With such a large part of the world of manga being fantasy-based, it’s nice to see a series that has unique, but real life elements. I.S. (also known as Aiesu) by Chiyo Rokuhana follows the lives of people who are Inter Sexual, a condition in which a human has “reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male”. This could mean that a baby is born with outer male genitalia but has female genitalia inside, or vice versa. To clarify, this is different from being transgendered or transsexual. Trans individuals generally feel like they are the wrong gender because of internal beliefs, and can be classified as male or female while intersexuals can’t unless they take hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgeries.
I.S. highlights the aspirations and difficulties that intersexual people may face as they go through life. The first volume focuses on Hiromi, an intersexual who identifies as being female but has to come to terms with her male organs and the fact that she can never have children. Things become more complicated when a man named Dai falls in love with her, and she deals with the fear of her secret ruining her social and love life.
One thing that this series makes a focal point is that intersexual indiviuals are normal people who have emotions and goals just like you and I. Society treats them as outcasts or freaks simply because of their physical differences in the same way (or worse) that the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans communities are often shunned. This is especially disheartening considering that 1 in less than 2000 births can be classified as intersexual. These people (and their parents) deal with the same issues as others, but are faced with additional circumstances such as whether to decide the child’s sex at birth because the extra set of reproductive organs could be life-threatening.
I think that Rokuhana does a decent job of keeping the plots grounded. I.S. approached the subject with respect and is even educational to a point. With 16 volumes so far and more to come, I hope I.S. continues to provide awareness and acceptance for the intersexual community.
For further info on intersexuality:
http://www.isna.org/ – Intersex Society of North America
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/gender/beck.html – NOVA article of a real life intersexual