The Right Time for Intersex Liberation

For three years I have been part of a non-RC support group for intersex people. It has been a place for us to share experiences of childhood treatments, hospitals, secrecy, silencing, and coping with the gender expectations in society. We have used the time mainly for telling our stories, and I have gradually presented some RC theory about oppression and discharge.

At one meeting someone asked how we had each found the support group, and everyone answered “the Internet.” After a discussion, we decided to open a website where we could give information in our language about intersex issues and share our own stories about how we had coped with challenges related to health, and sex and gender, and what the peer support had meant to us. Our goal was to make it easier for intersex people to get information in their own language and to find our support group.

We soon realized that we needed to keep the support group and the tasks related to the website separate. We made it clear that sharing our stories in the support group was our main activity and that everyone could decide if they wanted to participate in the other tasks.

Since opening the website we have received some messages from intersex people. We wish for more and will think about other ways to reach out. What we did not expect were several contacts and requests from the media and governmental and municipal organizations. We decided to answer the ones that seemed respectful, that were meaningful and interesting to us, and that we could respond to anonymously (at least to some extent) and not alone.

The Social and Health Ministry invited us to talk to the national ethical board of medical professionals—even though we were an unofficial group and those of us behind the website were anonymous. After we talked to them, a group of professionals started working on requirements for medical institutions for the treatment of intersex children. They also started cooperating with the Ministry of Justice, which is currently changing the law as it relates to transgender and intersex people.

About the same time, a national board on children’s rights wanted our opinion on how human rights are violated when intersex children are treated medically. We have also been contacted by a midwives’ organization, a board that’s planning early childhood education, and several other organizations, as well as some research groups and newspapers.

I think the reason all this is happening now is that time is right:

  • People have started to get information about intersex, to want to know more, and to feel upset when they learn about present medical practices. Even though intersex is quite marginal in terms of numbers of people, it brings up attitudes toward young people and the power of medical institutions and shows how gender-based society is.
  • Many organizations have started to work on intersex issues and are struggling to find people who can tell about their experiences.
  • The time is right for us to reach out. We trust each other, and our support for each other, and are no longer too focused on our painful experiences. We are learning that we need to speak up and forget the internalized “this is too marginal to talk about” position. We are learning that we can be effective without sacrificing ourselves, can stay anonymous if we decide to, and can set our limits.

This process makes me wonder if it could have been planned. Is there a way to know when the time is right to get things moving? Or can we do something to “make the time right”? What do you think?


Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion
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Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00