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Due to recent issues at the art community www.DeviantArt.com, a lot of confusion, ignorance and attempts at understanding the word “hermaphrodite” and its meaning have been flying around. I would like to clear some things up and provide a source for people to link to to help others understand the reason that the LGBT community finds it important that the term “hermaphrodite” not be used to describe intersexed people.
#1. The Word Hermaphrodite Is Not Scientifically Correct
While the word has been used to describe people who are born with characteristics of both genders in the past, that was largely due to a misunderstanding of what it meant to be born with both genders.
The term hermaphrodite is used to describe the sexual alignment of animals and plants. An animal who reproduces via hermaphroditism does not reproduce asexually and does not reproduce with a single female and a single male. Rather, the animal has the ability to reproduce as either gender.
A common example of a hermaphroditic animal is a snail. A snail is not a male or a female. Rather, a snail is just… a snail. When two snails reproduce, there is no male and no female.
So, essentially, a snail has both genders, right? So they are like intersexed people.
Wrong. A snail has neither gender. A snail is genderless. There is no such thing as male or female in the world of a snail. Just snails.
An intersexed person is part of a species that generally are born either male or female. An intersexed person is still a human being. Therefore, the logical assumption here is that an intersexed person is a third gender. They are not male or female, but they are not genderless either.
Some intersexed people may ask to be referred to as genderless just because there is no third option, but biologically they are not.
Statistically, a person is not likely to be intersexed, so therefore the societal standard became that there is only two genders, male and female, and intersexism is seen to be an anamoly.
However, intersexism is not the same as hermaphroditism. The chances of someone who is intersexed being able to both inseminate a woman and become impregnated by a man is practically non-existent.
So back in the day when “hermaphrodite” was coined, it was coined without a real understanding of someone who is intersexed, therefore is outdated.
#2. The Implications Of The Word Hermaphrodite
If I observed you and thought you acted like a dog, I might term you as being “canine.” If I thought you seemed to be built like an ox, I might term you as being “bovine.”
And if I said either of those to your face, you would probably be offended.
Of course, by saying those things, I am not saying you are a dog or a cow, I’m saying you have characteristics that bear a resemblance to those animals.
Someone might argue “When I call someone who is intersexed a hermaphrodite, I don’t use it literally. I am saying they have something in common with snails and plants and some fish.”
I don’t want to be called a dog or a cow. I don’t want to be compared to these animals. Neither would you. So why is it okay to compare an intersexed person to a snail?
But, you remember hearing that word when you were younger to describe people, you probably don’t even associate it with being a snail or any other animal. You probably associate it with people who are both genders.
Which brings me to,
#3 Hermaphrodite As A Word Has Bad Societal Implications
Hermaphrodite is a word that has been laughed at and made fun of for awhile. People use it as a joke.
“Hermaphrodite” is a term used by men in sitcoms who talk about how they met that hot chick in the bar and she turned out to be a dude and ew gross, no way am I dating THAT!
See what I mean?
“Hermaphrodites,” according to society, are gross, unnatural, and laughable. How many jokes in TV and movies have you seen about the subject?
It was to the point that when I was a kid and we talked about “hermaphrodites” we discussed them like they weren’t even people but some kind of evil creature that impersonated humans and tried to trick people.
We were kids and we were listening to a societal standard that we did not understand. I fortunately grew up and chose to enlighten myself on the matter, but let’s face it, intersexed and transgendered people are painted very negatively by social media.
By using the word “hermaphrodite” you use all the derogatory thinking that has gone behind it for years. I would honestly place the word to be as offensive as “faggot” or “queer” or even “nigger.”
There is nothing wrong with any of those words by definition. What is wrong with them is the negativity that has made them mainstream words.
If you are a respectful person, you wouldn’t walk up to a gay person and call them a “faggot,” so why would you walk up to someone who is intersexed and call them a “hermaphrodite?”
But, excluding all that…
#4 Intersexed Is The Term That Medicine And People Who Are Intersexed Have Asked To Be Used
While there are some groups who dislike “intersexed,” right now the politically correct term is just that. Even in medicine, the term “hermaphrodite” has been done away with.
If you are an advocate of LGBT rights, you understand what it means when someone asks to be called something, especially if you advocate transgendered people.
When someone is transgendered, you might have known them as a boy or girl for years and they are asking to be referred to as the opposite. And we, as supportive advocates, do our best to do as they ask because we support their decision that being a transgendered person is what is right for them.
While I do not personally subscribe to the train of thought, arguments can be made that a transgendered person decided on their own to change their gender. Their supporters subscribe to the belief that they have always been that gender in their mind and heart and that is what counts. So we refer to them as the gender they have requested we refer to them by.
So why would we not refer to someone who is intersexed as the term they ask to be called, particularly when they, with undeniable medical proof, were born this way and had no control over it?
In closing, please do not refer to our intersexed friends as “hermaphrodites.” The word is inaccurate, insulting, emotionally charged and something they themselves have asked not to be referred to by.
I hope by reading this, those of you who were unaware of the issues behind the word will make the decision to stop using it and decide to, instead, support our friends by referring to them as they ask to be referred.
If you have been using this word in the past because you just had not been informed to do differently, don’t feel bad or worry. It’s okay. Everyone makes mistakes like that. But now you know, and now you have a place to direct other people who don’t know.
Please reblog to spread knowledge.