Wed, Nov 27, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Neither here, nor there

Intersex advocate Hiker Chiu talks to the ‘Taipei Times’ about her/his experiences as an intersex person living in Taiwan

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Chiu gives an example of one of his/her American friends, who was born a baby boy with a micro-penis. The doctor decided to remove the atypical genitalia and made him into a girl. But the friend never felt right about himself until he found out about his intersexuality later in life.

“He began the transition to become the male he was born to be when he was 29 years old. For years, he has gradually put his life back together. It has been a long, painful process,” Chiu says.

“It is believed that as long as a baby is raised as a certain gender, he or she will live up to that gender. But it is not that simple. Otherwise, there won’t be any transgender people.”

“We want to keep our whole, complete bodies so we can decide what to do because we are the ones who have to live with our bodies. Not doctors, not anyone else… Isn’t it a basic right that should be enjoyed by all human beings?” s/he adds.

WHO AM I?

Chiu says the notion and expression of gender are never natural and self-explanatory. For most of her/his life, Chiu felt split, unable to completely fit into the world of either girls/women nor boys/men. Now in her/his late 40s, Chiu retains a physical appearance of a teenage boy.

“To me, having a unisex look is the safest choice. Putting on dresses in accordance to the sex category indicated on my ID card has always been one of my biggest fears. I will look like a man in women’s cloth, and that is ridiculed and condemned by society,” Chiu explains.

The intersex advocate says that s/he wasn’t harassed too much growing up, but most people have a hard time knowing how to act toward her/him. Confusion often arises when people don’t know whether to call Chiu “mister” or “miss,” and having her/his passport checked at the airport is always an awkward matter. Moreover, as society doesn’t recognize the needs of those who go beyond the sexual binary, Chiu is sometimes asked to leave when trying to use the women’s restroom.

“The need to fit into a certain box is a source of anguish… Are we a mistake just because we don’t look standard enough?” Chiu asks.

Gender-wise, people born with atypical sex anatomies grow up to have different kinds of gender identities. Some identify themselves as exclusively female or male; some have experiences of gender other than the two categories. And when it comes to sexual orientation, intersex individuals, like the non-intersex majority, may be straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Chiu, in particular, has a double-queer view on love, identifying her/himself as a gay person attracted to both men and women. In other words, Chiu thinks of her/himself as a gay man when in a relationship with a male, and a lesbian when with a woman.

In her/his 10-year relationship with a gay woman who is a “tomboy” (a term often used by the lesbian community to refer to a woman with strong masculine characteristics) but whose physical appearance is more feminine than hers/his, Chiu was expected to be gentle and womanly, while her/his partner took up the traditional male role of a protector and caretaker.

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