Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Thursday, 26 November 2015

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I'm A Celebrity's Lady Colin Campbell Is Intersex. But What Is Intersex?

The Debrief: Cheryl Fernandez-Versini says that Lady C is no lady, but little does she know Lady Colin Campbell - born George William Ziadie - has quite the backstory...

Cheryl Fernandez-Versini recently tweeted that ‘Lady C’s behaviour on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here was so dreadful that there is ‘Nothing at all lady like about lady C’.

Little did Cheryl – who’d probably have had her own litigation team out in a flash if someone said anything similar about her – know that Lady C has had a long history of not being ‘lady like’.

You see, Lady Colin Campbell was raised as a boy called George. The ‘Lady Colin Campbell’ thing might suddenly make sense now, but just to clear that up, borrowing the name of the posh man you’re married to, like Princess Michael of Kent, is a thing that posh/aspiring posh women do. It’s nothing to do with their gender identify.

But what’s different about Lady Colin is she was born intersex and was raised as a boy until she was 21.

While we’ve seen much progress in 2015 about what gender means, what ‘trans’ means and how to refer to people who are trans, much more work needs to be done. As well as this, not much has been revealed about intersex people, who form part of the ever-elongating LGBTQIA acronym for sexual minorities.

So here’s your need-to-know on Lady Colin Campbell. She was born in 1949 in Jamaica. She came from an immensely privileged background, part of her heritage coming from Jamaica’s oldest colonial families. But there was a big setback – she was born with her labia fused and a deformed clitoris. This meant her genitals looked neither male nor female.

Stuck with how to raise their child, her parents opted for ‘male’ and so called their baby George.

George William Ziadie was sent to boys’ school from 11-18, which Lady Colin recently described as, ‘horrendous, like a glimpse into the bowels of Hell.’

When she reached 13, though, she began puberty – the female, hip-widening, boob-growing sort – and secretly went to her mum’s gynaecologist. When her mum found out, she later told the Telegraph, she was sent to hospital ‘for the most terrifying three weeks of my life’ where she was injected, against her will, with male hormones, until her voice deepened, her nipples shrank and she developed facial hair.

She protested enough for her parents to remove her from the sadistic hospital, but for five years she simply wasn’t recognised as a girl/woman and refused the medical procedures needed to ‘turn’ her into a woman.

I'm A Celebrity's Lady Colin Campbell Is Intersex. But What Is Intersex?

She told The Telegraph many years later: ‘Our family was extremely well known and he [her father] would have done anything to avoid publicity and embarrassment.

‘I remember walking with him from the owners’ and stewards’ car park upstairs to our box at the racecourse. People were staring, because my situation was sufficiently well known, and although I wore trousers, it was very clear I was not a boy. You could see that to him it was the worst ordeal of his life.’

He then suggested her solution would be ‘a dose of rat poison’.

It was only when she left school and went to New York, aged 21, to live as a woman that her mother conceded and let her get the surgery necessary to help her feel properly like a woman. It’s in New York that she met Lord Colin Campbell, a drug addict and alcoholic. Within a week they were engaged and then married soon after.

They divorced after 14 months and it was rumoured that Lord Colin couldn’t bear the fact Lady Colin had been born intersex. However, in truth, the divorce was more to do with Lord Colin’s abusiveness and drug and alcohol issues.

I'm A Celebrity's Lady Colin Campbell Is Intersex. But What Is Intersex?

Lady Colin kept the name, and went on to write many books about the royals, the blue bloods and other people whose lives she was privy to by way of being a fellow posh person. She never remarried, but did adopt two Russian twins when they were just babies in 1993. To do this, she used the money from a book she’d written about Princess Diana.

After a life like that, it’s no wonder she’s getting a bit spikey with Tony Hadley in the jungle after being forced to eat and do gory stunts with creepy crawlies…

I'm A Celebrity's Lady Colin Campbell Is Intersex. But What Is Intersex?

As for intersex? Here’s your need-to-know:

Is intersex like trans?

No, trans people have standard genitals – either male or female – but don’t want to live as the gender ascribed by those genitals, for example a child with a penis feels they are a female. Intersex people have genitals that are ambiguous and could either look male or female.

Are they hermaphrodites?

Not necessarily. Hermaphrodism is when someone has the internal organs of both sexes, ie both testes and ovaries. While the term ‘intersex’ applies to people with hermaphrodism, it also applies to people born with malformed genitals or atypical chromosomes.

How many people are intersex?

One in 2,000 babies are born with genitals that do not fit neatly into ‘male’ or ‘female’ categories.

Can’t they just be operated on?

As well as being operated in childhood at the insistence of parents who want a child who’s either male or female and medical health professionals who won’t want to wait it out, intersex people face being given the wrong sex to grow up in.

The UN Special Rapporteur has said non-consensual surgery can cause ‘permanent, irreversible infertility and severe mental suffering’, reported The Independent.

Can’t they just decide they’re one sex or the other?

While some intersex people grow up to feel happily not one gender or the other, there’s no way of expressing this on formal documents, such as passports and driving licences. In Germany, there was a successful campaign for babies to not have to be registered as either male or female on birth certificates, and British intersex campaigners are hoping to achieve the same here.

One UK intersex site calls for our strict adherence to the rules of male/female to simply disappear altogether. ‘It is UKIA’s view that we should regard humanity as a continuum, with the standard stereotypes as the extremes of this continuum.’

Read everything there is to know about Lady Campbell on I'm a Celebrity 2015 via heatworld if you fancy it. 

You might also be interested in:

Meet The Woman Using Nail Art To Tackle Transphobia

Germaine Greer Vs Trans People: Your Need-To-Know

The Unique Complications Of Dating A Trans Guy

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Tags: LGBT, TV