LGBT blogs and news outlets (including this one yesterday morning) have offered coverage of the case of Nikki Araguz of Texas. She is the widow of a deceased firefighter whose ex-wife sued after his passing, demanding that Araguz not receive any death benefits because she was born male. The ex-wife successfully convinced a judge that the marriage was thus a same-sex marriage, prohibited under Texas law. However, Araguz has now shared on her blog that she was actually born intersex and she is not transgender as has been reported:
While I appreciate all of the support, I am setting the record straight: I am a heterosexual woman, who happened to have born intersex, and yes, I did have a transsexual medical condition, yet that has been treated and corrected. I urgently ask the gay and transgender communities to stop inaccurately identifying me as “transgender” because this falsehood is continuing to make my battle even more difficult. The media has picked up on this mislabeling, and it may lead to the assassination of transsexual and intersex marriage and rights in Texas. The clueless appropriating of my situation is dishonest and hurtful. My birth defect is a medical condition, and has nothing to do with “gender and lifestyles”.
Araguz is referring to a disorder of sex development (DSD), which presumably means that at birth, she did not present as typically XX-female or XY-male and was misclassified as male. The Intersex Society of North America estimates that about 1 in 1500 are classified as intersex at birth, but because of the different ways intersexuality presents at different points in life, the number of people who are intersex is likely much higher.
While the identities of intersex and transgender face a lot of similar challenges in society, they are not the same. Intersexuality refers to an ambiguity of biological sex, whereas people who are transgender are struggling with a gender identity that does not match their sex. It is easy to confuse the two because individuals with either identity may pursue surgical options — as Araguz did — to achieve identity cohesion.
The judge’s decision to void her marriage because of her identity reveals the way the law’s oversimplification of identity hurts individuals. The construction of “one man, one woman” marriage that equality opponents champion makes no room for people like Nikki Araguz who have unique sex and gender identities. Essentially, the judge ruled that she is male only because a doctor checked that box on a form when she was born. No one should be able to dictate who Nikki Araguz is except Nikki Araguz, and no one should ever have to.