What is Intersexphobia, or Interphobia?

“Interphobia” — as coined in a fantastic 2010 blog post by openly intersex and trans* Professor Cary Gabriel Costello, PhD — is another term for what we have been calling “intersexphobia” for several years. Intersexphobia and Interphobia are defined as negative attitudes and feelings towards people who are believed to possess biological sex traits that are not typically male or female, known as Intersex Traits (whether they are actually born with them or simply exhibit non-bonary gender identity or expression, which is commonly associated with having congenital Intersex Traits.

Interphobia is evidenced in widespread violence and severe discrimination against intersex people, such the practice of Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM). IGM is the medicalized effort to eradicate intersex people from society by “normalizing” intersex bodies into more typically male or female bodies in order to maintain sex and gender norms. As an excellent ” target=”_blank”>Harvard Law Review article examines, medical “treatment” of intersex people with IGM not only utilizes some of the same nonconsensual, medically unnecessary, cosmetic genital surgeries used in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), it is also, like FGM, a culturally driven practice which is performed in order to uphold cultural attitudes and beliefs about sex and gender, rather than for medical reasons. Simply out, all effort to “fix” intersex bodies to fit into male and female sex and gender “norms” are inherently interphobic and violently discriminatory.

Interphobia also drives discriminatory practices against intersex adults as well as minors and youth, such as regulations against intersex female athletes (with high levels of functional testosterone) which require them to undergo medically unnecessary, “feminizing”, medical treatments such as hormone therapy, in order to compete as women. The fact that these regulations persist — despite findings by the sporting bodies’ own medical experts that there is no evidence that these intersex women have a competitive advantage — demonstrates the interphobic attitudes on which it is based, which have historically deemed intersex people as “gender interlopers”, or, essentially, criminals, in need of punishment.

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Essays on examining sports regulations for intersex women athletes are available for those inerested in learning more at the links below:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22694024, http://philpapers.org/rec/VILRRO
— http://www.bioethics.net/articles/out-of-bounds-a-critique-of-the-new-policies-on-hyperandrogenism-in-elite-female-athletes/