became difficult for Jeanette.
Age 28, she got married but found that having sex was excruciating. She left her husband and was too scared to have another physical relationship ever again.
At the age of 50, she finally found out the truth about her medical history. Not because doctors told her. She found out by chance.
Her GP gave her the medical records to read, after she had asked.
Jeanette said: "I read my notes and that's when it said I had the womb the size of a matchstick and two fully grown testes, and I cried my eyes out."[footnoteRef:2] [2: Kirkland, D. (2017). Intersex patients 'routinely lied to by doctors'. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-39979186 [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].]
Cover-ups like this, used to be routine in cases like this. In those days, doctors did not tell the truth to patients, and parents were advised to lie to their own children. In some cases, patients who have found out the truth, have been so upset that they have taken their own lives.
Kimberly Mascott Zieselman, a name that may not be familiar to you. However, Kimberly´s story may be something that will have an importance for you.
It might be something that you have heard before.
It might even be something that you recognize yourself in.
Kimberly´s story could be your story.
Kimberly was born with typical ´male´ XY chromosomes and internal testes, instead of ovaries and a uterus. However, her body developed to appear typically female.
Her parents were advised by a doctor that she should have surgery to remove her healthy gonads, without Kimberly´s knowledge or consent.
Kimberly was forced onto hormone replacement therapy for the rest of her life. She was only 15. To add to this, doctors also suggested that Kimberly should have receive invasive surgery to create a more typically sized vagina. Her parents refused to this.
Kimberly did not find out the truth until she was 41 years old.
It is common that doctors tell parents that the best thing they can do for their children is to have surgery done, even when they are infants, so that they can grow up ´normal´.
Kimberly and Jeanette know firsthand the shattering impact the surgeries have, not just on the body but on their souls. They are erased before they can even tell their doctors who they are. “Every human rights organization that has considered this practice has condemned it, some even to the point of recognizing it as akin to torture.”[endnoteRef:1] [1: Zieselman, K. (2017). I was an intersex child who had surgery. Don't put other kids through this.. [online] Eu.usatoday.com. Available at: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/08/09/intersex-children-no-surgery-without-consent-zieselman-column/539853001/ [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
However, there are communities and organizations, helping intersex people. One of these organizations are ILGA, it was established in 1978. ILGA raise awareness and inform government, media and institutions. It also supports and protect their members. ILGA is advocating to get a law that prohibits surgery on infants and children without their consent.
Althoug there has been some development regarding this issue, it is still a taboo topic, intersex people are still silenced. The sad truth is that, doctors still continue to perform unnecessary surgeries that can inflict permanent harm on intersex children.
As politicians, you have the power to affect this.
You have the power to change this.
You have the power to change intersex peoples life for the better.
After talking about how rhetorical devices captures the audience and enhance the message that is in a speech in class for Part 1. I decided to write a speech about intersex and their struggles using rhetorical devices to enhance the message and capture the audience. The learning outcomes in this written task that I chose to focus on is how audience and purpose is affected by the structure and the rhetorical devices. In this speech, I share two stories from two women, these two women have been lied to by their doctor and their parents about who they really are. In order to enhance their stories, I used several rhetorical devices such as hypophora, symploe, anaphora, antithesis, asyndeton, logos, pathos and ethos. For example, when I used anaphora; I referenced back to for example a quote that Jeanette had said in an interview, I used “she said” , and I also use it when talking about her story, “she was..”. In the beginning of my speech, I posed a question; “what is the first question that pops up in your mind?”, and in the next paragraph I answered that question, this is an example of how I used hypophora. By also using quotes from them, I also created credibility amongst my audience. At the end I also referenced back to the politicians, stating that “they have the power to change intersex people´s lives for the better”. Furthermore in my speech, I repeated the start of a sentence to enhance the problem, for example “we do not talk about..” and “It might be something…”. I feel that I have met the learning outcomes by analyzing how audience and purpose affect the structure and content of texts.
ILGA. (n.d.). About us. [online] Available at: https://ilga.org/about-us [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
Kirkland, D. (2017). Intersex patients 'routinely lied to by doctors'. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-39979186 [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
Koyama, E. (n.d.). Intersex Initiative: What Is Wrong With "Male, Female, Intersex". [online] Ipdx.org. Available at: http://www.ipdx.org/articles/letter-outsidein.html [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
Isna.org. (n.d.). What is intersex? | Intersex Society of North America. [online] Available at: http://www.isna.org/faq/what_is_intersex [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
Zieselman, K. (2017). I was an intersex child who had surgery. Don't put other kids through this.. [online] Eu.usatoday.com. Available at: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/08/09/intersex-children-no-surgery-without-consent-zieselman-column/539853001/ [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
Human Rights Watch. (2017). “I Want to Be Like Nature Made Me” | Medically Unnecessary Surgeries on Intersex Children in the US. [online] Available at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/07/25/i-want-be-nature-made-me/medically-unnecessary-surgeries-intersex-children-us# [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].